2011 – National 5th Grade 2nd Place Award Winner:

Julia Lin, Illinois.

Do the Ends Justify the Means ?

Dear Sophocles,

Your famous question, “Do the Ends Justify the Means” is well discussed throughout the world with many debating the topic. Some think that the ends do not justify the means because no matter how great the goal, if you do something wrong your goal is not fully completed because you used “bad” to help you along the way. But personally, I think that the ends do justify the means because sometimes you need to do bad things for the greater good. This has been demonstrated through philosophy, history and medicine.

John Dewy, an American philosopher and psychologist, once said, “The ends justify the means only when the means used are such as actually bring about the desired and desirable end.” In other words the ends only justify the means when you actually accomplish your goal. If your goal is for you because you are selfish, then the ends will not justify the means based on this quote because the goal might be desired by you only. A desired end is an end that everybody included in achieving your goal is happy with. If everybody included in achieving your goal is happy with your outcomes then the end justifies the means.

In life, we are faced with decisions where we must choose to sacrifice “good actions” for the time being in order that a greater good can be accomplished. Take for example George Washington and his troops who killed thousands of British troops. Even though killing is not good, George Washington needed to kill in order to free the county for the people and ultimately establish the United States. George Washington did not kill the British because he wanted violence; he killed the British because he thought it was necessary to make the United States a better place. This example shows ends did justify the means.

Think about the medicines that cure diseases. The medicine was probably animal tested to ensure your safety. Doctors have been trying out medicines on animals and sometimes animals die in the process. But doctors have to test medicines on animals because it could be dangerous to test medicines on humans or even worse to not test the medicine at all. Harming animals isn’t a good in itself, but it human lives can be saved, than the cost is worth it. So the end, which is ensuring human safety and well-being, justified the means, which is jeopardizing an animal’s life.
I hope I answered your question, Sophocles, by showing you examples in philosophy, history and medicine. I always pondered, if the ends didn’t justify the means, then what does. I agree that the ends do justify the means, don’t you Sophocles?

-A young student


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