A term with many meanings. It frequently has the sense of a terminus or limit, especially of time or place or quantity; so one speaks of the end of an hour, the north end of a city, or the end of a rope. Sometimes end denotes the pure result of a cessation of activity, such as death or the end of a battle. Another meaning, of major importance in philosophy and theology, is end as"the object by virtue of which an event or series of events happens or is said to take place; the final cause" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary ). End in this sense, as final cause, is that for the sake of which something exists or is done, that for which an agent acts or action takes place. A surgical operation has as its end health; a knife is for cutting.
Characteristics. To understand adequately the latter sense of the word end, one must recognize its terminal nature, its causal aspect, its identity with the good, and its relation to means.
End as Terminal. The end as final cause has often been described as that which is first in the order of intention and last in the order of execution or activity. "Last in the order of activity" expresses its terminal quality. Since the end is simply the outcome or goal of what an agent does or seeks, as such it terminates his movement toward that goal; for example, the physician's work is over when the patient returns to health. Even when the goal aimed at is action, as when one plays simply for the action involved in playing, the end, in this case the action itself, completes the agent's striving (St. thomas aquinas, C. gent. 3.2).
End as Causal. Although end is, then, last in the order of activity, it is first in the order of intention; and this primacy in intention has reference to its causal nature (Summa Theologiae 1a–2ae, 1.4). When a patient dies in the midst of an operation, death is for him an end in the sense of a terminus; in the same sense, his death terminates the operation. But the patient's death is not the end in the sense of the cause or reason for the operation, since it is not what the surgeon intends.
The intended end, health, is responsible for each step taken by the surgeon in preparing for and carrying out the operation, viz, (1) health is desired; (2) an operation is necessary; (3) thus anesthesia must be administered; and (4) the patient has to be wheeled to surgery. Steps (2), (3), and (4), it should be noted, are chosen only in virtue of the basic aim, health. If health were not intended, they would not be. Moreover, as planned procedures, they exist only as psychic states. In the execution of the acts, the order is inverse: (1) wheeled to surgery, (2) anesthesia, (3) operation, and (4) health. What is first intended (health) is the last thing achieved and what is last intended (wheeled to surgery) is the first thing done. Moreover, what is first intended exercises a determining influence over everything else. The end, then, must be said to be a cause, if it is right to call a cause anything that influences the becoming or existence of a thing (In 5 meta. 1.751). Paradoxically, that which is final in the sphere of action is the cause of all the activity leading up to it; hence, the name final cause (see final causality).
End as Good. The concepts of end and good necessarily involve each other. The end is that which an agent tends to or wills; he intends or wills it because he sees it as good or as suitable to him. In St. Thomas's words, "since the essence of good consists in this that something perfects another as an end, whatever is found to have the character of end also has that of good" (De ver. 21.2; see also 1.1).
The essence of good rests in its relation to the power by which one seeks for or desires things, the power called appetite. Appetite implies want; want implies incompleteness. Whatever then satisfies appetite (perfects it) is suitable to it, and is therefore desirable. The good is that which completes or perfects appetite.
This concept of good is obviously wider than that of moral good. Man has different levels of appetite, and an object may be good insofar as it is desirable by any one appetite. An object will be morally good only if it fulfills and is suitable to the whole person; it must befit man as man, not simply as he is a sensitive or a living being (see morality).
Its desirability is the very reason why the good is a cause. A man can make a desk, read a book, or rob a bank; but, whatever he does, he does it because he thinks it is of value to him, that it will benefit him in some way; in other words, he finds it desirable. The causality of the good is basically a matter of attraction. The good causes by so enticing the agent to itself that he not only intends to get the good but also intends to do whatever is necessary to get it. Aristotle rightly defines the good as "that at which all things aim" (Eth. Nic. 1094a 3).
End, final cause, and good thus are seen to be identical. One and the same thing is called end because it is the term of an agent's striving, final cause because it influences the agent to act to begin with, and good because it indicates why the agent is so moved.
End as Related to Means. A desire for a good implies both a recognition that the good is attainable (otherwise it is not truly desired but merely wished for) and a resolve to take those measures judged apt for securing it. The measures taken to obtain the end are commonly referred to as the means. In the description of the end as "that for the sake of which something exists or is done," the phrase "something exists or is done" designates the means.
A means cannot be understood without referring it to the end in view of which it is chosen. As Aquinas observes, "the means are good and willed, not in themselves, but as referred to the end. Wherefore the will is directed to them, only in so far as it is directed to the end: so that what it wills in them, is the end" (Summa Theologiae 1a2ae, 8.2). What attracts the agent is not so much the nature of the means as a particular kind of thing as it is its value for achieving the end. In other words, what the agent sees and seeks in the means is basically the goodness of the end itself. Both a biologist and lumberman may value a virgin forest, but for different reasons because their purposes are different.
What influences the agent to desire the end thus influences him to choose the means. The character of the end is then imprinted on the means, so that the means takes on the nature of the end in much the same way that wax takes on the nature of the form impressed on it. Thus, the physical action of walking can be a healthful exercise for a recuperating patient, a punishment for a cadet, or a job for a professional golfer (cf. Summa Theologiae 1a2ae, 13.1; De ver. 22.15).
The means, of course, still retains its own nature as a particular kind of thing, and as such it will have other attributes that may or may not be desirable. A medicine with a high alcoholic content may relieve the cough for which it was taken but also may be otherwise appealing. The initial and basic attraction of the means is its participation in "the goodness of the end." However, one may be additionally inclined or disinclined to it by features that are peculiarly its own. These features may at times prevent the choice of that particular means. But if the means is willed, then willed also are all its known concomitant attributes, desirable or not. They become part of what is intended.
The foregoing analysis of the end may be summed up as follows. A thing is recognized by an agent to be of value to him. It is a good. The attractiveness of the good causes the agent to desire it and to choose the appropriate means to attain it. It is a final cause. When the means have been determined, the order of intention is closed. The agent then begins to execute the means. The appropriate actions are formed until the desired good results. The actions have reached their term, which is called the end.
Kinds of end. While the distinction between ends and means is clear, the reality these terms describe is not so simple. Sometimes a thing may be an end in one respect and a means in another. To deal more precisely with the complexities of the concrete situation, scholastic philosophers make various divisions of end.
Related ends in a given series may be distinguished on the basis of their order of achievement. A proximate end is that for the sake of which something is done directly or immediately. An intermediate end is that in view of which the proximate end is sought and which itself is desired for something else. Both proximate and intermediate ends are also means, each often being referred to as a means-end. The last end in the series is called the ultimate end. A business employee attending night school studies hard to pass a particular course (proximate end). Passing the course will help him earn a degree (intermediate end), which will enable him to get a promotion (ultimate end). An ultimate end is said to be relatively ultimate when the series of which it is the last is subordinate to a higher end or ends. The promotion (relatively ultimate end) may be desired because the salary increase will finance the children's education (a higher end). The absolutely ultimate end—the supreme end—is that to which all of an agent's actions are directed and which is sought for its own sake alone. The supreme end of man is happiness.
Another division of end is that into objective end (finis qui ), the good or object itself that is sought, for example, money or knowledge; personal end (finis cui ), the person for whom the good is desired, for example, health is sought for Peter; formal end (finis quo ), the act in which the good is possessed or enjoyed, for example, the enjoyment of food is in the eating.
The end of the work (finis operis ), sometimes called the end of the act, is the normal purpose or function of a thing or action, or the result normally achieved; for example, cutting is the normal function of a knife. The end of the agent (finis operantis ) is what the agent actually intends when acting, be it identical or not with the end of the work (an agent may use a knife for cutting or as a screwdriver). The end of the work, and also the end of the agent, is called an intrinsic end when it perfects the agent interiorly, for example, knowledge; it is called an extrinsic end when its benefit is felt outside the agent, for example, the doctor's healing felt in the patient. Extrinsic end also may signify the end of the agent when the latter differs from the end of the work.
Natural end is distinguished from supernatural end. Natural end is a good responding to needs within the order of nature and attainable by the natural powers of a being. Supernatural end is one that fulfills a need of supernatural life and is secured only with divine assistance. Natural end has at least two additional meanings: it may signify a good to which a being is inclined by an innate appetite, or it may be used as a synonym for the end of the work (see man, natural end of).
Does the end justify the means? The preceding study of end should clarify the issues involved in this question, which, in the history of thought on end, has received considerable attention. Can a morally good intention of itself make an act good?
Scholastic Solution. Attempts to formulate and resolve the question began as early as the twelfth century, when Peter abelard took the extreme position that all human acts are in themselves morally neutral and receive whatever morality they have from the agent's intention. peter lombard partially disagreed, arguing that, although the intention is the principal source of morality, there are intrinsically evil acts that no intention can make good. stephen langton at the start of the thirteenth century assumed the other extreme position, that the morality of an act is determined almost exclusively by its object— that which the act immediately tends to achieve (see "end of the work," above)—and the circumstances in which the act occurs, the intention contributing little or no moral value.
Lombard's solution, given more elaboration and precision especially by St. Thomas Aquinas, prevailed. Discounting certain terminological differences, all the great masters of the thirteenth century maintained that, although the end is the primary moral determinant, both the object (end of the work) and the circumstances of the human act are contributing, and sometimes decisive, moral factors (Summa Theologiae 1a2ae, 18–21; De malo 2–6).
The end is the chief moral element because it is the very reason for choosing and executing the means-act by which the end is realized. But no end is seen and willed in isolation; it is always willed as viewed through the means, as touched, so to speak, by the character of the means. The means-act is, then, part of what is intended, and its moral nature must be taken into account.
The morality of the means-act is drawn from its object. If what the act immediately tends to achieve conforms to the norm of morality, then the act is good; if contrary to that norm, the act is bad. An objective study of the human act, one made apart from the agent's intention and the circumstances of the individual case, reveals three distinct types of acts: (1) those that are good by nature because they always or normally have a morally good object, for example, acts of charity; (2) those evil by nature because they always or normally have a morally bad object, for example, blasphemy; (3) those morally indifferent by nature, because their object is neutrally related to the norm of morality.
The word "normally" in (1) and (2) above is significant, for circumstances alter cases. Just as in the physical order accidents sometimes cause effects other than what nature tends to achieve (e.g., the birth of a malformed child), so in the moral order the circumstances of an individual act may bring about an other than normal moral result. Normally, it is right to return on request something (e.g., a gun) held in trust, but not if the owner has an evil purpose in mind (e.g., to kill his wife). Similarly, the status of normally indifferent acts may be affected by moral circumstances. In truth, since a means-act is never willed in abstraction but always in particular surroundings, the circumstances are part of the means-act and, consequently, part of the agent's intention.
In sum, if intention is understood to comprehend the whole order of intention, the willed-circumstanced means-for-an-end, then morality is completely in the intention. The intention is good if every part of it is good, and bad if a single feature is bad. However, if intention stands for the agent's purpose in distinction from the means-act chosen to realize it—and only when intention is so understood does the problem of the end justifying the means make sense—then the intention is the primary, but not exclusive, source of morality. It is primary because it is the reason for willing the means-act. A bad end can make a bad means worse, and it can make an indifferent or good means bad. A good end renders a good means better and an indifferent means good. Finally, a good end can never make a bad means good, although it does extenuate the evil. The moral guilt of one who steals to help the poor is certainly not as great as that of one who steals to pamper his sensual appetites.
This solution of the thirteenth-century scholastics to the problem of whether the end justifies the means became and remained the foundation of Catholic moral doctrine. That fact was challenged, however, four centuries later.
Historical Controversy. Defending jansenism by means of a strong offensive attack, Blaise pascal accused the Jesuits of teaching that the end justifies the means. It is interesting to note that, in the ensuing debate, neither side ever claimed that the end justifies the means; the dispute was solely over whether the Jesuits did in fact teach that it did. When advising confessors on how to assess the extent of a penitent's guilt, certain Jesuit casuists had used the phrase "direction of intention," meaning simply that the penitent's intention must always be examined. Pascal claimed that "direction of intention" was actually a methodological principle that enabled the casuists to justify any sin. The charge was categorically denied; but master of irony that he was, Pascal made the charge stick in the public mind. (See G. Goyau, "La Fin Justifie les Moyens," Dictionnaire apologétique de la foi catholique, 4 v. [Paris 1911–22] 2:9–17, for a concise but superb history of the controversy.)
The center of the controversy passed quickly from France to Germany, where Pascal's criticisms became the basis of the Protestant polemic against the missionary activity of the Jesuits. The debate heated up measurably from 1850 to 1905, when a considerable prize was offered by two priests (the Jesuit P. Roh in 1852 and Father G. F. Dasbach in 1903) to anyone who could show to a jury of law professors a book authored by a Jesuit that contained the explicit or equivalent formula that the end justifies the means. In 1903 one Paul de Hoensbroech appeared before the Court of Appeals in Cologne to make the only serious attempt to collect the prize. Unable to quote any Jesuit as saying that a good intention justifies a bad means, Hoensbroech contended that certain solutions of some Jesuit casuists proved they held this view. He referred specifically to a dispute among a number of Jesuits over the rightness of counseling a person bent on sinning to do something less evil, for example, to visit a prostitute rather than rape a young virgin. C. hurtado and M. sa took the negative position because for them the means was bad. G. vazquez, A. de Escobar y Mendoza, and others argued that what the act of counseling (means) immediately achieved in this instance was simply the lack of a greater evil; it did not cause the evil itself because it did not provoke to sin someone already determined to commit sin. They concluded that the means was morally neutral and therefore the act was good by reason of a good intention. Hoensbroech claimed that the latter solution was based on the principle that the end justifies the means.
The German court ruled against him, and with good cause. As Goyau points out, in the case cited and in all the cases on which the accusations against the Jesuits were founded, the source of the divergent opinions among the casuists themselves and the object of their dialectical subtlety was always the moral nature of the means. Precisely because they firmly held that a good end could not justify a bad means, their entire mental effort was spent on evaluating the morality of the means. However one may disagree with the results of their evaluation, one must admit that the accusations against them were unjust. One may note finally, with Goyau, that since the Reformation, Catholics have been reproached for overemphasizing the objective nature of the moral act, and yet in this controversy they are accused of over-stressing the role of the subjective intention. The real issues are not always what they seem.
See Also: teleology; causality; human act; morality; voluntarity.
Bibliography: General. v. j. bourke, Ethics (New York 1958). m. cronin, The Science of Ethics, 2 v. (Dublin 1939). É. h. gilson, Moral Values and the Moral Life, tr. l. r. ward (St. Louis, Mo. 1931; repr. Hamden, Conn. 1961). o. lottin, Principes de morale, 2 v. (Louvain 1947). Special. c. de koninck, "General Standards and Particular Situations in Relation to the Natural Law," Laval Theologique et Philosophique 6 (1950): 335–338; "The Nature of Man and His Historical Being," ibid. 5 (1949): 271–277. c. hollencamp, Causa causarum: On the Nature of Good and Final Cause (Quebec 1949). l. h. kendzierski, "Object and Intention in the Moral Act," American Catholic Philosophical Association. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting 24 (1950): 102–110. o. lottin, Psychologie et Morale aux XII e et XIIIe siècles, 3 v. in 4 (Louvain 1942–54) 4:309–517. b. pascal, Provincial Letters, tr. t. m'crie (New York 1941). j. warren, "Nature: A Purposive Agent," The New Scholasticism 31 (1957): 364–397.
[j. j. warren]
end / end/ • n. 1. a final part of something, esp. a period of time, an activity, or a story: the end of the year. ∎ a termination of a state or situation: the party called for an end to violence. ∎ used to emphasize that something, typically a subject of discussion, is considered finished: you will go to church and that's the end of it. ∎ death or ruin: if she’s caught stealing again, it will be the end of her career. ∎ archaic (in biblical use) an ultimate state or condition: the end of that man is peace.2. the furthest or most extreme part or point of something: a length of wire with a hook at the end [as adj.] the end house. ∎ a specified extreme point on a scale: homebuyers at the lower end of the market. ∎ the part or share of an activity with which someone is concerned: you're going to honor your end of the deal.3. a goal or result that one seeks to achieve: each would use the other to further his own ends.4. Football an offensive or defensive lineman positioned nearest to the sideline.• v. come or bring to a final point; finish: [intr.] when the war ended, policy changed [tr.] she wanted to end the relationship. ∎ [intr.] perform a final act: the man ended by attacking a police officer. ∎ [intr.] (end in) have as its final part, point, or result: one in three marriages is now likely to end in divorce. ∎ [intr.] (end up) eventually reach or come to a specified place, state, or course of action: I ended up in Connecticut.PHRASES: at the end of the day inf. when everything is taken into consideration: at the end of the day, I'm responsible for what happens in the school.be at (or have come to) an end be finished or completed. ∎ (of a supply of something) become exhausted: our patience has come to an end.be at the end of be close to having no more of (something): he was at the end of his ability to cope.come to (or meet) a bad end be led by one's own actions to ruin or an unpleasant death.end it all commit suicide.the end of the road (or line) the point beyond which progress or survival cannot continue: if the lawsuit is not dropped it could be the end of the road for the publisher.the end of one's rope (or tether) having no patience or energy left to cope with something: after enduring four years of mice in the house, we were at the end of our rope.the end of the world ∎ inf. a complete disaster: it's not the end of the world if you're not great at sports.end to end in a row with the furthest point of one object touching that of another object.in the end eventually or on reflection: in the end, I saw that she was right.keep (or hold) one's end up inf. perform well in a difficult or competitive situation.make (both) ends meet earn enough money to live without getting into debt.never (or not) hear the end of be continually reminded of (an unpleasant topic or cause of annoyance).no end inf. to a great extent; very much: this cheered me up no end.no end of inf. a vast number or amount of (something): we shared no end of good times.on end1. continuing without stopping for a specified period of time: sometimes they'll be gone for days on end.2. in an upright position: he brushed his hair, leaving a tuft standing on end.
the end justifies the means this assertion, that a good or successful result makes the doubtful methods by which it has been achieved acceptable, is often found in the negative. The saying is recorded from the late 16th century, but is found earlier in Latin, in the work of the Roman poet Ovid, ‘exitus acta probat [the outcome justifies the deeds].’
the end of civilization as we know it the complete collapse of ordered society. Supposedly a cinematic cliché, and actually used in the film Citizen Kane (1941). Often used ironically.
the end of one's tether having no patience, resources, or energy left to cope with something. The image is that of a grazing animal tethered on a rope that allows it a certain range in which to move but which at full stretch prohibits further movement.
See also all things come to an end, light at the end of the tunnel, at the end of the rainbow, the thin end of the wedge, all's well that ends well, he who wills the end at will3, world without end.
- Armageddon battleground of good and evil before Judgment Day. [N.T.: Revelation 16:16]
- checkmate end of game in chess: folk-etymology of Shah-mat, ‘the Shah is dead.’ [Br. Folklore: Espy, 217]
- fatal raven indicates defeat or victory by arranging its wings. [Norse Legend: Volsung Saga ]
- Judgment Day final trial of all mankind. [N.T.: Revelation]
- Last Supper Passover dinner the night before Christ died. [N.T.: Matthew 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:14–20]
So end vb. OE. endian = OS. endion (Du. einden), OHG. entōn (G. enden), ON. enda. Hence endways, endwise XVI.