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  #1  
Old 21st May 2009, 12:53 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is online now
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Default the end does not justify the means

In all human acts (acts which are or can be knowingly chosen), both the means and the end must be good. If the intended end is good, but the intended means to that end is bad (immoral), then the intention is immoral. If the act itself is immoral, then, whether it is chosen as an end or as a means, the act is remains immoral.

Often, in dicussions on ethics, various persons will make an argument which essentially justifies the means based on the end. They don't state that the end justifies the means; they may not even realize that they are implying that the end justifies the means. But the argument is false nonetheless.

Examples:

A person argues that direct abortion is moral in cases when the mother's life is saved; in effect, the person is saying that the end of saving a life justifies the direct killing of an innocent human being. This argument is false.

A person argues that the use of condoms is justified in order to stem the spread of disease; in effect, the person is saying that the end of stopping the spread of a disease justifies the use of contraception and the cooperation with evil by those who distribute condoms. Again, no matter how good the end is, the means must also be good.

A person argues that terrorist suspects should be tortured and held indefinitely without trial, in order to save lives; in effect, the person is saying that the end of saving lives justifies treating some human persons in an unjust and inhumane manner. But the end does not justify the means.
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Old 21st May 2009, 07:11 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is online now
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More Examples:

A person argues that any and all sexual acts are justified if these acts are used as foreplay in marriage. But foreplay is a means to the end of marital relations. This claim in effect says that the end of marital sexual relations justifies the means. This is a very common argument, despite the definitive teaching of the Church that the end does not justify the means. The means, i.e. the acts used as foreplay, must be good, just as the end, natural marital relations, must be good.
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Old 21st May 2009, 07:50 PM
sammy sammy is offline
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Ron, what about the use of erection enhancement medication like viagra as the means to the end of natural marital relations.
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Old 21st May 2009, 09:56 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is online now
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applying the three fonts of morality:

1. the intended end of natural marital relations is good

2. the use of a medication to treat a medical disorder is good (it is not intrinsically evil)

3. the consequences are good if the risk of side effects is outweighed by the benefit to quality of life

So the use of viagra and similar medications by a married man may be moral.

However, the same cannot be said for the mere recreational use of viagra or other similar drugs. These drugs have side effects, and a small risk of death, which must be weighed against the benefits. If there is no medical condition, such as ED, and the drug is only used for recreational purposes, the risks would outweigh the benefits.
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Old 22nd May 2009, 06:43 AM
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Ron, I agree with the concept of your opening statement.

However, Im sure we would disagree on what torture is.

Who is the moral authority on torture? Is this infallible?

Cartainly not anyone who screams that waterboarding is torture. For these are the biggest supporters of abortion and they definatly hold no weight as a moral compass to define torture.

This is very subjective and a very sensitive issue at this moment in our countries history and national security. The word torture is being thrown around to further political agendas today.

I would like to get more specific here and not just use the word torture loosely. These words cannot be used without clear definition.
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Old 22nd May 2009, 01:12 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is online now
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Concerning torture, the end of national security does not justify the means. The means must always be moral. Torture is not intrinsically evil, because God tortures the condemned in Hell, and the sufferings of purgatory are worse than any sufferings on earth. However, one cannot justify torture merely by reference to the end sought.

In my view, a narrow definition of torture (which would include a decription of intention, degree of serverity, and circumstances) can be made such that torture is always immoral -- but this definition would not include God punishing the guilty, would not include less severe interventions, would not include the punishment of the guilty by courts. Such a narrow definition is not intrinsically evil because it is defined as to its morality under the first and third fonts, not by its inherent ordering toward a moral object in the second font.

Most of the various enhanced interrogation techniques would not generally fit a narrow definition of torture (unless they were taken to an extreme degree), but that does not mean that they are moral. All such techniques must always consider the persons being pressured as human beings; dehumanizing human persons by labeling them terrorists so as to be able to treat them in a horrific manner is not moral.

In dire circumstances and with good intention: a properly-trained and law-abiding officer of law enforcement or military might use some pressure techniques in interrogating a person who is a suspect or who is a known criminal guilty of grave crimes or an enemy combatant. However, there are moral limits to which techniques can be used and to what degree of severity. Some degree of pressure by limiting type and quantity of food, limiting sleep, requiring the person to stand for a length of time could be moral since many persons encounter such difficulties in the ordinary chosen activities of their lives. Soldiers sometimes have less sleep and poor quality or less quantity of food in some circumstances. College students sometimes 'pull an all nighter,' doing without sleep. Waitresses might have to be on their feet all day. But taking such pressure techniques beyond the limits of what is humane would not be a moral means.

The end does not justify the means.
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Old 23rd May 2009, 03:03 PM
Dan A Dan A is offline
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Interesting. I understand your points as you have laid them out but I'm still struggling with the torture issue.

Your points indicate that we could not use any and all means available to prevent harm if we were to capture an individual who is involved in doing great harm to many, many people. Because we love our fellow man, don't we have an obligation to prevent harm from occuring?

This reminds me: "Pray, that you are not put to the test." This would be a very difficult test.
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Old 23rd May 2009, 04:16 PM
Ron Conte Ron Conte is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan A View Post
Your points indicate that we could not use any and all means available to prevent harm if we were to capture an individual who is involved in doing great harm to many, many people. Because we love our fellow man, don't we have an obligation to prevent harm from occuring?

The Church teaches that both the end and the means must be good. A good end does not justify a bad means. So it is an article of faith that we may not use any and all means to a good end, no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how good the intention.

Pope John Paul II: "But the consideration of these consequences, and also of intentions, is not sufficient for judging the moral quality of a concrete choice. The weighing of the goods and evils foreseeable as the consequence of an action is not an adequate method for determining whether the choice of that concrete kind of behavior is 'according to its species,' or 'in itself,' morally good or bad, licit or illicit. The foreseeable consequences are part of those circumstances of the act, which, while capable of lessening the gravity of an evil act, nonetheless cannot alter its moral species."

Pope John Paul II: "Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature 'incapable of being ordered' to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed 'intrinsically evil' (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that 'there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.' "

However, as I said, torture is not intrinsically evil, and various pressure techniques are not torture (narrowly defined). So there may be some circumstances in which more aggressive interrogation techniques would be moral. But good intention and dire circumstances are never sufficient for an act to be moral. The act itself must also be moral.

Also, concerning the consequences of pressure techniques or outright torture, we cannot merely evaluate the good consequences alone (such as the saving of lives). But we must also weigh the bad consequences. For example, if we torture, we can reasonably anticipate that other nations will torture our soldiers captured in war, justifying their actions by our example. If we say that it is moral for us to use torture on enemy combatants, then we are saying it is moral for other nations to use torture on our soldiers if captured during war. We must also consider the harm done to the persons who are tortured, and to their families. We must also consider that some innocent persons may be accused or falsely suspected of terrorism, and tortured.

My opinion is that the good consequences (a chance of saving some lives) is outweighed by the bad consequences (some innocent persons tortured, harm to the person and their families, harm to our soldiers in future wars).
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