The Conflict of Means and Ends
Posted by Jerry on June 18, 2007
I will need to develop the following thoughts in greater detail; but for now, I’ll note down what’s in my head.
Any rational man who accepts that his own life is the standard of all his values and the achievement of happiness is his highest moral purpose in life, will also come to realize that all his means and intermediate ends that stand in relation to his ultimate end–which is his own life and his happiness–will never come into conflict.
In other words, a rational man’s means do not conflict with his ends because all this ends are merely intermediaries toward one end–the achievement of rational (not hedonistic) happiness in his life.
There are some philosophies that try to contruct moral and ethical systems based on the morality of either the “means” or the “ends.” Some argue that the means justify the morality of the end (e.g., It is immoral to use stem cell research for a cure even if the patient can be fully healed by the treatment; i.e., the means of attaining the cure is immoral and therefore the end is also immoral).
Others argue that the morality of the end justifies the means adopted to attain it (e.g., it is okay to steal from (or tax) the rich in order to feed to poor).
Both these approaches are haphazard, fractured perspectives on man’s life and actions in this world. It is a fractured worldview of means unrelated to ends and both unrelated to man’s survival.
Note that in the process of life, means become ends and ends become means to further ends. Without a unifying framework, these means and ends remain scattered, forking roadways and one’s life becomes a vehicle lost on these roads without direction.
Objectivism provides the unifying framework for all of man’s actions by defining life as “self-generated action” and man’s life as “goal-directed action.” Man has one goal, one end–the rational happiness of his own life. Objectivism views man has having only one obligation–that is to himself, to acheive the best possible life of happiness for himself on this earth. Objectivism believes only in the *here and now* and holds that happiness is not only possible but the *proper* state of man’s existence on this earth. To that *end*, Objectivism builds a framework of moral rights that safeguard the conditions possible (the means) for the achievement of that end and ennumerates a series of values and virtues that are necessary means to achieving that end.
A rational man will choose to have no intermediate end or goal that will conflict with the ultimate goal of survival qua man, because that is not the furtherance of one’s values and is not in one’s self-interest. Further, every intermediate goal that is in conflict with the long-term pursuit of his ultimate goal will become obstacles that steer his life off the intended course of his rational pursuit. Every unchecked and uncorrected contradictory end becomes a means to another contradictory end, until one is soon headed in the exact opposite direction of rational happiness and veering dangerously into escapism, hedonism, or self-destruction.
Since man cannot live by the range-of-the-moment like animals can, and since man’s conceptual capacities enable him to project his values in the long-term, man has to have long-range plans for the direction in which his life will head. These long-range plans must include a set of consistent means and ends that cannot conflict with each other or the ultimate end of man’s survival qua rational man.