Monday, March 23, 2009

Bad actions, good effects

Is a bad action less bad if it has positive side effects? Say, I am a pacifist and I am absolutely against war. So I judge war is bad. As a consequence, for me the First World War was bad. However, this war stimulated medical surgery very much, and especially it stimulated plastic surgery. Is my opinion that the First World War was bad then a reason for me to be against plastic surgery in any form and for any purpose, for example operating people whose faces have been injured in an accident? Or is it a reason to change my opinion and to say: In the end the First World War wasn’t so bad at all? Or even more: In the end wars are not so bad at all?

2 comments:

Joe said...

If the bad action is intended, then the action itself is bad, regardless of what the side effects are.

Perhaps some people might believe that the positive side effect matters for the evaluation of an action. People, for instance, often say "it's for the best" or "it'll all work out." This seems to expose the fact that some actions, although bad in the short term, may have a good outcome in the long term. This seems to suggest that a bad action is less bad.

HbdW said...

Thank you for your reaction. One of the problems with the question whether an action is good or bad is (and you indicated that already) that a bad action can be done with a good intention, and also that the opinion about an action can change. Many actions are bad but not bad by intention. Or the actor sees them as good, while a third person sees them as bad. I wonder whether we can come here with a clear answer, but this will not say that it is not good to think about it.