The conceptual framework for a man's search for meaning

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The last alchemist

August 23rd, 2012 by dimpledbrain

Does the end justify the means or does the means justify the end?  

How would one decide?

On one hand we have the Machiavellian approach, of the end justifying the means camp (think politicians) and on the other hand we have the other camp. Obviously. Think religions.

The end justifying the means means it’s the outcome that matters ultimately, regardless of the process. Hardcore result oriented or head over heart if you like.

The same conundrum happens in all facades of life, only with varying degrees of contextuality – students (should I cheat in exams or else risk to flop it? Should I just study for exams or should I study for knowledge?), adults (should I over or under report revenue for the quarter? Should I use any means to woo that girl?)

Many people have developed different approaches in handling this peculiarity – e.g. classifying the importance of the issues (if it’s very important, the end shall justify the means), or assessing the urgency of timing (if it can’t wait like exam is tomorrow, the end shall justify the means again or else I’ll risk flopping the exam).

If it’s life that we are talking about, which principle should we uphold?

Relying on the texts of two ancient sages, I concluded the matter (prematurely) that:

  1. For life taken as a whole, it’s the means justifying the end.
  2. Both approaches are the different sides of the same coin

Walao eh, dimpledbrain. Everything you talk finish loh? (Translation: That’s outrageous! If all you are saying is ‘it all depends’ then there is no real conclusion to the matter). See why I like Manglish – it’s simple and efficient.

Text 1 – arguably the wisest man in the world, King Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes:

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do…Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

Text 2 – Kahlil Gibran in the book The Prophet:

“But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”

That said, our personality, past experiences, family upbringing and even the different circumstances we are in play an important deciding factor on which approach that we favour. By the way, I’m just equally tempted to put two people from the opposing views together and let them debate over the matter. Geez, that will be so interesting for a night long discussion.

No, there is no dimpledbrain’s signature three bullet point key takeaways this time around, sorry. Only the question, “how would one decide when it comes to a dilemma like this?”


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