What do you think this quote means?





Aldous Huxley said "the end cannot justify the means for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced." This was quoted in his essay Ends and Means (1937)--an essay about human behavior and why we cannot agree on how to achieve "liberty, peace, justice, and brotherly love," and therefore cannot achieve it.I can't say that I fully understand it because I think to understand something I should also be able to explain it, but I can't. Can someone please help me put it in simpler terms so that I can understand it better?It makes sense in the context that it was written. We want an ultimate good end, but how can we get it if we don't do good things to get to that end?.. But I wonder how I can put it in a less severe context, something applicable to daily life. Examples would be lovely if someone can come up with one. Thanks!



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3 Responses to “What do you think this quote means?”

  1. dasyuroid says:

    The question is, do the results make the methods OK?Example, is it OK to torture someone?Another question might be, ‘Why are they being tortured?’If the answer is, ‘For the torturer’s fun,’ then the results (ends) would not justify the means (make the methods OK).If the answer is, ‘To save the lives of 10 people,’ then the results (ends) could justify the means (methods).Huxley is actually making a point that an action’s justification (whether doing something is OK or not) can’t be determined by the outcome/results of that action, no matter how good or bad. Also, he is saying that the actions produce the results, the results don’t produce the actions.Example, torture is never OK.He goes on to make the point that since we can’t agree on the quality (good or bad) of an outcome, we can’t then agree on a way to achieve it.Example, if all the terrorists were found and killed in a single instant, the world would be at peace, but not everyone would be happy with that, as terrorists have families and loved ones. These people would not agree on the means or the ends.Hope this helps.

  2. piston's says:

    He’s just basically saying we must do better.If we just focus on the end goal without caring about how we get there…

  3. canonicalized says:

    Gaining something through violence or trickery means that the potential for those actions would always exist, even if the desired ends were “peace,” or “brotherly love.” Peace begets peace. Love begets love.