“When we assess the moral worth of an action, we assess the motive from which it’s done, not the consequences it produces”

An excerpt from Michael J. Sandel, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, p. 111


What is a motive of my action?

Do I do it because it is right, or because it will be right?

When I help someone, is it because I believe that an idea of helping someone is right? Or is it because my action of helping actually makes my action right?

A famous philosopher Immanuel Kant says that what matters is the motive, not the consequences. Whether you agree with it or not, I guess it’s a good idea to think about why you did it as well as what you’ve done sometimes.

If we only care about the consequences, we might lose all track of the real issue. Recent controversial issues such as gun control, gay marriage, assisted suicide, people tend to focus on the outcome that legalization will bring about. But the motive itself, why it should be legal/illegal may also be important.

Why am I for/against it in the first place? Without considering any external factors, if I face the issue only itself, do I still agree/disagree? Isn’t there a self-interest that has nothing to do with the issue?

Not only for national-level issues, you can apply it for your personal issues as well. Are you mad at someone, because what they did (their action itself) is wrong, or is there other external factors (e.g. you were having a bad day)?

It’s worth reflecting on, since you may blaming people for things they did not do…

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