class of ethical theory basing standards of right & wrong on the consequences of actions
Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct, i.e., "the ends justify the means".
- To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles.
- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971), p. 24
- The Ninth Rule of the ethics of means and ends is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical.
- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals (1971), p. 35
- The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means.
- Georges Bernanos, The Last Essays of Georges Bernanos (1955), "Why Freedom?"
- It is the principle of antipathy which leads us to speak of offences as deserving punishment. It is the corresponding principle of sympathy which leads us to speak of certain actions as meriting reward. This word merit can only lead to passion and error. It is effects good or bad which we ought alone to consider.
- Jeremy Bentham, MSS 29, 32, University College Collection
- A man wants to earn money in order to be happy, and his whole effort and the best of a life are devoted to the earning of that money. Happiness is forgotten; the means are taken for the end.
- Does the end justify the means? That is possible. But what will justify the end? To that question, which historical thought leaves pending, rebellion replies: the means.
- Albert Camus, The Rebel (1951)
- Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.
- Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years (1950), ch. 14
- He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.
- Harry Emerson Fosdick, Living Under Tension (1941), p. 111
- Consequentialism says that consequences—"results," as a pragmatist might say—are the only things that ultimately matter. Here the word "ultimately" is very important. It's not that things other than consequences—things like being honest, for example—don't matter, but rather that other things matter, when they do, because of their consequences. According to consequentialism, our ultimate goal should be to make things go as well as possible.
- Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them (2013), p. 154
- Given the means, we hang on to them and often forget the ends.
- Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition (1973), Aphorism 121
- ... had I taken the line, so often adopted by strong men in controversy, of justifying the means by the result.
- St. Jerome, Letter 48: "To Pammachius" (393 or 394 A.D.)
- The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.
- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971), ch. 6
- I can imagine no man who will look with more horror on the End than a conscientious revolutionary who has, in a sense sincerely, been justifying cruelties and injustices inflicted on millions of his contemporaries by the benefits which he hopes to confer on future generations.
- C. S. Lewis, The World's Last Night (1952)
- As my poor d'Artagnan used to swear, the importance of the end justifies the meanness of the methods.
- Paul Mahalin (published under the name of Alexandre Dumas), The Son of Porthos: or, The Death of Aramis (1883), ch. 12: "Any Port in a Storm"
- That the morality of actions depends on the consequences which they tend to produce, is the doctrine of rational persons of all schools; that the good or evil of those consequences is measured solely by pleasure or pain, is all of the doctrine of the school of utility, which is peculiar to it.
- John Stuart Mill, Bentham, Dissertations and Discussions, London, 1859
- If the end doesn't justify the means, what does?
- There are means people and there are ends people. The means people create distinctions among means and call it morality. The ends people understand that in this world, in this system we're born into, anything that gets you what you want is a good thing.
- Asuras, in The Burning Plain (1997), by Michael Nava
- Often it is means that justify ends: Goals advance technique and technique survives even when goal structures crumble.
- Alan Perlis, "Epigrams on Programming", #64, ACM SIGPLAN Notices 17 (9), September 1982
- A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified.
- Leon Trotsky, Their Morals and Ours (1938)