The concept put forth by Niccolo Machiavelli, in his work The Prince. The novel was a handbook to raise a good, powerful leader, although it has been twisted and now a Machiavellian is associated with evil.

Actually, I think the ends do justify the means. I think the problem comes into play when you don't take into consideration all the ends. The only way we can determine with any reliability what means should be employed are by the ends those means produce. The ends don't justify the means is merely a misstatement (or simplification) of a situation in which some of the ends are so terrible that the desired ends aren't worth it.

I have always been able to get into some interesting discussions with people when we would start debating, and disagree on some point; and they would ask "Do you think the ends justify the means," which, I'm sure, they thought was rhetorical, because any right-minded person would answer "no," and I would then answer "yes" completely straight faced.

To reiterate, I have yet to have anyone present me with a situation, real or imagined in which I would not base the means on the desired ends.

Niccolo Machiavelli never actually said "the ends justify the means". The Italian words that are often mistranslated as such, "si guarda al fine", can be found in The Prince, Chapter XVIII: Concerning the way in Which Princes Should Keep Faith. The phrase is better translated as "one must think of the final result", and was written in regards to the lack of a true judge of whether a prince's words convey mercy, faithfulness, integrity, kindness, and piety.

Italian has already been mentioned, so let's go further back in time to Latin.

The Latin phrase "exitus acta probat" translates into English as "the outcome justifies the deed." Needless to say, such a concept existed well before the time of Machiavelli.

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