Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 E - End

End: Aim, purpose, goal - whatever a person or group of persons selects as worthy to try to achieve (or prevent).

All human societies, all human groups, all human institutions are based on the selection of some set of ends that these societies, groups or institutions are supposed to further (maintain, practice, bring about, protect etc.).

If minimally reasonable, such ends are feasible in principle (much harm has been done by imposing impossible ends as duties on human beings) and, where they apply to groups or societies, come with some sort of proposal of a plan to achieve the ends, that considers means and possiblities.

It is noteworthy here that the ends of a group or society normally transcend the ends of the individuals in the group, in that they require or propose more and other than any one individual can hope to achieve in his life.

Similarly, it seems all human character involves the conscious choice for some ends one seeks to uphold or further, even if one knows one cannot realize these ends in one's own life.

Also it is noteworthy that many ends human beings and human groups have are such as to be not fully realizable by these persons or groups as they are: What makes an end is the decision of a group or a person that it is a worthwile state of reality to try to further.

And it should be noted that ends combine at least two distinct things: Some theory about the reality one believes oneself to be in, and some desires or values about that reality or oneself that one believes to be worthwile trying to realize or helping to further.

Furthermore, an end becomes minimally reasonable or practisable in principle if it also is related to some sort of plan that outlines how one can get from the situation one is in to some situation that is closer to the end.

Many ends people adopt have many shortcomings of many kinds:

  • the end may be very difficult to practice or further
  • the theory that is associated with the end is not well supported or false in some respects
  • there is no good plan how to practice or help realize the end
  • the end may be immoral, unethical, egoistic, or chauvinistic at least when measured by some norms, that may include the norms of those who wish for the end
  • the end is not sincerely adopted but as a ploy, deception, tool or means to some other end

In short the ends that are adopted by human beings tend to have much to do with wishful thinking.


See also: Ethics, Morals, Edwards, Wishful thinking.


Aristotle, Edwards,

 Original: Dec 12, 2004                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top