Monday, December 20, 2010

Means And Ends

Rudolf Kastner


We use our tools of art to return to love. They are not ends in themselves.

When we use our tools in a way destructive of love, we ask ourselves the question, does the end justify the means?

Do we accept that some die or suffer, so that others live and prosper?

If this is to have any sense, it has to be possible that the destructive act of the means does not also destroy the ends intended. The political killer may not be able to enter and enjoy the heaven he works for, the people he brings with him may also not, but maybe their innocent descendants will.

But what if the loveless acts themselves interfere with the accuracy of judgment? What if acting without love makes you incapable of making the means to the end argument?

The Jewish leaders in Budapest in 1944, prominent among them Rudolf Kastner of the Jewish Agency and the Head Rabbi of Budapest, deliberately withheld from their fellow Jews being loaded on trains to Poland the knowledge that they were going to their certain deaths. The leaders thought the people would be killed even if they were told, better to try to save a few thousand by placating their persecutors.

The question is whether the judgment of those who habitually compromise, who live their lives in close negotiation with and bribing the worst the human species has produced are capable of making a correct judgment. Not because of failure of logic, but a failure of love.

Someone removed from love and caught in manipulations and bargaining with the corrupt brings the darkness and confines of this world home. He communicates his limitations. He looks on his fellows condemned to death with the eyes of his enemy, in the closed world of power and weakness, deserving and undeserving. If the leaders had conserved an ability to love, and communicated that love to their fellows, the results of their reasoning certainly would have been different. They would have allowed those condemned to death if they boarded the trains to make their own future, because there would have been a future imaginable both by them and the leaders of the community. Uncertain, but open.

Use of destructive means to an end both disqualifies those responsible from entering the world aimed at, and also makes it unlikely that the calculation used to justify the destructive means to the end is correct.


The means which make us unperceptive are a result of letting ourselves forget the right end. Does the end justify the means? Before the question is asked we have our answer: Yes, the right end. The right means. Both can be clearly defined.

We say to the compromised: For you, the end never will justify the means, because the end you want is valueless, a mere arrangement of social roles, and in any case you are incapacitated by that choice from being anything other than murderous in your use of means.

Note that the compromised choose as their end a closely described world, but apply confused means.

The alternative to compromise is the opposite, the use of clear means to an known but undefined end. It is to consider out of the question making the best of a loveless life. Instead, you immediately set forth towards the recovery of love. you open your eyes wide and work your way through to a place in which you can love again. Even in this task there are strict restraints, as you cannot do anything that will incapacatate yourself from loving once you have succeeded. The means in this way are strictly limited, the end known but the exact form it will take once achieved not foreseen.

So again, to the question, does the end justify the means? the answer is yes, the right end, the right means.

Further Reading:
Ends And Means, Aldous Huxley
The Memory Book