TED Conversations

Tristan Green


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Is intent more, or less important than the action, and its impact, that it breeds?

When one sets out to do something, is the intent behind what they do more important than the actions/consequences that it breeds? If so, why? And if the action/consequences of the intent are of more importance, why?
If the consequences remain the same despite differing intent and actions, then are they important? If so, why?
If the action remains the same yet the intent and consequences change, then is it important? If so, why?
If the intent remains the same yet the action and consequences change, then is it important? If so, why?

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    Feb 28 2014: In short, I believe you are wondering about the relationships between the intent, the action, and the consequence as the topic keywords show. In law, both intent and action are important, (of varying degree depending on the offense), while the consequence can be tricky. Concepts like 'frustrated murder' and 'self-defense' come to mind. Personally, I believe consequence is of greater importance because it is the end product, the conclusion of your intent and actions. Your actions are more important that intention for sometimes, our actions betray our thoughts. The killer or robber ma not like what he did, but, instead of looking for alternative courses of actions, he decided that he doesn't have a choice (at best) and then proceeds to do the wrong thing. I believe in the adage 'if there's a will there's a way'. Intent then, is of the least importance for it is only the subjective feelings or attitudes of the person that could then motivate him to do an action. Its just motivation.
  • Mar 27 2014: Both action and intent to action breed results/reaction/consequence. If I intend to hit you and miss varies from if I intend to hit you and successfully carry through that action. However both yield consequence/results/re-action. In the case of law and murder we are discussing malicious intent or intent that has had time to build. The law seeks to find reason in why we committed the act to find a fitting consequence. If I act even if in an instant there will always be an intent or incitement to action. In ways intent can be compared to reason.

    "Intent then, is of the least importance for it is only the subjective feelings or attitudes of the person that could then motivate him to do an action. Its just motivation." -Ariel Ramirez

    Law and debate tends to stretch the meaning of words to create new layers of justice.
  • Mar 6 2014: Look at the law, the difference between, murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, and attempted manslaughter covers most of the questions.

    Lets use an example: You are out walking and you see a man trying to firebomb a nursing home. If he succeeds, many of the residences will not make it out. Several bystanders take him down and in the process, he hits his head and dies. Are they murderers?
  • Mar 2 2014: I think it depends on the perspective of who is viewing and/or affected by your action. The person affected, positively or negatively, might not care one bit about your intentions, they may focus on how it affected their life. If its you viewing the action and consequence, then intent is likely as important or more, and rightfully so. Part of what constitutes our ego is how we feel about our choices, decisions, actions, and even past and present emotional reactions. Our understanding of our intentions and motivations is part of how we define ourselves.
  • Mar 1 2014: Perhaps in children or determining the malicious intent in crime cases, but the consequences of adult actions as they impact the lives of other people are certainly more important. For example, the difference between murder and manslaughter or something similar. Consequences transcend the individual and have the capability of influencing other people, positively or negatively. In my example of a murder and manslaughter, the consequences to the deceased are the same, but the intent may determine the legal consequences. For the differing intent and consequences contingency, throwin a rock off a skyscraper in a city in hopes it will bring about your wish of world peace is noble, but stupid. A consequence of nothing, damage to something, injury or death, is a wide range, but again may legally determine the fate of the perpetrator.