• Kenneth Jacobs

Pragmatic Means Keep Ends-in-View

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

The current post is a part of the Thematic Quotes section of the Pragmatic Means blog. The purpose of this Thematic Quotes section is to present and reference the writings of pragmatic thinkers for two reasons: (1) to link readers to the pragmatic literature and (2) to illuminate other Pragmatic Means posts.

All quotes revolve around a theme specified in the current title: Ends-in-View.

In Democracy and Value Inquiry, Ruth Anna Putnam said this of ends-in-view:

Dewey used the term “ends-in-view” in place of “goal” or “end” in order to draw our attention to the fact that our goals do not enter into our deliberations as unalterable fixed points to be unflinchingly pursued. Rather, our ends-in-view are themselves provisional, subject to change as we consider the means by which to attain them and the costs of those means. In fact, our ends-in-view are themselves “means,” for they give direction to our inquiry and limit its scope (p. 427).

Ruth Anna Putnam also discussed ends-in-view in Taking Pragmatism Seriously:

Dewey speaks of ends-in-view rather than ends simpliciter, for we may discover as we seek to realize our ends-in-view that the price we would have to pay is too high, that we must modify or even abandon our cherished goal. Or we may discover, having achieved our goal, that we now confront worse problems than before. Think, for example, of the environmental problems we have created in the process of raising our standards of living (p. 17).

In Dewey's own words, in Experience and Nature, he said:

Similarly, truth of belief and statement is an affair that has the quality of good; but it is not an end just because it is good; it becomes an end only when, because of its goodness, it is actively sought for and reached as a conclusion. On this basis, all ends are ends-in-view; they are no longer ideal as characters of Being, as they were when they were in Greek theory, but are the objects of conscious intent. When achieved in existence they are ends because they are then conclusions attained through antecedent endeavor, just as a post is not a goal in itself, but becomes a goal in relation to a runner and his race (p. 112).

Goals are ends-in-view because they are in relation to an individual (the runner) and the pursuits (the race) with which he/she is involved. Actions with "conscious intent" keep ends-in-view because it is the ends themselves that constrain our actions—for better or for worse.