Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Does the end justify the means?

A recent Washington Post article – Russia blocks U.N. move to treat climate change as a global security threat – triggered the above question. Like Russia, I do not believe that climate change is a global security threat. First and foremost, it’s a geological phenomenon, similar to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

To some extent, the paragraph above is about semantics. Is climate change a global threat? Depending on your time horizon, it may (not) be. The adjective ‘security’ further complicates the issue. What kind of security threat? For whom? Where? Ultimately, climate change is mostly political. This may explain the veto.

The expression “the end justify the means” is attributed to either Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) or Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (43 BC – 17/18 AD) a.k.a. Ovid, a roman poet. Interestingly, Machiavelli uses this term in relation to achieving and maintaining Power. The love for Power is stronger than any moral issue (ie, monism).

Often, the Greater Good (eg, my blogs) or utilitarianism is used as an argument – or rather an excuse – for the morality of our deeds, words and intentions. Its most famous expression is: all is fair in love and war, a proverb attributed to the 1578 book Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit by John Lyly (1553/4-1606).

Clearly, (the lack of) morality is about the Love, Knowledge & Power triangle:

Why does morality even play a role in non-moral issues, like Love, Knowledge and Power? Moral issues are about an individual‘s life and/or death. Hence, our (probable) disregard for collective collateral damage.

The trolley problem is a well-known thought experiment in ethics (ie, morality) and psychology. Whom would you save as a trolley driver: 1 person or a group of 5 people? The dilemma gets more difficult when you add labels: 1 pregnant woman versus 5 elderly people (eg, an episode from the Good Place).

Perhaps, the real question is this: should moral arguments be used in a nonmoral or even amoral issue? If the ends are amoral then using moral arguments may (or should) be considered amoral as well. In that case, the end never justifies the means (eg, how a murderer kills his victim, how an aggressor invades a country).

More and more, irrelevant morality is being used – or: abused – in case all other explanations fail.

Don’t Matter (2007) by Akon
artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.


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