Do the ends justify the means?

Should you think about your duty, or about the consequences of your actions? Or should you concentrate on becoming a good person?

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prof
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Do the ends justify the means?

Post by prof » Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:07 am

.

Is it morally okay to use any means to reach a goal, as
Long as you come out ‘the winner’?

On the topic of The MEANS-ENDS relationship
I may be wrong, but it seem to me that ends are related
to means used: if you want peace, use peaceful means.
If love is your end (your goal), use loving means to get to
it. If you want stability in a marriage, or in the world, then
stable means are required to reach your end-in-view.

Isn't it reasonable to be aware that chaotic or destructive
means will not in themselves result in a stable, sustainable
state of affairs. A state of justice is a state of balance;
to be in balance we cannot use means that are
out of balance.


That to me is the most basic point to learn about The
Means/Ends relationship. The means ought to be
compatible with the ends desired.

(For example, Woodrow Wilson said that World War I
would be "a war to end all war."
You don't put an end to wars by waging one.

Furthermore, what is an 'end' today was a 'means'
yesterday. For example, an engagement (getting engaged)
is an end to dating around, and is a means to a marriage. It
is both, a means, and an end. Doesn't this imply hat means
must be compatible with ends? That's why the means/ends
relationship is important.

What do you think about this crucial ethical
principle? Does it work for you?
Last edited by prof on Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

Science Fan
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Science Fan » Wed Jun 14, 2017 4:01 pm

If someone waged a war and killed off their enemies, then there would be a non--violent future between the winners and the losers, as the losers would no longer be around.

Two people can fall in love, be very kind to each other, and still, their marriage can fall apart, or be "unstable." This is even likely to be the case since humans are not naturally evolved for monogamy.

A hierarchical structure in society, which is predicated on domination of some by others, can be more stable than a fully egalitarian structure. We are evolved social primates, and our closest relatives structure themselves with alpha males and alpha females dominating a social group, with different group members also being ranked within the social structure. This can actually lead to peaceful outcomes where fights are avoided, because one is already aware of who has priority within the group.

I think you are committing a fallacy here. I'm drawing a blank on its name, but it is something along the lines of assuming the whole is equal to its parts.

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vegetariantaxidermy
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:42 pm

Actually humans have evolved for monogamy. That's why they 'fall in love'. Just because many people aren't capable of remaining 'exclusive' just means we are very complex and that evolution is always a two-sided coin. There are also cultural considerations where polygamy is the accepted norm, but that doesn't cancel out evolution. Human females are more like to get pregnant with one partner than multiple (multiple partners is thought to cause women to develop anti-sperm antibodies), so those who had a tendency towards monogamy got to pass on their genes more often than those who didn't. Males are more likely to look after and provide for a child that they know is their own, and if a woman has a hundred males, or a male has a hundred females, there are going to be a heck of a lot of people who don't get to procreate. One theory is that the long lactation period that resulted in a very high infanticide rate of male offspring by competing males resulted in monogamy. Females who were clever enough to only mate with one male had an exclusive mate to protect their offspring, with their offspring being more likely to survive and pass on both of their genes. Males worked out that they were more likely to get to mate and 'pass on their genes' if they had one partner than if they were constantly having to fight off hoards of competing males who were also trying to murder their offspring.
That obviously didn't eliminate the males' competitiveness and would have increased female competitiveness for obvious reasons. Perhaps that's when male sneakiness started. It was in their interests to have females 'believe' they were being exclusive. And of course there is the high risk of in-breeding when you have one male impregnating multiple females, not to mention the exhaustion of having to constantly fend off baby-killing males.
The females who had the genetic mutations that were desirable to males could pick and choose, whereas the rest of the males and females could make do with each other rather than miss out altogether (rather like it is now).

Skip
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Skip » Thu Jun 15, 2017 12:59 am

There are no "ends", except the death of each individual.
There are intentions, aspirations, aims, ambitions, causes, purposes, hopes...
Everything done in the service of achieving those goals is "ways and means".
The actions taken determine the outcome of each stage of an endeavour and constrains the next decision.

prof
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by prof » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:01 am

.
.
Excellent discussion!

High quality - so far....

I agree with vegetarian in his analysis of human evolution.

Also, the Hartman/Katz ethical theory concludes that far, far more value accrues to us if we "find our whole world" in one mate than if we think we need to play the field; or if our love relations are only Extrinsic [sex - without conjugal affection.] It may take some effort to make an Intrinsic relationship work, yet any noble end-in-view is worth that effort.

The conjugal affection of which I speak comes from knowing one's partner's greatest weaknesses and loving her/him anyway. It is an intimacy that may take years; it starts out slowly and eventually reaches a boiling point.

The value analysis of Love (employing for this the three basic dimensions of value) is:

S: Philanthropy, Benevolence
E: Sex
I: true love; conjugal affection

The Greeks have words for it:
Philia
Eros
Agape


They have, of course, many more words for different shades and degrees of love.


...On the main topic, we often hear the expression "The end justifies the means." Don (of all mafia dons) Trump lives by this maxim. Another way of putting it is: Anything goes!!

Scientists of Ethics find this view to be counterproductive and self-defeating as a cognitive assumption (i.e., as a belief some individuals hold.)

What say you?

Skip
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Skip » Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:16 pm

prof wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:07 am
Is it morally okay to use any means to reach a goal, as
Long as you come out ‘the winner’?
That is not the context in which the policy is generally applied.
Where it's a matter of winning at any cost, moral considerations are moot: no justification offered.
Means are justified - or excused - in cases where the desired outcome is presumed morally just and overweaningly important.
What's usually excused is a smaller wrong in order to achieve a greater right. More on the order of breaking eggs to make an omelette.
On the topic of The MEANS-ENDS relationship
I may be wrong, but it seem to me that ends are related
to means used: if you want peace, use peaceful means.
Mostly, you get mowed down like Gandhi's salt strikers. Heroic as hell; for sure the moral high-ground...
and ultimately successful. Sort of. But a whole lot of eggs still get broken, whether they fight back or not.
The Russian revolution was also heroic and successful - sort of - though extremely violent.
In both cases, the dynamic of the nation changed radically, and failed to achieve the end originally envisioned -
partly because that end was impractical to begin with,
but also because the population being liberated changed in the process of liberation.
(For example, Woodrow Wilson said that World War I
would be "a war to end all war."
You don't put an end to wars by waging one.
A moralist should not try to sneak this past his audience. You can't substitute a moral maxim for a political slogan.
Wilson didn't start a war for the purpose of ending war. He had to justify, in the political arena,
entering a war which was already under way, in which his own country wasn't directly threatened,
but his allies, trading partners, hegemony and economic outlook were threatened -
or perceived to be under threat. He was selling American involvement on the promise of future stability (Pax Americana)-
and for all I know, he may even have believed it.
.On the main topic, we often hear the expression "The end justifies the means." Don (of all mafia dons) Trump lives by this maxim. Another way of putting it is: Anything goes!!
No, he doesn't and no, it isn't.
Trump lives by the maxim: "I'm the boss and I do what I want." He has no ends in mind - that latter is, of course, putative -
no ultimate purpose or cause. He just craves chocolate cake and applause, like any spoiled three-year-old.
"The end justifies the means." does not mean "Anything goes."
It means: "We need rain or our crops will dry up and we will all starve. The gods won't send us any rain until they have baby flesh for lunch.
We have to throw these babies off the tower for the survival of the city."

And I'm not mad keen on mixing wars with marriages.

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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Science Fan » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:22 pm

@Prof: It's actually not true that people have evolved for monogamy. Not only is it not true, but we can even calculate the degree to which this is so. Looking at men and women this should be obvious --- the reason men are on average physically larger than women is because we are not evolutionarily designed to be monogamous. If we were, we would observe no size differences, on average, between men and women. We are naturally designed for men to have more than one wife, so to speak, although marriage did not exist until recently. We can even calculate the degree of difference for this trait in humans as opposed to many of our ape cousins, which varies depending on the species of ape.

What you are engaging in, is a fallacy called the "moralistic fallacy." You want to believe that humans are naturally monogamous, so you claim that they naturally are. This is not true according to biological evolution, however. This is largely why so few people know this basic fact of evolutionary biology --- because it appears to be "immoral" it is simply not acknowledged.

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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Skip » Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:45 pm

Science Fan wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:22 pm
... the reason men are on average physically larger than women is because we are not evolutionarily designed to be monogamous. If we were, we would observe no size differences, on average, between men and women.
(Evolutionary Design... Is that a new take on ID/Creationism?)
Whats the scientific basis for attributing relative sizes of apes specifically to family arrangement? Is there a factual reference? What would be the evolutionary advantage of large size to sperm production? What is you most recent evolutionary reference point for H. sapiens in particular?

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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Science Fan » Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:04 pm

For one thing, in species that really are monogamous, there are no size differences between the sexes. It basically deals with an alpha male duking it out with other males over a group of females he can impregnate. Monogamy would not require the same degree of physical violence among males. Indeed, societies that allow for multiple wives for men are overall more violent than those that do not allow such behaviors. Just because a behavior is natural, does not always mean it's moral, or even a good idea, in a modern context. Nevertheless, it is natural, which is why we have high rates of divorce, a lot of mistresses on the side, and even some modern societies allowing for men to have more than one wife. There are other biological factors we can look at in addition to size that also tell us humans are naturally evolved for men to have more than one mate. I can't recall off the top of my head the actual degree we have this trait compared to apes and chimps, but I think we are between apes and chimps, but I could be wrong on this. I know we do fall in between some of our ape ancestors, and we are not at some outlier extreme. I think even penis size factors into the calculation, and I can't recall what else, but it is clearly documented, that much I know. It's a very common feature of almost any evolutionary biology basic text, since evolutionary explanations, even regarding such things as consumption spending, center on sexual reproduction behavior and then work outward from there.

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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Thu Jun 15, 2017 10:10 pm

God he talks a load of shit, this 'expert' on everything under the Sun. Does he not think that we have evolved at all since swinging from the branches? Obviously it became advantageous to procreation to become relatively monogamous. We only have to look at the number of humans on the planet.

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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Skip » Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:49 pm

Science Fan wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:04 pm
For one thing, in species that really are monogamous, there are no size differences between the sexes.
You have repeated the same statement without proving it. However, even if this is mainly true - with exceptions, of course - why should we attribute the size differential to the mating habits? There are many other factors. Such as the environment and what the male's role is in protection of the herd, trail-blazing and food providing.
It basically deals with an alpha male duking it out with other males over a group of females he can impregnate.
What "deals with"? If all the males were smaller than all the females, the competition among males would be the same. They're not competing with females. The competition between males is unaffected by whether females are considered individually, in sets of three or in groups of whatever number. A hummingbird has to outperform all the other males of his species to get one mating with one female - and start all over again the next season.
Monogamy would not require the same degree of physical violence among males.
Why not? You'd have to fight all the other suitors of the most desirable female. For that matter, what's violence got to do with mating? Most species only have to display beauty, talent, speed or skill; many have to secure a territory and nest site, which is often a case of brain over brawn.
Indeed, societies that allow for multiple wives for men are overall more violent than those that do not allow such behaviors.
Now, you're way the hell off evolution and into human cultures.
Are you then saying that violence and polygamy are more 'natural' to human society (designed for), and/or more evolved behaviours, than peaceable monogamy? (Or then again, it may be that violent societies tend to have a chronic shortage of eligible males.)
Just because a behavior is natural, does not always mean it's moral, or even a good idea, in a modern context.
Or any other context. Human societies adopt moral codes for various reasons, not all of them practical.
Nevertheless, it is natural, which is why we have high rates of divorce, a lot of mistresses on the side, and even some modern societies allowing for men to have more than one wife.
What is natural? Since humans are fertile all year around, and willing to mate even when they are not fertile, and want to mate for purposes other than reproduction, gender roles, sexual prowess and desirability have a range of cultural manifestations unrelated to reproduction, nature/biology does not dictate human mating habits or family structures nearly as much as property and status do. All societies have some traditions that make no sense in either biology or psychology, and are nevertheless binding. All social rules are sometimes broken; the more binding and confining the rules, the more exceptions will manifest. Not because "nature" prefers a particular alternative behaviour, but because humans are diverse and various and do not readily conform to a single, narrow model of behaviour.

Sorry, I do not accept "can't recall" as a citation.

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vegetariantaxidermy
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by vegetariantaxidermy » Fri Jun 16, 2017 12:28 am

Skip wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:49 pm
Science Fan wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:04 pm
For one thing, in species that really are monogamous, there are no size differences between the sexes.
You have repeated the same statement without proving it. However, even if this is mainly true - with exceptions, of course - why should we attribute the size differential to the mating habits? There are many other factors. Such as the environment and what the male's role is in protection of the herd, trail-blazing and food providing.
It basically deals with an alpha male duking it out with other males over a group of females he can impregnate.
What "deals with"? If all the males were smaller than all the females, the competition among males would be the same. They're not competing with females. The competition between males is unaffected by whether females are considered individually, in sets of three or in groups of whatever number. A hummingbird has to outperform all the other males of his species to get one mating with one female - and start all over again the next season.
Monogamy would not require the same degree of physical violence among males.
Why not? You'd have to fight all the other suitors of the most desirable female. For that matter, what's violence got to do with mating? Most species only have to display beauty, talent, speed or skill; many have to secure a territory and nest site, which is often a case of brain over brawn.
Indeed, societies that allow for multiple wives for men are overall more violent than those that do not allow such behaviors.
Now, you're way the hell off evolution and into human cultures.
Are you then saying that violence and polygamy are more 'natural' to human society (designed for), and/or more evolved behaviours, than peaceable monogamy? (Or then again, it may be that violent societies tend to have a chronic shortage of eligible males.)
Just because a behavior is natural, does not always mean it's moral, or even a good idea, in a modern context.
Or any other context. Human societies adopt moral codes for various reasons, not all of them practical.
Nevertheless, it is natural, which is why we have high rates of divorce, a lot of mistresses on the side, and even some modern societies allowing for men to have more than one wife.
What is natural? Since humans are fertile all year around, and willing to mate even when they are not fertile, and want to mate for purposes other than reproduction, gender roles, sexual prowess and desirability have a range of cultural manifestations unrelated to reproduction, nature/biology does not dictate human mating habits or family structures nearly as much as property and status do. All societies have some traditions that make no sense in either biology or psychology, and are nevertheless binding. All social rules are sometimes broken; the more binding and confining the rules, the more exceptions will manifest. Not because "nature" prefers a particular alternative behaviour, but because humans are diverse and various and do not readily conform to a single, narrow model of behaviour.

Sorry, I do not accept "can't recall" as a citation.
Also taking into account sexual selection where females would find bigger males more desirable (for protection etc.). There are multiple reasons for larger male size. There are also many species where the female is bigger with monogamy having nothing to do with it.

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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Skip » Fri Jun 16, 2017 4:53 am

So, let's see the other part of this OP question.
If love is your end (your goal), use loving means to get to
it. If you want stability in a marriage, or in the world, then
stable means are required to reach your end-in-view.
I don't know what is meant by 'stable' means. Species have established mating rituals;
so, too, societies have established courtship rituals.
It's possible to garner attention, maybe even an advantage, by being eccentric or off-beat,
but you can't be too outre without the object of your desire considering you creepy. If by stable you mean
polite; doing all the right things according to the customs of your tribe (or the OofD's tribe), then, yes,
that's probably the most effective approach. If, however, the competition for this particular OofD is
exceptionally fierce, you may need to be creative, do a little more, to stand out.
Isn't it reasonable to be aware that chaotic or destructive
means will not in themselves result in a stable, sustainable
state of affairs. A state of justice is a state of balance;
to be in balance we cannot use means that are
out of balance.
We've wandered out of Kansas again, haven't we?
In romantic relationships, chaos and destruction are usually counterproductive, yes.
In a badly distorted social organization, for example, a repressive military dictatorship,
there is no : "balanced" way to restore perverted justice; there is no nice way to depose a tyrant.
However, once the most extreme elements have been disposed-of, reconciliation and restoration
are a more sustainable means of keeping order than a vengeful bloodbath.
Furthermore, what is an 'end' today was a 'means'
yesterday.
No, that one doesn't wash. Nice play on words, but misapplied meanings.
For example, an engagement (getting engaged)
is an end to dating around,
Dating was never a goal; it was only ever a means to forming a relationship, or getting laid,
or maybe just getting your mother to stop worrying about your sexual orientation.
Getting engaged, for many young women, is a goal in itself, the means to which may involve
going fishing instead of dancing, pretending to enjoy football, and sitting through your father's
endless complaints about modern art. For some [notably religious] young people, it's a means to getting laid (finally!)
and they can stay engaged until they decided to marry or split. For some, it's a means to the joint bank account.
For most, it's just part of the bonding ritual.
It is both, a means, and an end. Doesn't this imply hat means
must be compatible with ends? That's why the means/ends
relationship is important.
That's gibberish.

But I'll go along with the notion that hitting a woman with a club and dragging her back to your cave
is not the optimal route to a lifetime of affectionate, understanding loyalty.

prof
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by prof » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:13 am

Skip wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:16 pm
prof wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:07 am
Is it morally okay to use any means to reach a goal, as
Long as you come out ‘the winner’?
...Where it's a matter of winning at any cost, moral considerations are moot
:
]{As a student of - and a practitioner of - Ethical Theory}, is this okay with you?
For some of us - and I hope and trust you are included - moral considerations are NOT moot.


Means are justified - or excused - in cases where the desired outcome is presumed morally just and overweaningly important.
What's usually excused is a smaller wrong in order to achieve a greater right. More on the order of breaking eggs to make an omelette.

This precisely is the problem, the problem which inspired the thread. Is winning" at all costs" the ethical way to proceed? Scientists of Ethics conclude that it is not. This does not make them "moralists." - and name-calling will not deter them from making their logical derivations.
On the topic of The MEANS-ENDS relationship
I may be wrong, but it seem to me that ends are related
to means used: if you want peace, use peaceful means.
Mostly, you get mowed down like Gandhi's salt strikers. Heroic as hell; for sure the moral high-ground...
and ultimately successful. - YES.
(For example, Woodrow Wilson said that World War I
would be "a war to end all war."
...Wilson didn't start a war for the purpose of ending war. He
perceived to be under threat. He was selling American involvement on the promise of future stability (Pax Americana)-
and for all I know, he may even have believed it.

In Philosophy, I thought the notion of "justification" is the giving of GOOD reasons. To justify an argument is to be utterly logical in what you say. ...though I may be wrong in how I am understanding it....
.On the main topic, we often hear the expression "The end justifies the means." Trump - it seems to me - lives by this maxim. Another way of putting it is: Anything goes!!
Trump lives by the maxim: "I'm the boss and I do what I want."

Yes, that is true too.

He just craves chocolate cake and applause, like any spoiled three-year-old.

Agreed.

"The end justifies the means." does not mean "Anything goes."
It means: "We need rain or our crops will dry up and we will all starve. The gods won't send us any rain until they have baby flesh for lunch.
We have to throw these babies off the tower for the survival of the city."
And I'm not mad keen on mixing wars with marriages.
The mark of a great theory is that it can connect the dots - even between wars and marriages .N'est pas?

Skip
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Re: Do the ends justify the means?

Post by Skip » Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:02 pm

prof wrote:
Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:13 am
[P -- Is it morally okay to use any means to reach a goal, as
Long as you come out ‘the winner’?]
[S -- Where it's a matter of winning at any cost, moral considerations are moot.]
:
]{As a student of - and a practitioner of - Ethical Theory}, is this okay with you?
For some of us - and I hope and trust you are included - moral considerations are NOT moot.
Of-bloody-course they are, in the situation as cited! That's what winning at any cost means.
You have misapplied the maxim in that instance.
[S -- What's usually excused is a smaller wrong in order to achieve a greater right. ]
This precisely is the problem, the problem which inspired the thread. Is winning" at all costs" the ethical way to proceed?
Misusing the maxim a second time doesn't make it any more applicable. As a scientist of ethics, you must be aware of
the distinction between "winning at all costs" - a selfish, short-sighted attitude,
and "for the greater good" - a question of what to sacrifice.
You are attempting to discuss one kind of moral dilemma under the guise of something quite different.
Scientists of Ethics conclude that it is not. This does not make them "moralists." - and name-calling will not deter them from making their logical derivations.
Name-calling? If you don't like moralist, fine. Indignation won't deter me from pointing out that you're obfuscating your own topic.
[P -- : if you want peace, use peaceful means. ]
[S -- Mostly, you get mowed down like Gandhi's salt strikers. Heroic as hell; for sure the moral high-ground...
and ultimately successful. ...sort of ... ]
- YES.
Yes, what? They achieved independence (which would have happened anyway, as the empire became too expensive to maintain) but they didn't get peace: they got a whole lot of civil strife and eventual partition. Meanwhile many, many Indians and some British were killed. So, in actual fact, the peaceful means were not as peaceful as Gandhi intended, nor did the ends turn out as he hoped.
Similarly, Martin Luther King's followers were hurt and jailed and still not able to achieve their ends by peaceful means.
If the other side is violent, your own peacefulness does not prevail; your means may not be be the determining factor - and you often lose.
These are very difficult, painful decisions for a leader to make - not trivial examples, comparable to winning a football game.
In Philosophy, I thought the notion of "justification" is the giving of GOOD reasons. To justify an argument is to be utterly logical in what you say. ...though I may be wrong in how I am understanding it....
Woodrow Wilson was not "in Philosophy", constructing a logic exercise.
He was in government, facing a war.
You're not wrong in your understanding; you're deliberately mis-stating a case.
[The mark of a great theory is that it can connect the dots - even between wars and marriages .N'est pas?
Tout d'abord, les points doivent exister.

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