Day 14: Intentions

The next time you have a few minutes to sit and quietly ponder, think about the intentions involved in a given situation in your life that had a poor outcome. Both your intentions and the other parties involved.

Let’s provide an example scenario:

You run a successful startup: Barter with Bees. In essence, your company has figured out how to communicate with bees, which has allowed you to negotiate honey and pollination deals in return for bee currency: bennies, bickles, bimes, buarters, and bollars. They have a sophisticated society about which we knew nothing until your company unearthed this potential (the job is incredibly stupid but it doesn’t matter for our scenario).

Your cousin comes to you and is very excited to tell you about an idea for the direction he thinks your company should pursue. He outlines his ideas in a presentation and at the end, you determine that while it seems like it might work, you’re not willing to take the risk. So, you pass.

He becomes irate. He slams down his little laser pointer thing that people who give presentations love and storms out.

You feel bad, but you think that you still made the right decision.

What were your intentions?

  1. You wanted to hurt your cousin’s feelings because he stole your wife 3 months ago;
  2. You wanted to protect your employees after determining that the risk was far too high as compared to the reward;
  3. You want to steal the idea and give your cousin no credit.

I think many of us would argue that option two is a virtuous reason for turning your cousin down. But what if the real reason was number 1 or 3? The outcome would have been the same, does it really matter in the end?

You will have to decide this for yourself, but my answer would be yes, it does matter. If your reasons for turning him down were immoral, then you acted immorally, regardless of whether the outcome would have been the same with the improved moral intentions inherent in number 2.

While slippery slope arguments can sometimes be fallacious (meaning based on a fallacy, get your minds out of the gutter), approving of actions just because the end result doesn’t change is a waterslide I do not want to ride. We should be thoughtful in our actions and do things because they are the right things to do, not because the end result will be the same regardless of our intentions.

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