The means justify the end” is an old saying, but nowadays it is rarely used without a moral connotation. Most people think of the phrase as a way to describe something that cannot be considered a goal in and of itself. But what does the phrase really mean? What does it mean to pursue an end, and what is its origin? The origin is obscure, but it may have originated from an ancient proverb or a rewording of another one.
In economics, means are resources used to achieve a particular goal. These resources may be natural, cultural, or human. Whatever the case, the means must satisfy human needs or desires. Bringing something to an end means to stop, complete, or use it as a tool for an end. In everyday speech, a boring meeting is a necessary means to an end. We use it to justify actions that do not further our goals.
What is the meaning of means to an end for someone else? When an agent uses another person in the pursuit of an end, he intends for the other to benefit from the presence of the other person. When an agent uses another to reach an end for himself, he counts as using him. For instance, a physician uses a person when it’s in the interest of saving a patient’s life.