Does the End Justify the Means? Essay

754 Words May 9th, 2008 4 Pages
Does The End Justify The Means? by Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D.

Does the end justify the means? Can it sometimes be right to use a bad means to achieve a good end? Don't the conditions of human life require some shadiness and deceit to achieve security and success?

First, let's try to understand the sense in which the word "justifies" is used in the familiar statement that "the end justifies the means." After that we can consider the problem you raise about whether it is all right to employ any means - good or bad - so long as the end is good.

When we say that something is "justified," we are simply saying that it is right. Thus, for example, when we say that a college is justified in expelling a student who falls below a
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Are we, then, also morally justified in using any means which will work? The answer to that question is plainly Yes; for if the end is really good, and if the means really serves the end and does not defeat it in any way, then there can be nothing wrong with the means. It is justified by the end, and we are justified in using it.

People who are shocked by this statement overlook one thing: If an action is morally bad in itself, it cannot really serve a good end,

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