Ming the Mechanic:
The ends justify the means

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The ends justify the means2007-03-09 23:46
by Flemming Funch

It is often used as a way of condemning terrorists or other people who do bad things to try to achieve their aims. They're usually presented as having the misguided idea that destructive actions can get a constructive result. Idealists who think they'll arrive at a utopia by killing off whatever is in their way. And of course there are some problems with that kind of thinking. But it has somehow become accepted in the public mind that of course the ends never ever justify the means. Which is an equally silly logical trap.

Of course the ends justify the means, if the ends really are desirable and beneficial for everybody concerned.

If you engage in something, any kind of activity or project or process, that has multiple steps to it, and the final result after the dust settles, is something good and positive and enlightening for most everybody who were and are involved, then you probably did a good thing. Even if some of the steps were painful. If the result is not painful, then maybe the pain was worth it.

The sloppiness enters when defining what a positive outcome is. If you have 2 million people, and you're willing to kill 1 million of them so that the other million can live in peace and harmony afterwards, then you obviously have a problem calculating positive outcomes. It wouldn't look very positive for the million that you had to exterminate. A positive outcome is a positive outcome for the whole, for everybody and everything involved. And if you had followed that plan there, you'd of course discover that the remaining people wouldn't feel very harmonious if you had killed half of the people they knew.

But if you actually had a positive outcome? If your revolution really resulted in general peace, harmony and enlightenment for everybody concerned, then whatever steps you took to get there would be perfectly justified. The ends justify the means. But only the real ends, the actual result, not just the ends you hallucinate you'll get when you start off on some kind of destructive path.

"You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs", as one says. Although that's usually used as a justification for being mean to somebody, or firing half of your employees or something. But, yes, sometimes a bit of pain is necessary as part of a process that will have a positive outcome.

The means that are applied to arrive at a certain result are an integral part of the process. They're not different things. Things go a little insane when one tries to break life down into things that are always right to do or always wrong to do. Most governments and religions go overboard with that, and pretend to know exactly what's right to do, or rather what's always wrong to do, even though they don't know you, and they don't know your circumstances, and they really don't know the outcome of your actions. Is it really always wrong to run a red light? No, it depends on the result you'll get by doing it versus not doing it. If you saved somebody's life, it was the right thing to do. Running that red light was not a destructive erosion of public order, if you did it to get somebody to the hospital in time. Or even to accomplish something less, but nevertheless good and necessary.

A slap in the face might be an enlightening wakeup call, if delivered at the right time. Or it might simply be one person being mean to another. It depends.

Everything depends on what process it is part of, and what its outcome is. Not just its imagined outcome, but its actual outcome. The whole thing is much more important than the pieces seen in isolation.

But a positive outcome is more likely to be achieved if each step of the way is carried out with a consciousness of the whole. It is sort of a fractal thing. Each step of a process will carry with it the seed or the pattern of where this is going. And if the steps don't harmonize with the result, you might not really be doing what you think you're doing.

You don't spread happiness by being mean to people. If that's really what you're doing. But sometimes you might do something that appears mean at a superficial glance, but which accomplishes a greater good.

Blowing up other people's houses at random would not be very nice. But you might have to blow up one house to build a better one, which its owners would be more happy with. The destruction might look the same, but it depends on what process and what outcome it is connected with.

Breaking people's lives into little pieces, and making laws about how they're not supposed to do each of them - that's of course an attempt to control them. And that means you. It is somebody's misguided idea about how to create a stable society. Limit everybody a little bit, make lots of lines they aren't supposed to cross, put the people who cross them in jail, or at least hurt them a bit, and the rest of us will have a harmonious society. Of course that's one of the anti-examples of the ends justifying the means idea. You don't create a society of productive, creative, free people by taking away a great deal of their creativity and freedom. If that's the aim, then different means are needed.

It is a well known principle that in a project, you can't keep quality, time and cost/resources fixed and constant the same time. You can maybe pick two of them, with some luck. If you want high quality and you want it quickly, it will probably be expensive. If you want it good, but cheap, it might take some time to find, etc. You can't say you want it perfect and for 50 dollars and you want it tomorrow morning. You have to leave something variable.

The same way, you can't keep both the steps to take and the outcome fixed. At least not if you're doing anything just slightly new, that involves uncertainty. In principle, you can either say "Follow these exact steps, and wherever you end up is fine", or you can say "This is what we want, do whatever it takes to get there". Or, of course, some kind of combination. But you will only see successful actions if the people who do them have some freedom to choose how to go about getting them. If they don't, you've have to settle for 'whatever' as the outcome.

If you succeed in doing something that is all-around desirable, positive and useful, with no dead bodies swept under the carpet, your means were obviously well chosen and justified. If you end up making a crappy mess, your means will not be justified.

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10 Mar 2007 @ 19:33 by swanny : history
not a simple matter indeed when history generally tends to be written
and edited by those left standing....

hmmm truth....?????

i suppose the ends and the means are or basically amount to the same thing. Its hard to tell how things play out.... to much spin and bs....sometimes.... it hard to discern the reality....

I think one has to accept that the ends are the means and if the ends and means are sustainable then the means and ends will be also.

sir ed  

10 Mar 2007 @ 23:34 by Istvan @ : my idea ofmeans and ends
"Everything depends on what process it is part of, and what its outcome is. Not just its imagined outcome, but its actual outcome. The whole thing is much more important than the pieces seen in isolation.

But a positive outcome is more likely to be achieved if each step of the way is icarried out with a consciousness of the whole."

The most elegant example for truth of the above is ever so elegantly provided by nature itself (God if you please,)within the process of life itself. "The secret of the seed is in the fragrance of the flower". The fragrance,color and nourishment for the bees is an example for just how positive mens can be to achieve a goal. In this case reproduction.The bees have their food, you have your honey, you have your visual/olfactory idulgences satisfied and all is well.
Well? not really. This beautiful process is often rudely interrupted by peoples insane addiction to rip off the pour plants sexual organs and display them in often rather attractive containers called vases. This is the negative part of this particular "means". There are many examples in nature. Observe and understand!

Swanny please explain how an end can be sustainable. Processes can be but an end is an end, ofcours not in terms of omniscience.  

11 Mar 2007 @ 00:25 by swanny : cycles
and end is a sustainable end when it is a new cyclic process.
loops, simple cycles or simple cyclic processes becoming more complex
cyclic processes. don't understand? OKAY then answer please is a cycle a process or an end?  

11 Mar 2007 @ 01:06 by ming : Ends
Hm, yeah, it is kind of silly to talk about ends, as most things aren't just finished and over with. They are part of a process that continues. And how one got there has a whole lot to say about how one continues from there.  

11 Mar 2007 @ 14:52 by Istvan @ : spinning truths
With all due respect I refuse to be drawn into another intellectual tournament, that are so popular in most chat rooms. It will soon disappear within the bowels of NCN, and in the lack of a search engine, newer to be found again.
Permit me to use your own words, "i suppose the ends and the means are or basically amount to the same thing. Its hard to tell how things play out.... to much spin and bs....sometimes.... it hard to discern the reality.... "  

11 Mar 2007 @ 15:22 by swanny : spin
well if you can't stand the spin you'll have a tough time on the planet,
is truth dynamic or static... if youre looking for a static truth or reality
theyre awfully hard to come by. Don't you understand that about holism
if you look at wholes as you say you should have noted they are not dead
or nouns but alive and verbs.... I say you are in contradiction of court.
Make up your mind are you alive or dead? Is true alive or dead? Is reality alive or dead? or perhaps both at different times.

So you want a static truth or reality... well call me when Im dead....
although you may not be able to hear me to well at my grave.  

11 Mar 2007 @ 15:35 by swanny : time
okay I'll humor you if you insist you want a simple "static" truth or reality?
well the best or convienent and only one I can offer is that it is 8:33 AM MDT on the planet earth on sunday of March 11, 2007 in the milky way galaxy....
but shucks thats no longer true either.... well then sorry ...
I tried.

sir ed  

12 Mar 2007 @ 13:12 by swanny : eistein
I think Eistein said it best Paraphrasing in the vernacular of today

"If your means 'or way of thinking' is no different or better 'above,a quantum leap' than the one of the end your replacing, then you'll enevitably end up with the same end with maybe just different faces or players."
Albert Einstein paraphrased by A.G.Jonas 1940-2007

"Go the distance"
Field of Dreams, Kevin Kostner 1986

sir ed  

14 Mar 2007 @ 05:22 by FreedomBuilder @ : The Ends DO NOT Justify The Means...
With regards to FORCE. Plain and simple. If your "means" require or initiate force, coercion or fraud against ANY other conscious individual, then there is NO justification for those means.  

14 Mar 2007 @ 12:19 by jmarc : freedombuilder
is in a corner with a madman coming at them with a knife, with one intent, to kill freedombuilder. Freedombuilder finds no justification in saving it's life. Morally absolute = absolutely dead.  

15 Mar 2007 @ 02:10 by ming : Force
Right. There will be situations where using force would be the right and justified thing to do. Like, in self-defense. Or, possibly, if the greatest good for the greatest number of people would be served. Which is muddy ground to walk on, of course, because who decides that? But we can imagine one person or a small group of people doing something that seriously endangers everybody else. Let's say a million people were sick with the plague or something, and they were going to die, and one person or one company had the anti-dote, but they didn't feel like sharing because the formula was *all theirs*. Would it be justified to take out that one guy to get the cure, even if he wasn't breaking any laws? I'd say, quite probably, and I'd volunteer for the job for putting a bullet through his head if there were no other way.

But I'm as much against force, coercion and fraud as FreedomBuilder, but maybe I'd just express it somewhat differently. There'd have to be very seriously positive benefits to justify using force against anybody. What I'm very much against is the automatic use of force by people in power who believe they have a legal right to use force, and who have an army of lawyers, police officers, soldiers, or tax collectors to do the dirty work of dispensing the force. Which is most governments and most big corporations. If you're not following the letter of the law, or a company somehow has gotten the legal right to force you to do or not do something, like, say, copy an MP3 file, it doesn't matter if it is right or wrong. Somebody is quite likely to show up to force you to comply, and they're not going to care if it is the greatest good or not.

So, force, coercion and fraud for personal gain and business profit, to protect intellectual property, to blindly defend senseless laws, or for personal entertainment - I'm against all of that. And in the vast majority of cases, if you see such means in action, there's a rat burried there somewhere, and you'll find somebody behind it who has no interest whatsoever in trying to make the world work for everybody, or any such silly and noble idea. Sociopaths with heavily armed mindless bureaucracies under their control - not a good thing.  

14 Sep 2010 @ 15:02 by David Marshall @ : The ends justify the means?
“[ Footnote 4 ] The intelligence community believed that it was necessary "to conceal these activities from the American public in general," because public knowledge of the "unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles and would be detrimental to the accomplishment of its mission." Id., at 394 (quoting CIA Inspector General's Survey of the Technical Services Division, p. 217 (1957)).” See [Footnote 4 of IV] U.S. 709 U.S. Supreme Court 1987 STANLEY military experiment case. [3] The "Veterans Right to Know Act" to establish the Veterans' Right to Know Commission was proposed in the 2005 and H.R. 4259 [109th] 2006 Congress.[9] In accordance with the ongoing greater good necessity “to conceal these activities...” a veteran's right to get the U.S. Senate’s “designed to harm” needed for treatment, and experiment identifying, evidence never became law.

To-date rejected is the U.S. Senate 1994 Report’s, “The Feres Doctrine should not be applied for military personnel who are harmed by inappropriate human experimentation when informed consent has not been given.”[8] Despite the 16 of 66 year efforts of some, the U.S. Congress has failed to protect service personnel from “to harm” experiments. Therefore, do not the U.S. Senate’s reported Department of Defense (DOD) “EXPERIMENTS THAT WERE DESIGNED TO HARM” [8] continue?

Please have your members in the U.S. Congress give back to service personnel and veterans those rights that convicted rapists and murderers keep, e.g., “Written policy and practice prohibit the use of” [prison] “inmates for medical.....experiments.”! See page 13 of 14, REF: [6] The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1987 STANLEY [3] “to harm” DOD experiment is approved by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1950 FERES [1] ‘can do no wrong, ends justify the means’ Doctrine. The STANLEY case is one of the U.S. Senate’s 1994 “During the last 50 years, hundreds of thousands of military personnel” were subjected to “experiments that were designed to harm”, e.g., the reported biological and chemical agents, radiation exposure, hallucinogenic and investigational drugs, experimental vaccines and behavior modification projects.[8] It is a dereliction of duty in direct disobedience of the DOD Secretary's 26 February 1953 NO non-consensual, human experiments.[2] During the U.S. Senate’s reported past 50 years, most of the "to harm" service records were destroyed in a 1973 National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) fire. Congress’s 1974 Privacy Act censored experiment verifying witnesses from any surviving records!

After the 1987 STANLEY, Congress passed the 1988 Veterans’ Judicial Review Act (VJRA).[4] Established was the Legislative, Article I severely restricted, U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals. In 1994 its Chief Judge stated, "The Court simply identifies error made below by a failure to adhere, in individual cases, to the Constitution, statutes, and regulations which themselves reflect policy -- policy freely ignored by many initial adjudicators whose attitude is, "I haven't been told by my boss to change. If you don't like it -- appeal it."[7] Congress dictated that, "The court may not review the schedule of ratings for disabilities or the policies underlying the schedule."[4] Given to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is the Judicial Branch’s final authority on "the policies underlying the schedule" questions of law![5]

Each "to harm" experiment completes a Research and Development (R&D) process. Prior R&D is reviewed. The resulting Scope of Work defines what each experiment is "designed" to accomplish. The how, where, when and who is identified. The conducted RESEARCHED cause and effects are closely followed and recorded. From the results are DEVELOPED safe production, use, victim treatment and protection. Accordingly, at the time known are the recorded and withheld “designed to harm” resultant “schedule” disabilities with their identifying symptoms and treatment. Ignored by the U.S. Congress is the service personnel rights lost vs. prison inmate kept!

Overlooked by many in Congress is our “Pledge of Allegiance” “with liberty and justice for all" and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ignored own, carved in stone over its entrance, “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW”!


[1] 1950 - Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135, 146 (1950). [link]

[2] 1953 - DOD Secretary's 26 February 1953 NO non-consensual, human experiment’s Memo pages 343-345. George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin, "The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code; Human Rights in Human Experimentation” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

[3] 1987 - U.S. SUPREME COURT, JUNE 25, 1987, U.S. V. STANLEY , 107 S. CT.. 3054 (VOLUME 483 U.S., SECTION 669, PAGES 699 TO 710). [link]

[4] 1988 - Veterans’ Judicial Review Act (VJRA), Pub. L. No. 100-687, Div. A, 102 Stat. 4105 (8 December 1988) DVA-Chapter 4 and [link]

[5] "United States Code (USC) Title 38, 511. Decisions of the Secretary; finality." US CODE: Title 38511. Decisions of the Secretary; finality.

[6] 1994 - U.S. State Dept., "U.S. Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights July 1994, Article 7 - Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” Electronic Research Collections (ERC)

[7] 1994 - Chief Judge and colleague statements, Court of Veterans Appeals, Annual Judicial Conference, Fort Meyer, VA., 17 & 18 October 1994. Chief Judge Frank Nebeker's Statement STATE OF COURT - - - URL: [link]

[8] 1994 - December 8, 1994 REPORT 103-97 "Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans' Health? Lessons Spanning Half a Century." Hearings Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 103rd Congress 2nd Session.

[9] 2005 & 2006 - "Veterans Right to Know Act" to establish the Veterans' Right to Know Commission was proposed in the 2005 and H.R. 4259 [109th] 2006 Congress. H. R. 4259.  

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2007-11-09 00:55: The ends justify the means
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