class of ethical theory basing standards of right & wrong on the consequences of actions
(Redirected from Means and ends)

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.
  • 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.
  • Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.
  • He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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"
  • 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
  • Exitus acta probat.
    • The result justifies the deed.
    • Ovid, Heroides (The Heroines), II, 85
  • 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.
  • This concept of "national defense" cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal.

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