Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

On the Oddity of Criticising Justifying Means with Ends

One of the strangest moral axioms of our time is that the ends do not justify the means. To such a claim I go, what else justify the means except the ends which they serve?

It would often be said that with the rise of a atheistic mechanistic worldview the world becomes devoid of purpose, meaning, and value, etc. Yet, inconsistently, they reject the idea that the meaning or value of an act is derivative of the purpose or end it serves.

Perhaps, more fairly, it should be said that this is more of a tension within the Western philosophical tradition. One of the things I’ve observed before is the fact that teleological reasoning actually features very little in Platonic thought. Things statically “participate” in the eternal forms via elevation, they don’t actually move towards a goal. Teleological reasoning only largely appears in Aristotle and Nominalism pretty much discarded everything else except for a thing’s teleology which they identify with the divine will.

So in an odd way, there is a certain convergence between secular modernist worldviews where meanings are “immanently” embedded intrinsically in humanity itself and its acts and certain forms of natural law or platonic moral/ethical system. It is this strand of ethical thinking which grounds the idea that justifying means with ends is somehow a bad thing and that humanity and actions possess some sort of intrinsic value independent of the ends they serve. Thus in a way, divine agency or personality is superfluous in granting human and human acts meaning or value when they intrinsically already possess it anterior to the divine will.

While such thinking is more prominent on the Continent, it is the British ethical tradition, together with its nominalistic and empiricist leanings, which would tend towards a more “utilitarian” view whereby morality and ethics are more centred around freely chosen ends, whether it is ends chosen by the divine will or humanity.

I am however reminded of the first question of the Westminster Catechism, “What is the Chief end of Man?” Not only do the ends justify the means, it is the only thing justifying man itself.

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This entry was posted on February 17, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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