Books / Digital Text

1. The Fundamentals of Human Action

Appendix B: On Means and Ends

It is often charged that any theory grounded on a logical separation of means and ends is unrealistic because the two are often amalgamated or fused into one. Yet if man acts purposively, he therefore drives toward ends, and whatever route he takes, he must, ipso facto, employ means to achieve them. The distinction between means and ends is a necessary logical distinction rooted in all human—indeed, all purposive—action. It is difficult to see the sense in any denial of this primordial truth. The only sense to the charge concerns those cases where certain objects, or rather certain routes of action, become ends in themselves as well as means to other ends. This, of course, can often happen. There is no difficulty, however, in incorporating them into an analysis, as has been done above. Thus, a man may work at a certain job not only for the pay, but also because he enjoys the work or the location. Moreover, any desire for money is a desire for a means to other ends. The critics of praxeology confuse the necessary and eternal separation of ends and means as categories with their frequent coincidence in a particular concrete resource or course of action.

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