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Does The End Justify The Means?

1284 words - 6 pages

Does the End Justify the Means?

Should the doctrine of “the end justifies the means” be accepted?
The "the end justifies the means" doctrine is acceptable, but only under certain situations. To understand why this position is being taken, you have to understand the origin of "the end justifies the means." The phrase came from Niccolo Machiavelli's book The Prince. Machiavelli's phrase is interpreted by many to mean that the end result of an action was justified by the actions one took to get there, regardless of the methods used (End justifies the means, n.d.). The phrase suggests that it does not matter whether these methods are legal or illegal, moral or immoral, kind or cruel, or ...view middle of the document...

“The end justifies the means” philosophy is too dangerous to be used by the ordinary person since it commonly leads to abuse.
Machiavelli intended for the “end-means” philosophy to be situational and not unconditional since he recommends in The Prince that evil and hatred should be avoided as much as possible, but there are some situations that require harsh means (Riemer, Simon, & Romance, 2013, p. 21). Machiavelli meant for the “end-means” philosophy to be used by governments for the common good of its citizens. Here are three examples of the government using harsh means (i.e. "the end justifies the means") for the common good of its citizens. The first example is U.S. government sanctioned assassinations, such as with Osama bin Laden. The government assassinating Osama bin Laden was justified in that it saves future lives by serving as a warning to others that they could end up like Osama bin Laden if they try any terrorist actions against the U.S. The second example where the “end-means” philosophy was used for the common good was to establish peace during a time of war, such as the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As harsh as the atomic bombs were, they were necessary to save lives by ending World War II and establishing peace. In fact, "the end justifies the means" reasoning was used throughout World War II. An example of it can be seen in Breaking the German will to resist, 1944-1945, which was an article published in Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television. The article assesses the role of psychological warfare in ending WWII, which involved deceiving friends and the public. The article concluded that the end (ending World War II) was worth the means (lies and deceit) used to get there (Taylor & Weekes, 1998). The third example of the government using "the end justifies the means" for the common good is capital punishment. Capital punishment is necessary in order to achieve two important goals: (1) to protect citizens from harm. A convicted murderer cannot kill once they are put to death, and (2) it serves as a warning to others that if they murder, then they will also be put to death. The end results (a safer society) justify the harsh means (putting someone to death) used to get them.
What consequences may arise from following, or not following, this political axiom?
There are consequences for a government following, and not following, the philosophy of "the end justifies the means." Each will be talked about respectively. A consequence of a government following this philosophy could involve reduced terrorist action. For example, the killing of Osama bin Laden could make terrorists hesitant to commit attacks against the U.S. Another consequence of a government following the...

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