Ever since Aristotle, the terms that are translated ‘end’ (e.g. the Greek word telos and the Latin finis) have played a starring role in ethical theory. But in fact there are three crucially different things that can be meant by speaking of the “end for the sake of which” an agent is acting.
- In one sense, this “end” is the ultimate goal or end result that the agent is trying or intending to bring about.
- In a second sense, this “end” is the object of the fundamental wish or desire that motivated the action.
- In a third sense, this “end” is a state of affairs that the agent believes to be good, such that the agent believes the goodness of this state of affairs to explain what is good about the action.