Yesterday I asserted that the ends cannot just the means because the ends are inherently unknowable.
But what if they weren’t?
What if the consequences of every action could be known with 100% certainty? What if the entire network of cause and effect were understood? Could the ends then justify the means?
In short, what if you were God, who “knows the end from the beginning?”
The question is not abstract or irrelevant. On the contrary, it goes to the heart of the human condition and has been in a subject of conversation all the way from St. Augustine’s City of God to Tom Shadyac’s Bruce Almighty.
If you know the end from the beginning, can torture (and let’s be honest—what God sometimes puts us through can only be described as torture) be justified? The question produces a visceral response that says, “no, it can’t.”
Something else is missing. It isn’t enough to be all knowing—seeing the ends. Justifying the means also requires being all-wise—seeing how the ends produce a justifiably better whole. And it requires being all-loving—performing the means out of pure, unadulterated love. This is the trifecta—all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving—that allows the ends to justify the means.
How is any of this relevant:
- When we attempt to justify the means, we should recognize that we are walking where angels fear to tread, and where even gods walk lightly.
- When we view ourselves as victims of the means, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God (omniscient, all-wise, and all-loving) will—indeed has—justified the means and that all things can work together for our good.