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I need a pragmatic commentary for this sentence, "The road to hell is paved with good...

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lulo | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted September 26, 2011 at 5:29 AM via web

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I need a pragmatic commentary for this sentence,

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

What does it mean, and what is the unstated meaning? Mention examples please.

Tagged with arts, philosophy, pragmatic

2 Answers | Add Yours

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epic-art-time | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted January 1, 2012 at 2:55 PM (Answer #1)

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I believe that this phrase can be interpreted in two ways.

It can refer to a person or entity that tries to do good things but doesn’t realize that they are actually creating a situation that is bad in the long term.  An example of this could be if banks lent money to people that couldn’t afford to pay the money back in a timely fashion.  It might seem wonderful at first, but the result would be bad for everyone.  The banks would lose money; the people would lose whatever they had borrowed the money to get; and, ultimately, the national economy would be affected negatively.

It can also refer to a person or entity that has a good goal in mind and feels that this goal is important enough to justify doing bad things to accomplish it. This is the Machiavellian principle that “the end justifies the means.”  A great example of this is the plot of the movie The Godfather Part II.  Michael Corleone, the main character, says that his ultimate goal is to legitimize his family business and get away from all the underhanded criminal activity that his family has been a part of for generations;  but on the path to this lofty and good goal he commits countless unsavory acts, all with the ultimate intention of keeping his family safe.

I've also attached an eNotes link to a similar question with some additional thoughts.

Sources:

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jbrenw | Student , Grade 9 | Honors

Posted September 29, 2011 at 3:04 AM (Answer #2)

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This is saying that many of the people that do bad will normally not do it just to be evil. Normally unless a person is a mentally unstable a person will do bad in order to make good. For example stealing from a bank so that your family doesn't starve.

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