Sunday, October 14, 2012

When The End Definitely Does Not Justify Your Mortal Means

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

In Philosophy, we are taught that the morality of a human act is defined by three criteria or formulations. These criteria will help and guide us in exerting our free will, but still govern us of what is moral and what isn't. Choosing the right thing to do in a situation is really hard, that is why human as we are, with conflicting personal interests and tendencies to commit mistakes, we need some guidelines to assess whether what we are about to do is the best option or not.

Let these three guidelines help you in choosing the right thing to do:


A little related with intentions, motives are the very basic determining factor of morality. Whatever intentions or motives we have in mind could only be either good or bad. If it goes along with the Natural Law then it is most probably right, and if it is otherwise then you'd better shy away from it. Knowing that killing a person is intrinsically against the Natural Law, then one can assume, even without the height of intelligence or knowledge, that it is already morally bad. Motives are the driving factors of one's act, a fuel as compared to a car.


In order to achieve or motives we utilize some means. Means are the things or acts we do if we are to discuss it in layman's terms. Means are categorized to being good, bad or neutral on a broad point of view. Stealing is considered bad, for example, while giving a pauper something (which is not poisoned) to eat  is considered good. For neutral means we can cite breathing as a good example, since it is neither good or bad.


Consequences are the effects or the result when our motives and means has been put into action. The right consequences are considered morally good. But the question of What is right? will sometimes give it a grey meaning. That is why to rule out justification we always go back to the Natural Law. Whatever that does not violate the Natural Law is right and good.

Combination of the Three

Now in assessing the morality of an act, we just combine these three guidelines. If any of these three is bad the act is already bad in nature. Even if the two guidelines are good and the remaining one is bad it still does not mean good by rule of numbers. In short, no matter what combinations as long as any of this three is bad makes the act morally bad.

Example #1: Good Motives, Good Means, Bad Consequence = Morally Bad

A person has the motive of feeding his poor neighbor (Motive). So he bought some food from the nearest store (Means). Without his knowing it the food was actually expired and is already poisoned. When the poor neighbor ate the food he suddenly felt ill and, under some circumstances brought about by the poisoned food, died (Consequence).

This is for some reason a morally bad act. Ignorance of the fact that the food is poisoned does not excuse you and this is not only applicable to Philosophy, because it is even applicable to Criminal Laws. You can still be imprisoned by committing this seemingly positive motive and means that resulted to a very bad ending.

Example #2: Good Motives, Bad Means, Good Consequence = Morally Bad

A helpless father wanted to alleviate the state of his family (Motive). Because he has no capacity to find a living, he robbed a bank together with some cronies (Means). Because he has acquired a lot of money, his family became rich and he finally achieved his dreams (Consequence).

Now, isn't this example a very obvious citation of a very morally bad act. When another party is affected by our acts in a bad way, the bank in this example, we can consider this already a very bad act. If we are to add degree in this equation: instead of stealing the money from a bank, what if we say you have stolen from another poor family? This makes it even more a very potent example of a morally bad act.

Example #3: Bad Motives, Good Means, Good Consequence = Morally Bad

An infiltrator wanted to know a classified information that is not intended for him (Motive). So he befriended the one who is responsible for holding this information secret (Means). And since they have become close friends the security person shared some information on him in confidence. No harm done to the infiltrator, same is true with the security person, but the infiltrator has taken hold of an information that is not really intended for him. Every one is happy... until... (Consequences).

This sneaky affairs, from the word sneaky is not morally good after all. Who would have thought secret agents and all belong to this category. But I don't blame them. it's their job after all.

To Summarize All These

There are many other examples: like two of the criteria are bad and only one is good. That makes it even more severe and can be judged as morally bad. So, to be morally good make sure all these three criteria -- Motive, Means and Consequence -- are always on the good side. Wouldn't this world be a better place if we are all morally good. You don't have to be a religious to acknowledge this -- all you need is to be a human being. Without complicating life is certainly a good way to achieve it. But ways of complicating lives are another matter so I won't discuss it here.