2011 – Most Philosophical 6th Grader in America:
Carra Wu, Illinois.
Do the Ends Justify the Means ?
Our country was founded by people whose actions were at the time considered rebellious, disloyal, and even traitorous. These forefathers risked their lives in order to p8ursue a goal: to create a country where freedom reigned. Although not all of the means they used were legal or morally accepted at the time, the results they achieved justified their actions.
Throughout history, it has taken courageous individuals to break the accepted social order to pursue what they believed to be justice. Through these individuals’ endeavors, society was improved. The ends justified the means. It shows that our laws, social orders, and our moral system are often imperfect. If a good purpose can be served by violating these established rules, then the means are justified.
Today we take civil rights for granted, but in 1955, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give her seat to a white man was considered a violation of the social order that could bring danger to both herself and her community. However, her act of civil disobedience sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which helped advance the African American civil rights movement. Rosa Park’s action shows how ends can justify the means.
In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a government official, leaked the classified Pentagon Papers to newspapers in order to inform citizens of the US involvement in the Vietnam War. Although he violated the trust of his employer and was prosecuted for his illegal action, his fellow Americans considered him a hero. The honorable end achieved justified his use of controversial means.
It is true that demagogues and politicians often misuse the notion “the end justifies the means” to defend their immoral actions. They make it seem as if their injustice towards individuals will result in benefits to the greater society. However, morally unjust means cannot serve an honorable end because the means affect the end. The story of the three little pigs illustrates this point nicely. Although each of the three little pigs sets out to build a house to protect himself, only the house built with the right means- bricks- serves the purpose, and therefore is justified. The end justifies the means only if the means serve the good end.
To advance the cause of humanity, a great deal of conflict must be overcome. Whether it was the abolition of slavery, the defense of freedom, or the extension of equal rights to minority groups, the means used to achieve these ends required sacrifice, sometimes even the lives and blood of thousands of people. Do we like the means? No, but because the ends resulted in increased human liberty and welfare, the means are justified.
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