Does the End Justify the Means?
Does the End Justify the Means?
The political axiom originated from Niccolo Machiavelli’s book, “The Prince”. It is based on the ideology that if a mission is of a noble cause then any means used to accomplish it is permissible. The saying is grouped under the category of normative ethics that focus more on the outcome than the character or action being moral. The theories supporting this ideology differ from others in the manner in which morality is defined. The methods used to achieve these positive outcomes can be unorthodox but the focus is the results that follow. The ideology is seen to be in support of illegal unacceptable methods that are employed to achieve an end goal that has positive effects. The acceptance of this political axiom in execution of goals should be on a situational basis, whose result will be for the greater good of the society.
Ethically speaking, the ends does not justify the means as some actions that are employed are illegal thus immoral. There exists no ethical theory that supports this axiom thus in order to support this ideology, an ethical standpoint is considered illogical (In Hiller, 2014). In my opinion, the only justifiable use of this reasoning is in situational scenarios that demand choosing the overall outcome over morality. This point of view conceives the theory that evaluates the context of a deed instead of validating the action using fixed standards. The unconditional acceptance of this axiom would mean illegal crimes would be committed as long as it would result in a positive. An example of this acceptance of the idea is the justification of all crimes like political rigging. Rigging might occur in support of a leader that is favored by the majority of the voters, however the case, it is not justifiable as the other candidates a right to vie for a governmental position and one cannot rule them out without evaluating the votes casted.
Situational theory makes an exception of cases where the action legally and morally unacceptable but leads to a positive outcome (Darwall, 2003). Various categories of consequentialism are founded on situational theory. The Mohist consequentialism is one of those examples; it was developed in the 5th century .it focused on evaluating the morality of an action and its contribution to the nation. The contributions included wealth, order and increase in population. The logic behind this idea was that if people were content with their social status then there would be no reason for wars instead, peace would prevail (Portmore, 2011). Situational theory is illustrated where the Mozi kings were expected to allocate government responsibilities to qualified persons rather than blood relatives to allow for social progression. The ruler was expected to liaise with the talented and intelligent individuals and seek their counsel over matters of the nation. Lack of this would lead to the destruction of the state. Therefore, the king chose these qualified individuals over his family for the greater good of his people.
Situational theory is founded on four basic principles that govern it. They are relativity, positivity, personalization and practicality (Driver, 2012). They were proposed by a theologian by the name Joseph Fletcher. From a biblical point of view, he argued that the theory was in support of agape love and an expression of loving thy neighbor as you love yourself. The theologian illustrated examples that were aimed at justifying that the theory indeed was the replica of agape love (Mulgan, 2001).The first example was the USA bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This bombing claimed the lives of hundred of thousands innocent people. The somber mood evident in the aircraft that released the missile expressed deep regret by the crew. This bombing was for the greater good of the American republic as the continued warfare would have caused more deaths than it did in that one bombing.
Fletcher forwards another case scenario whereby, a young woman engages him in a conversation. She is involved in a conspiracy of derailing a spy with her charms and later on pressuring him through black mail. This conspiracy is between her and the government in an attempt to halt an ongoing war, which will save many lives. In this case, the woman puts aside her morality by luring and sleeping with the spy for the greater good that is saving her fellow citizens from impending death an destruction caused by the war.
Another scenario painted by the Fletcher, is that which occurs during the Cold war. A woman by the name Mrs. Bergmeier is taken captive after she is found rummaging for food to take to her children. She is taken to a camp in Ukraine. Her husband is also said to be in a camp in Wales and on his release, he reunites with his children and later learns that his wife has been held captive. The family faces a difficult time as they try to reunite and at the end, they realize their mother is required to solidify the family. Ukraine requires that Mrs. Bergemeier should be pregnant for her to be released to Germany as a liability. She convinces a guard at the camp to impregnate her and she later reunites with her family who are overjoyed to see her. In this scenario, the end does justify the means in a situational setting. The woman allows herself to get pregnant despite the fact that she is married so that she can reunite with her family (Portmore, 2011). She commits adultery, which is morally wrong, at the expense of being offered a chance to be with her husband and children.
Consequentialism is an ethical
theory that supports the product of action in favor of doing the greater good
to the society. However, this should be limited only in scenarios whereby the
outcome will outweigh the actions that benefit the society. Agape love forms the
basis of this theory where expression of love should be ultimate reason for
justify defiance of moral ethics.
Driver, J. (2012). Consequentialism. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Darwall, S. L. (2003). Consequentialism. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
In Hiller, A. (2014). Consequentialism and environmental ethics
Mulgan, T. (2001). The demands of consequentialism. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Portmore, D. W. (2011). Commonsense consequentialism: Wherein morality meets rationality. New York: Oxford University Press.