Do the ends justify the means?

 

This is classic quiestion. Like all classic questions, it deserves to be investgated and answered by someone like myself - who has lived, who has studied history, - and thus to be read by future generations so that knowledge is built.

I see the ends-means question as a spectrum with a locked door at each end.



At each end are some absolutes. We must examine what ends, and what means. Some means should never be done, regardless what the intendend end was supposed to be. Some ends should be followed, regardless of the means. Everything else will fall into the spectrum, which will be broken down in a minute.




Ends.

There is one absolute end: self preservation when under attack. When your life is threatened, and you were not the one who started the problem, then you have every right to defend yourself.

Means.

There are some means which should never be tried. These means are use of violence and other harmful techniques which destroy innocent people. There are several keys to this statement. 1. We are tacitly assuming (to be discussed later) that using violence or other harmful technique on your enemy is acceptable. 2. Non-violent approaches were tried to their fullest extent first. 3. You are not using harmful means simply as a way of attaining desires.

So, what means should never be used? Nuclear bombs, chemical warefare, secret police, ethnic clensing, legislation without representation, closing freedom of discussion. Each of these cases will harm innocent people, not just the people responsible for the hardship you are forced to bear.



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ends and means...cost versus benefit.

Now we turn to the finer points of the spectrum of ends and means.

First, rather than discuss ends and means, we must rephrase our discussion in terms of cost versus benefit.

Second, note that the discussion will be approached in a slightly different way.

 

First, the major catagories - as they come to mind.

Then, for each catagory, we will discuss 3 or 4 historical examples. These will be examples from history where men were faced with the particular question, and how they handled the problem.

Then I will discuss whether what they did was right - in my opinion, based on my ethics - and possibly comments on an alternate approaches.

Finally, after all that, we have arrived at some sort of conculsion to the quesition.
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Categories of questionable ethical behavior ("means") (or "cost") and subcategories of reasons (or "ends") (or benefits)

Lying

1. Not telling the whole truth in order to serve a higher purpose
2. Misleading through false data or false promises
3. Insults and defamation of character
4. Hiding information when asked
5. Deliberately lying at any stage

Killing

1. Self-preservation when under abuse
2. As a means to replace evil people
3. As a means for attaining personal power (never)
4. When ordered/ obeying your superior
5. In war.

Theft

Bullying

Police power

Freedom of Press
1. Exposing information officials request closed/classified
2. Asking information at a persons residence or on his personal time
3. Witholding information in the name of decency
4. Reporiting the facts or reporing unproven opinions.

 
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