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GRE Issue 53 - If A Goal Is Worthy - With A Free Essay Review
If a goal is worthy, then any means taken to attain it are justifiable. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.
The statement claims that if a goal is worthy, then any means taken to attain it are justifiable. I largely disagree with this statement. On the one hand, what does word “worthy” really means? The answers are distinct. Maybe a goal which is worthy to someone is undesirable to other people. On the other hand, even if a goal is worthy, taking any means to attain it regardless of the side effects it brings is irrational as well as unjustifiable.
When it comes to worthy goals, the answers may vary according to different peoples. After all, the definition of a worthy goal is subjective rather than objective to some extent. Some people will think worthy goal means achieving it could satisfy their own interests and needs optimally. Others might think worthy goals means something is beneficial to a society as a whole. Therefore, some worthy goals, especially those which are achieved at the expense of others’ interests, could hardly be treated as desirable goals. In this sense, attaining these goals might be detrimental to others as well as societies even though they meet someone’s demand.
Admittedly, some goals are beneficial to a large majority of people and might be considered as worthy. However, we cannot still agree that any means taken to attain it are justifiable. In other words, this statement is a little bit absolute. Using any means without careful consideration is likely to cause other serious complications. The pro-birth policy in China is an excellent example of this point. During the Culture Revolution, for the the purpose of increasing labor forces, Chairman Mao encouraged every family to give birth to more children. However, due to this wrong way, nowadays China was overloaded with population and government authorities have to enact laws in order to regulate birth control. Let us consider another example. Although it is true that burning fossil fuels serves as a key factor in global warming and preventing temperature from rising is a worthy goal, governments cannot just enact laws to make everyone give up driving cars any longer. Therefore, using any ways to attain the worthy goals is unrealistic and infeasible to some extent.
When it comes to warfare, the statement is also wrong. Even though each side will take great pains to defeat others in various ways in order to win the battle, some means are truly unjustifiable and banned. For instance, with severely detrimental effect, chemical weapons should not be used in the battlefields.
In conclusion, due to the quality of subjectivity, it is difficult for people to come up with a goal that is really worthy to all people. Although the goal is worthy, we cannot still take any means to achieve it largely because these means would bring other adverse outcomes.
You ask in the comment below about cases where a worthy goal might justify the means. Note that the instructions doesn’t require you to consider ways in which the statement might hold true and ways in which it might not hold true; it asks you to consider ways in which the statement might OR might not hold true. You can claim that there are no cases in which the statement holds true and still be following the instructions. A good essay of this kind, however, might want to explain why, in principle, no such cases can arise. That said, even If you think that usually the ends do not justify the means, you might still think that in extreme circumstances, they do. Killing in self-defence might be an example of questionable means (killing) leading to a worthy goal (self-preservation). Most people believe that such an act is justifiable. There are many hypothetical scenarios where the question is more difficult to decide of course. Is it justifiable to torture someone if it is known that the person has information about an impending terrorist attack, for instance?
You begin by questioning the meaning of the word “worthy.” I don’t think that questioning really helps you to advance your argument. You arrive at this conclusion: “Therefore, some worthy goals ... could hardly [you should probably eliminate this word from your vocabulary for the time being, because you have a tendency to misuse it] be treated as desirable goals.” What you seem to want to say here is that what some people call worthy goals are not necessarily worthy goals. On the one hand, that may not be relevant, because you could take the statement to mean “Assuming we can identify what a worthy goal is, then if a goal is worthy, the means taken to attain it are justifiable.” On the other hand, if you want to argue that the principle articulated in the statement is meaningless because we cannot in fact objectively identify worthy goals, then of course you can do so, but then there is nothing to agree or disagree with. I would advise you to work under the assumption that we can identify a worthy goal.
Finally, let’s look at one of the reasons you offer for you disagreement with the statement: “Using any means without careful consideration is likely to cause other serious complications.” You then provide a couple of examples to justify that claim, and end with the paragraph with this: “Therefore, using any ways to attain worthy goals is unrealistic and infeasible to some extent.” It seems here that you are arguing against the statement because there might be unforeseen consequences from using just any means to reach a worthy goal. I think this too is the wrong way to approach the problem. The original statement is really about the problem of justification itself. Can we justify an action, no matter how apparently evil in itself, if the final goal is worthy? The question isn’t about whether the means chosen might be unrealistic, or whether they might fail to achieve the desired end, but whether one should judge the ethical character of an act independently of the ends that act brings about. Your final example, in this respect, is the best example and you should perhaps elaborate the implications of that.