The ends justify the means (Machiavelli & Co.)

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thomasHKU
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#1
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#1
Hey guys,
I would like to hear your opinion regarding the question:

Ends justify their means?

Do you think that this can be related to political leaders such as Trump?

I would really like to hear your opinion

Best!
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gjd800
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Kant has much to say on this.
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thomasHKU
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(Original post by gjd800)
Kant has much to say on this.
Am I wrong by thinking about Machiavelli?
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gjd800
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Not really, especially if you're thinking of something like the Prince. Kant'd be useful for a different approach, namely that there are ethical imperatives that apply in every instance and we have a duty to hold to these imperatives regardless of circumstances or personal feelings (categorical imperative).

So, whereas someone like Machiavelli might allow something morally questionable to happen or to be done to a person/people in order to facilitate the bigger picture (especially his stuff on loyalty through fear and keeping your word when suits,not when it doesn't), for Kant this would be unthinkable because every moral agent - person - is an end in themselves and so cannot be manipulated for some other end.
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Connor27
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(Original post by thomasHKU)
Hey guys,
I would like to hear your opinion regarding the question:

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Do you think that this can be related to political leaders such as Trump?

I would really like to hear your opinion

Best!
You can absolutely apply it to Trump - for a conservative, is putting up with a repulsive and rude personality like him worth it to see policies that you want passed? Or would you take a more acceptable personality but see policies passed that you disagree with. A lot of thinkers on the American right have debated this dilemma.
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thomasHKU
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Do you also think Bentham's utilitarianism can be applied? Especially by thinking about consequentialism? It is pretty hard for me to find an appropriate answer to this question as I am studying something completely different.
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gjd800
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It can, yes. Bentham's maxim was basically the moral act is that which promotes the greatest good for the greatest number. In terms of ends justifying means, a crude formulation of utility would then allow for oppression: if 80% of the population are white 'native' and 20% other minorities, it could in some circumstances be claimed that anti-minority policy increases the good for the most amount of people (viz. the 80%) at the expense of terrible things happening to the 20% minority. It might then be claimed that the persecution of the minority is a means that justifies the end of a more satisfied 80% majority.

Mill later called this the tyranny of the majority and spoke about it in On Liberty.
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thomasHKU
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In case of torture as a means justifying positive ends such as prevention of terrorism. To what philosophical approach would this fit? Bentham and Kant, right?

Where would you focus on?
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gjd800
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You could potentially use utilitarianism to justify it (though it'd be a crude defence), yeah. Kant would, of course, be dead-set against it.
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thomasHKU
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How would you argue in the case of utilitarianism? The greater good > the good of minorities?
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gjd800
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If it could be shown that such persecution was in the interests of the wider majority, then that would be a crude interpretation, yes. There are more developed Utilitarian theories that attempt to dispel this sort of crude interpretation, though.
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gjd800
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The internment of Japanese in the United States during the Second World War might be an example of such reasoning. Persecuted for the greater good of the American State/people.

A lesser example might be the internment without trial of the Irish during the Troubles (not all of them had proven Republican links).

Gitmo is another lesser example that could be justified on a crude Utilitarian reading. Or Trump's so-called 'Muslim ban'.
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