Last night 24 ended season 7 begging the question – do the ends justify the means? Jack Bauer's edged closer to death not regretting any specific action he had taken to save lives, yet somehow still regretting the path he had chosen. Tony Almeida justified virtually any action in order to enact personal revenge for a tragic loss. While Renee Walker saw the toil engaging in (and being the victim of) torture and dehumanizing tactics had taken on Jack, but still chose to continue her own descent down the same road.
The questions the characters wrestled with are the same ones that our culture and us as individuals face on numerous instances. As a general rule do the ends justify the means? Is there any end that justifies any means?
Can torture be justified if it saves millions of innocent lives? What about thousands? Dozens? One? Is there a line that has to be crossed to make torture acceptable? (A better question may be, how do you define torture?)
Is the destruction of human life acceptable if it can save or enhance the life of others? Is it justifiable to destroy human embryos to try to cure diseases of fully developed human beings? Is it acceptable to abort the unborn because there presence may inconvenience or "harm" their mother or father? Should we be able to euthanize the elderly and sick in order to concentrate resources on the young and healthy?
Can any questions be solved using the idea of ends justifying the means?
Postscript: Sorry for the extended absence. Exams and papers tend to occupy all of my time when it comes to the end of the semester. I finish up this semester tomorrow.