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Ends justifying means
作者:中国日报…    文章来源:中国日报-英语点津    点击数:47    更新时间:2017/1/22   

Ends justifying meansReader question:

Please explain the following sentence, particularly “ends justifying means”: Yet, since pragmatism has eroded all values, it’s simply a matter of ends justifying means.

My comments:

To practical people, who are looking for results and achieving targets and goals, the most important thing for them is to win. As long as they win and get the results they’re after, then how they win and get the results does not matter.

That’s it about pragmatism as a philosophy in a nutshell, or that’s about it.

Now, ends justifying means. And “end” means a result (as in end result). “Means” (plural) refers to the method you use in order to achieve the end or result. For example, did you travel to Beijing by means of the railway or airplane?

To “justify” is to prove that the method is “just” or right.

Literally, to say “the end justifies the means” is to say that if the end result is good, then all is good – the method you’ve been using to achieve the result must be good or be accepted as good.

Obviously this type of reasoning does not sit well with many people – not all the time.

For example, if a soccer team wins a match on the strength of being a better team and giving a better performance on the day, then fair and square, congratulations. If another team wins a match via bribery, by secretly giving the match referee 10,000 dollars the day before to solicit and ensure receiving favors, then it’s hard to say.

It’s not hard to say. I mean, that’s not right.

Well, to some pragmatists, a win is a win. They’ll readily take it.

But to people who are more scrupulous, that is simply not right.

And that is that. There’s really nothing more for me to say.

Anyways, to sum up, the idea of “the end justifies the means” is to suggest that in order to achieve an important aim, it may be acceptable to even do something bad, i.e. immoral.

Whether this type of reasoning is in line with your own value judgment or moral principles is, well, up to you. Here, let’s read media examples of whether this line of thinking trumps or fails to trump other value judgments of different people in different situations:

1. In the nine years since I first interviewed Kate Davies, chief executive of Notting Hill Housing Group, she has come a long way. Then she had just taken the helm at one of the leading housing associations in the south-east and was building and managing affordable homes for some of London’s poorest people. Now almost one-fifth of Notting Hill’s housing portfolio is private rentals and housing for shared ownership, and it is increasingly having to develop high-quality property for wealthy individuals to sell on the open market in order to fund its much-needed social housing.

Davies, 57, relishes the professional independence that funding social housing through commercial property sales now offers following shrinking government subsidy. “If you’re entirely dependent on government, that is a feeling of weakness,” she says. “You haven’t got so much say over what you do; you're simply churning out sausages for the government.”

Managing that shift in culture within her organisation, however, has been more of a struggle. In 2010, staff voted to walk out over changes to terms and conditions, including plans to abolish carers’ leave.

Was the strike a symptom of the awkward evolution of the social housing sector? “That tension is there,” Davies admits. “You could say crudely that the people who are selling homes are in a different quadrant from the people looking after the elderly people with dementia. There are different cultures around Notting Hill. I think that's inevitable.

“When you are doing a lot of commercial work people forget you are also still a charity and are still connected to that social purpose. We don’t always advertise enough, in the same breath, that we’re both commercial and trying to make the world a better place.”

These difficult periods taught Davies important lessons. “[Early in my career] I was a pretty crude manager, quite brutal, rude, crass, unsophisticated in my approach,” she admits. “I think in retrospect that [the strike] could have been avoided by me and my senior colleagues dealing with it differently. The basic lesson is: if you involve staff and consult with them and engage them with a problem they will very often come up with a solution themselves.”

Though her management style may have evolved, Davies is still critical of her contemporaries in housing associations who refuse to accept change and commercialisation at every turn. For her “the ends justify the means”.

- Notting Hill housing chief: ‘the ends justify the means’, TheGuardian.com, by Hannah Fearn, April 23, 2014.

2. We’ve all heard the concept of the end justifying the means, which usually arises in situations where someone has crossed ethical, legal or moral boundaries. In fact, this concept is usually invoked in the statement “the end does not justify the means.” During my run this morning it struck me that the more appropriate concept – and one that actually invokes integrity – is “the end supports the means.” I’ve never liked running and I still don’t like running, but I do like what running does for my health, my body and for me. Thus, the end (being, feeling and living healthy) supports the means of regular exercise, including running. If you have a goal that requires more time and focus than you seem to have available, then the answer may be to cut something else out of your schedule (e.g. television, social media, shopping, games on your phone, etc.). Your goal (the end) supports the means (saying “no” to some things to get what you want). It strikes me that the idea of “the end justifies the means” is about taking the easy route, while “the end supports the means” is about empowerment through choices. I like it. Try it out for yourself. What means will support your end, and are you ready to use those means to achieve the end you claim to desire?

- The End Supports the Means, by Jeff Nischwitz, LinkedIn.com, April 19, 2016.

3. Those four examples — and those were only the four that immediately sprang to mind — make very clear that Trump has absolutely no plan to pivot when he assumes the presidency. He is who he is. There is no Trump but Trump.

I’ve long believed that talk of a pivot or an unveiling of a “more presidential” Trump, which has been a nonstop subject since it became clear Trump would be the Republican presidential nominee last spring, is an absolute misjudgment not only of Trump but of what his many victories over the past 18 months have taught him.

Ask yourself this: How many 70-year-old men fundamentally change their personality? How about 70-year-old men who have been extremely successful? Is there a number less than zero?

That was true even before Trump started to win primaries and caucuses over the course of 2016. What his primary win taught him was that he was right and the “Republican brain trust” was wrong. What his general election victory taught him was that he was right and that everyone in the political class — elected officials, consultants, the media — was wrong. Why the hell would Trump change his approach to politics and policy after the year he has had? The simple answer is he wouldn’t.

For Trump, the ends justify the means. In winning, he showed that everything from tax returns to blind trusts to cordial relations with the media were immaterial to regular people. “How can it be bad/wrong if I won?” is the Trump thought on, well, everything. His news conference Wednesday proved that basic belief won't be changing when the president-elect becomes the president in nine days.

- Donald Trump just put to rest the idea he will ever back down, by Chris Cillizza, WashingtonPost.com, January 11, 2017.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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