It has become clear that many politicians and lawyers, and a few real people, don’t understand what is meant by The End Does Not Justify the Means.
They act like people are saying the desire to have pancakes cannot justify making batter. But this is more specific. It’s about good versus evil. In their unfortunate perspective, caring about what is right must seem insane.
But the truth is that this phrase sums up one of the most important principles of ethics and morality:
It means that there are certain fundamental principles that are “right”, “good”, et cetera, that are essential to those conditions…and you cannot justify violating them because you have some “right” or “good” goal in mind.
For example, you cannot have justice, unless you adhere to the principles of justice; It’s not OK to do unjust things to people simply because you have a just goal in mind.
This is a basic philosophical rule that is ignored or denied by almost all evil people you will find out there, and supported by almost all good ones. Marxists coined the modern use of the phrase “the end justifies the means”, and naturally they and their socialist spinoffs were responsible for the vast majority of all great evils, for the past century.
Joseph Stalin, for example, justified the deaths of tens of millions of his own people, by saying that the population was too large for (relatively inefficient) Communism to support. The mass death left Soviet society more sustainable. Did the betterment of millions of peoples’ lives justify the murder of millions of other people? According to Consequentialist socialists; yes.
Previously, the Dominican order of Catholicism was an advocate of the idea that the end justifies the means (in spirit), and it just so happens that they went on to conduct, among other great evils, the Inquisition. It was literally claimed that you may be saving the soul of the man you tortured or murdered in the name of God, so it was OK. All the ways the current Pope is less popular than his predecessor appear to center around his being of that Dominican mindset. In fact, the position he held before becoming pontiff was the Head of the Office of Inquisition, I kid you not…it had simply changed its name for PR reasons.
Likewise, when Machiavelli used that phrase in his satirical indictment of the evils and abuses of Feudal government, The Prince, he succeeded in hitting the nail on the head as to what is most wrong and unjust.
Required by Good
In reality, the end does not justify the means, in part because the long-term outcome of ignoring principles in order to buy short-term results is a failure of your own goals.
The idea that the wise principles override the short-sighted goal (a form of Deontology, if you like them thar fancified words) is why courts will overturn convictions on technicalities, one of the few good and just things remaining in the US legal system. Any honest — or as close as they get –prosecutor will tell you that the reason they hate that condition is how it keeps them from breaking rules and simply gambling punishment, in order to convict people they think are guilty. They are restrained from unjust acts, by this absolute enforcement of the principles of justice, even though it may let a guilty man walk in the short term.
When you have a principle, like “do not violate someone else’s property”, it cannot be overridden because you have some end in mind like “but the wealth I steal from his safe will benefit several other people who deserve it more”.
Like setting aside money for bills and emergencies instead of partying all of your paycheck away, sticking to the principles of what is good, right, and just produces the best outcome in the long run. You are investing in your ultimate goal by sticking to it when the going gets tough. When you panic and abandon your principles for a short-term benefit, you end up making things worse in the end.
THAT is why the end does not justify the means.
May 12, 2011 Posted by kazvorpal | Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | assassination, bill of rights, bin laden, capitalism, consequentialism, conservatism, conservative, constitution, corruption, deontological ethics, deontology, district attourneys, dominican order, evil, extrajudicial killing, geneva convention, geneva conventions, good, injustice, inquisition, john stuart mill, john stuart mills, joseph stalin, js mill, js mills, justice, karl mark, liberty, machiavelli, marcism, obama, osama bin laden, philosophy, pope benedict, pope john paul ii, principles, rights, socialism, stalinism, the end does not justify the means, the end justifies the means, the ends do not justify the means, the ends justify the means, the philosophy of liberty, the prince, torture, utilitarianism | 12 Comments
“Freedom is all fine and good,” they say,” until someone gets hurt. Then you realize it’s time to let Big Brotherment protect us.” Of course this is what Liberals say in general. But the neocons, unlike other Liberals, are pretending to be Conservative, discrediting our movement with their cowardice.
These timorous beasties claim that we should only believe in liberty when it’s convenient. After 9-11, for example, pretty much every American principle of freedom and justice should be out the window. Don’t we have a right to privacy? “We have a right to not be killed by terrorists”, they respond. Freedom of speech? “You can’t place freedom above safety!”
Well, as an actual American, and Conservative, I say:
They who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Ben Franklin, classic liberal and therefore modern Conservative, had it right.
It’s ironic to watch faint-hearted neocon pundits claim that Americans should be too afraid to put terrorists on trial in New York, giving otherwise-scared-of-everything Liberal New Yorkers the chance to say “bah, I lived through 9-11, and I say bring ’em on: Justice will be served!”
This very exchange, almost to the word, occurred on The Daily Show recently, Jon Stewart playing the part of justice-defending American, Newt Gingrich pretending to be a Conservative, yet advocating the philosophy of trembling terror.
Likewise, the neocons oppose the closing of the Guantanamo prison camp, or the opening of a prison for foreign terrorists in America…Gitmo North, they call it. Instead of supporting the principles of justice and natural rights the Founders recognized, we should be too afraid of terrorists to hold them on our soil, where those principles must legally be upheld.
These neocons fought against Reagan tooth and nail during his administration. They ran a Nixonian Republican, John Anderson, against Reagan as a vote-splitter in1980; they literally preferred that Carter win. More recently, they wasted eight years of Republican presidency violating every Conservative principle Reagan upheld, during the Bush administration. They are the opposite of anything we actually believe in. Remember, the bank bailouts, stimulus packages, and American automaker takeovers were all started by the neocons. Obama is only following their example.
It’s time we stood up and rejected their pusillanimous assault on our natural rights. Next time someone says “it’s a different world, since 9-11”, say “but the same principles of liberty and justice hold true”.
We are Conservatives, not cowards.
February 13, 2010 Posted by kazvorpal | International, liberty, Philosophy, Politics | americans, ben franklin, conservatism, freedom, gingrich, justice, liberalism, liberty, natural rights, neocons, neoconservatism, newt, newt gingrich, principles, reagan, republican, republicans, safety | 3 Comments
The original version of this article, with the horrifying, graphic depictions of neocons in their natural habitat, is here.
The neocons have been making a big deal of how waterboarding and other “psychological” tormenting of prisoners is not actually torture, unless you cause permanant, serious harm or death.
They also say that we GAIN things by using these “harsh interrogation techniques”, so that makes it OK:
The End Justifies the Means.
Well, yes, that is a Marxist/socialist slogan, which has produced millions of deaths and more suffering than any other idea in history.
And sure, real Conservatives spend their lives fighting against the End Justifies the Means philosophy…but we’re talking about neocons, RiNOs. The Neocon movement originates with self-described Trostyites, which is why they still have most of the underlying Marxist mindsets.
Anyway, I’m wondering why we’re wasting this technicality, in our own justice system.
If we can harm suspected terrorists in case it might make us safer, why not suspected criminals?
Protect Us from Criminals
Why not waterboard a possible serial killer, and then flush his bible (don’t ask me why so many psychopaths are strongly religious) down the toilet, in order to find out who he’s killed?
Why not strip an accused child molester naked, have women laugh at him, leave him in a forty degree room (still nude) all night with no sleep, in order to find out whether he did, and to whom?
These things are not torture, and anyway they are justified because we profit from them.
The neocon talk show hosts, and surviving neocon politicians (vote carefully, next primary) will quickly protest “but the 8th amendment bans that”. Apparently, interrogation can be cruel and unusual, yet not be torture, even though many court cases citing the 8th amendment actually bandy about the T-word interchangably.
But then we need only use a constitutional amendment to revoke this man-made priveledge.
Or why even bother…why not pass a law suspending the citizenship of anyone accused of a serious crime? And then rent space in an Indian/riverboat casino to conduct the Harsh Interrogation off of US soil?
Frankly, I need the neocons to answer the question, at that point, because I don’t see how their Philosophy of Cowardice could but DEMAND that we do this, in order to have greater safety from murder and rape.
But I can explain why, to an actual Conservative, classic liberal, or any other decent human being, we must not “harshly interrogate” criminals.
We should probably set aside basic human decency versus evil, because if you don’t get THAT reason, then you probably never will.
Let’s start with that 8th amendment:
Yes, it (and a number of other parts of the Constitution) prohibit “harsh interrogation”.
But they do not grant a man-made priveledge only to Americans, that you can suspend with some Clintonian wordplay, the way the neocons and other socialists argue.
In fact, the 8th amendment protects a Natural Right. You, I, and any other sapient being are BORN with a right to freedom of speech, religion, self-protection, and many other choices, including not to be tortured without our consent.
The Founders knew this, and said specifically they were only mentioning certain rights in the Constitution to keep future sociopaths from finding excuses to violate them…but that ALL natural rights were still to be universally protected.
So using some technicality to violate those rights would not magically make them go away. Torturing the criminal would still be wrong.
And remember, “universally protected”: The Founders did not believe that those natural rights only apply to Americans. That wouldn’t be very “natural”.
They simply did not have the power to force the French government to protect natural rights. But they intended the protections to apply against the Federal government of the US, which was what the Constitution created and limited.
So when the Federal government violates the rights of a foreigner, it is absolutely against the spirit of the Founders. Something, once again, a Conservative understands, but a Marxist-cum-neocon does not. That, obviously, includes torturing them, as well as censorship and the many other violations the Bush administration committed against foreigners, showing themselves not to be Conservative at all, just neocons.
When people try to justify evil means, because the end is desirable, they are like a child who wants to spend his money on candy now, instead of saving it so they have enough to eat supper later.
This is because the “end” is always something short-sighted. You are giving up the thing that causes more good in the long run, the investment, in order to get a quick fix, the instant gratification.
Short-sighted is not always short-term:
Perhaps you’re going to kill ten million people now, so that in a generation your empire is small enough to feed itself. Ask Stalin and Mao about that. But you’re still abandoning the principles (everyone has a right to determine his own life) that makes society stable and healthy in the big picture. Even “easy way to feed the next generation” is short-sighted, if you’re murdering to do it.
So violating people, no matter what euphamism we use, brings harmful, evil precedents into our society. The REAL, long-term end is violated, even the safety that the neocons pretend to value above all else.
We cannot let government officials torment suspected criminals, because we are setting a precedent of condoning that evil behavior. If it’s OK to non-torture molesters and mass murderers, then why not rapists? How about people who stole, and still have hidden, the life savings of elderly people? Regular investors? Tax cheats?
Not protecting your principles makes the slippery slope, sometimes a fallacy, become real — nearly inevitable.
This is why we throw out ANY evidence gotten in violation of the Constitution or our natural rights.
And it’s why letting our government ever violate natural rights is wrong.
The very minimum standard for how we treat foreigners should be “Would we tolerate treating an American, who accused of a crime, this way?”
May 8, 2009 Posted by kazvorpal | Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | bush, conservatism, constitution, crime, founding fathers, freedom, justice, michael savage, neocons, principles, socialism, terrorism, torture | Leave a comment
This site has its origins before the word “Blog” existed. Back then its owner, Kaz, was simply thought of as having a website that published socio-political articles with regularity…But the only real difference was that the RSS/XML protocals were not yet used this way.
The website was known as Site of the Sentient, a reference to the famous Words of the Sentient, that Kaz had been editing for years previously.
When some random portal site hijacked the domain siteofthesentient.com, it was a dark time for the human knowledge quest. Fortunately, But Now You Know is striving to take up the slack, and even has some revamped versions of the original articles, for example Conscription, is it Slavery, and How to Get Out of Jury Duty, and be a hero instead of a bad citizen.
Kaz is a writer, graphic artist, and supplements his income by being a hardcore senior web developer.
Along with this blog, you can track his efforts with the dedicated facebook page here.
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