PHILOSOPHICAL CONFUSION OVER ENDS AND MEANS

Since we have an election coming up in November, I thought it would a good time to quote one of the first “modern” political pundits.

Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word. You must know there are two ways of contesting,(*) the one by the law, the other by force; the first method is proper to men, the second to beasts; but because the first is frequently not sufficient, it is necessary to have recourse to the second. Therefore it is necessary for a prince to understand how to avail himself of the beast and the man.  —  The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli

Satan makes the most hideous beliefs palatable and seemingly reasonable.  So it is that Machiavelli could give rulers scholarly advice in The Prince.  Therein Machiavelli carefully explained how the end justifies the means.  One can only guess how many rulers say they do not believe Machiavelli and lie.  All we know for certain is that far too many take advice such as Machiavelli would offer into their heart and soul.

Do we the People want leaders who lie to us?  Do we want leaders willing to use any means to achieve their ends?  Those are questions each of us must decide for ourselves.

How can we tell when our leaders lie to us?  When our leaders ask us to believe the end justifies the means, we know our leaders tell us an untruth.   Nonetheless,  it is not necessarily easy to tell when we are being ask to believe the end justifies the means.  Here, for example, we have a rabbi explaining how to solve the problem.

Bernard Berkeley from Glenview, IL:

Dear Rabbi,

Machievelli believed, “The end justifies the means.” What does the Torah offer as a counter-argument?

Dear Bernard Berkeley,

In life, nothing is as simple as a mere five word statement. Let us analyze the statement. Supposing you could save the life of an innocent child (“the end”) and you could do it by lying (“the means”) about his whereabouts to the murderer. In such a case Judaism would definitely say that the end justifies the means. However, supposing I could convince someone of the truth of the Torah (“the end”) by lying (“the means”) about what Torah is, then the Torah would say that it is not justified. Because here the means are a direct contradiction to the end, which is truth. We believe that one should examine each case separately, and indeed Judaism has legal guidelines to teach us how to act in cases of end versus means.

We fall into the trap of choosing inappropriate means when we have a selfish motive.  We are commanded to love others as we love ourselves.  Unfortunately, we are more often concerned about our own feelings.  So we can choose unwisely.   Instead of choosing for the good of all, we each tend to vote for the men and women we believe will further our own selfish interests.

According to the Bible, when the Jews allowed evil men to lead them, the Lord turned his face from them.  Then the Israelites saw for themselves the ineptitude and foolishness that comes from selfishness.  The prophet, Isaiah, provided his own observations in chapter 3 of the Book of Isaiah.  This chapter begins as follows:

Isaiah 3:1-4 (King James Version)

For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water.

The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,

The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.

And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.

Below I have listed the offices and the major party candidates we will have the opportunity to consider in Gainesville, Virginia, this coming November.

Governor

Lieutenant Governor

Attorney General

House of Delegates, 13th District

In posts to come, we will look at each of these candidate’s platforms.  Then we will ask the following question: Is the candidate asking us to believe the end justifies the means?

The Prince

Author: Nicolo Machiavelli

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