Can someone explain to me why the ends don't justify the means?

I can’t just say to some non-Catholic asking about why the ends don’t justify the means, “Evil means do not justify good ends because it is evil to use evil means.”

That, to me, would not be a satisfying answer.

Yes one cannot use an evil means --because it is evil

A moral Evil is by nature not to be chosen. It is sinful.

It’s not the end justifying the means.

The physical action in this case is the same. In both cases, you’re choosing to end your own life. However, that’s as similar as they get. In one (sacrifice), you do it not to kill yourself but to protect others. That’s admirable. In the other (suicide), you do it to end your own life because you don’t want to life. That’s bad.

Compare to marital sex v fornication. In both cases, you’re having sex. But the intent and morality of the physical act is very different.

The end justifying the means would be saying “Okay, I know I’m killing a baby, but he would have grown up to be Hitler”

Bad means have chaotic results to the world in almost any case, and more often than not, we humans would love to go that highway. The best you could do is avoid something bad coming from you, and that comes from doing good things by good means. :thumbsup:

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it in one place: “one may never do evil so that good may result from it” (1789)

Isn’t it logically fallacious to say that?

Another thing, I already made it clear in my first post that I know that the ends cannot justify the means.

I’m not getting my question answered though. I am still confused. :confused:

The moral object is very different too. That is key.


Evil is by definition that which is wrong to do.

One cannot do what is by definition wrong to do in order for a good to happen.

One should not do evil.
To do X is in fact to do evil.
Therefore one should not to do X even for a good end.

You are saying the end justifies the means. A moral good or evil comes from the same act depending on the outcome.

So, even if you have two choices, to do a lesser evil or a greater evil, you can’t choose either?

To a Catholic, the fact that God said something makes it meaningful. We believe that there are some truths which cannot be arrived at by human-level thinking, and we are grateful that God teaches us these things.

Materialists have totally different philosophical foundations from us. For those who are consequentialists or utilitarians, there is no way to justify leaving out certain actions just because superstitious people like Catholics believe that some acts are intrinsically evil and that there is nothing which can justify their use. They do not believe in unseen things like souls, Heaven, Hell, so to them there is no more reason to refrain from an evil act which they believe will have a good consequence than there is to refrain from a good act which will have good consequences.

So they propose silly questions like aliens from outer space telling us they will blow up our world if we do not kill a child. The good of saving billions will, to them, outweigh the evil of killing a child.

But we know that there are more consequences, which they cannot see.

So what I’m saying is that there are certain things which cannot be explained to those who do not believe in the totality of the Catholic Faith.


Never said such.

The moral object is not to be confused with the intention.

Fornication and the marital act are two very different moral objects – two very different moral realities. They are two different moral objects by definition.

You choose the good. :slight_smile:

A good confessor etc can assist one in figuring out a particular difficult question.

Also remember there can be a good object chosen that has as an unintended side effect some evil. There are moral principles to apply in such cases (principle of double effect–the various aspects of the principle being in place) ).

A evil means here is still not involved --one cannot not do evil for good. But there may be an evil side effect that is foreseen to likely happen- in an unintended way- in choosing a non-evil means to a good end.

It’s the same physical act. The intention is different. The end is what makes a difference. Not the physical act.

It is the reality of the act --the moral nature of the act itself. Not the intention that changes things (though of course the intention needs to be good too).

The intention by nature cannot change an intrinsicly evil object into a good object.

One can call each other husband and wife and intend to engage in marital relations --but if your not married to each other – all the intention in the world will not make fornication into the marital act.

Because evil is evil, and the results can’t magically change that. If an action is evil, it ought not be done. This is pretty much a definition.

The idea that the ends justify the means is exactly the denial that any action is intrinsically good or evil - if a good effect could justify an “evil” action, then the evil action wasn’t evil after all, because the “ought not be done” does not apply.

But if there is an ultimate Good, then there is a standard by which all things, ends and means both, must be judged. If a means can be judged independent of its ends, then it can be bad independent of its ends.

And if it is bad independent of its ends, then it is actually bad and ought not be done. By definition. Regardless of its effects. Unjustifiable, by ends or otherwise.

If you were to witness two couples engaged in the physical act, one couple married and one that was not, you couldn’t tell which was which. It’s the same physical act.

The same for killing yourself. If you do it for your own ends it is evil, if you do it for others it is not.

The end is determined by the intention of the act not the act. Just as in mortal sin you have to know the serious of the act and do it willingly. You can’t do it accidentally you have to have intent. The physical act could be the same.

A pregnancy can be aborted to save the life of the mother. It isn’t called abortion but the act is the same. It is the intent that is different.

You can try to limit the evil that is in the (expected) final outcomes of what you do, but you can not choose to do evil for any reason. You can choose to set up defenses against an attack here or there to try to save as many as you can, but you cannot murder or torture to save as many as you can.

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