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The Thought About the Ends and Means

I do not have an automobile and I want one. The automobile I want costs more money than I have available. It is necessary for me to get the money needed to buy the car. There appear to be a number of ways in which I can get what is needed without violating the law. For example, I can save it, by not spending what money I have on something else; or I can try to earn additional money; or I can borrow it.

In this example--there might have been countless others of the same sort--getting the automobile is the end in view. Getting the money needed to buy the car is a means to that end; it is also itself an end to which there are, as we have seen, a number of means.

How do I choose among them? One may be easier than the others; going one way may get me my goal more quickly than going the other ways. Of the several means, each serving to attain the end in view, one would normally choose the means that seems better by virtue of being easier, quicker, more likely to succeed, and so on.

When we act this way, we act purposefully. To say that we have a purpose in what we do is to say that we are acting for some goal that we have in mind.

Sometimes we act aimlessly--like a boat just drifting on the current with no one at the wheel to steer it. When we act in that way, we are also acting thoughtlessly. We have nothing in mind that guides our acting in one direction or another. To act aimlessly requires no thinking on our part.

For the most part, however, we act purposefully, and then we cannot act without thinking first. We have to think about the goal we are aiming at--the end we are trying to achieve. We have to think about the various means that we can use to achieve it. We have to think about which is the better of alternative means and why one is better than another. And if the particular means that we choose to employ is a means we cannot use without doing something else first in order to lay our hands on it, then it is itse...

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The Thought About the Ends and Means. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 14:24, July 28, 2014, from