Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ethical Choices

We seem to think that we only have two ethical choices. Either

1) the ends justify the means, or

2) we judge people according to their intentions, not according to the results of their actions (thanks, Kant).

Do we really have to be faced with a choice of either accepting whatever means is necessary to reach the goal, or of a Kantian "intentions is what really matters," regardless of outcome? I personally find both distasteful. We should be able to reach good goals by good means. I don't see any reason why that's not possible. We need to stop excusing people with "well, he meant well," while also agreeing that the ends don't justify the means.

Bad means and bad outcomes should be equally condemned, and people should be held responsible for both. We should only judge as good when

3) good intentions result in good outcomes.

It's time we injected a little reality into the question of what constitutes ethical actions.
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