2011 – Most Philosophical 4th Grader in America:

Antero Silvula, Minnesota.

Do the Ends Justify the Means ?

When someone says the ends justify the means they’re saying that it’s okay to cause some harm in accomplishing a great goal. In other words, if a person or group is trying to help a lot of people, it’s all right if they hurt few people. For instance, if a researcher is trying to find a cure for some kind of cancer that will save a lot of lives, he may be justified in causing some people to die. Another example is that some people think it was justified that the United States dropped nuclear bombs in Japan because it ended the war and saved a lot of soldiers that would have killed if the war had continued. However, I think that one viewpoint alone cannot truly determine if harm is justified. You need different viewpoints to decide this.

I think what we need to ask is: “Would my neighbor think the ends justify the means?” or “Would my enemy think the ends justify the means?” In the examples of the cancer researcher who causes deaths in discovering a cure for cancer, would a doctor, whose job it is to save lives, agree that the ends justify the means? Would patients who receive the new treatment agree? What about a boy whose father died of that cancer? If different people don’t think the ends justify the means, then the harm may not be justified. But if many people think it is right from all different sides of the story, the ends may actually justify the means.

Often governments or people will use ‘the ends justifies the means’ as an excuse for the harm they have done. From their point of view, the hurt is acceptable. I think that the ends justify the means only if different people with different viewpoints all agree that the goal accomplished is so great that the harm can be excused. Then, yes, the ends justify the means.



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