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Ender's Game Paper

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Is it ever okay to use children as means to an end?

        In Ender’s Game, children, particularly Ender Wiggin are used as a means to an end. They are used as tools in a war that humankind is fighting against the buggers. Commander’s of the International Fleet, take away children from their homes and subject them to rigorous training, all so that they can be ready to fight the buggers. It is argued that children are necessary to win the war because they are the only ones with the unique skills that are required to fight the buggers. A Kantian would argue that this treatment of children is not okay under any circumstances. It is not okay because there are certain moral rules that should never be broken. They would rather take the chance that humankind could perish than abandon their values. A Utilitarian would argue that it is okay to use children as a means to an end because the consequences result in the greatest amount of happiness for the most people. The greater good of winning the war outweighs some of the morally questionable things that may be done to these children. A more realistic perspective is not as black and white as either of these philosophies. The ends do justify the means, but only to a certain extent. It is okay to use these children, particularly Ender, as a tool in the war. However, the way in which you use these children as tools has to be monitored. There are certain lines that should not be crossed.

The Commander’s of the International Fleet are able to use Ender as a tool, but while they come dangerously close to crossing a moral boundary, they never do for multiple reasons. The first being that it was Ender’s decision to leave his family and join the International Fleet. In addition to this, throughout the novel he did realize that he was a tool, but ultimately was okay with it because he knew it was for the greater good of humanity. Secondly, while they did subject Ender to rigorous training, it only brought out the best in him. It could be argued that without this intense training he would have never been able to perform at the best of his ability. In addition to this, Commander Graff, who worked closely with Ender could recognize when Ender was near his breaking point. He recognized this and allowed him a three month break on earth. They also recognized when something was wrong with Ender and brought his sister, Valentine to help him. They closely monitored what they were doing to Ender and made sure that he was pushed hard enough, but not too far. Lastly, while they did not tell Ender that he was actually fighting in the war, it was for Ender’s own protection. Without masking the war as a game, Ender would have been forced to make extremely tough decisions. In treating the battles as games, he was able to simply make the best choice in terms of winning, rather than feel guilty about sending soldiers into battle who could potentially die. Graff also takes the moral responsibility for Ender once the war is over in court when there is the trial about the children Ender killed in battle school.

Ender and the other children the International Fleet recruits to train have a choice on whether or not they enter battle school. It is because of this ability to decide that makes it morally okay to recruit these young children. In addition to this, Graff is transparent about what the commitment would entail, stating that Ender would be gone from earth for awhile and not able to see his family. He acknowledges that Ender will not have a normal childhood. He even states, “if it were just a matter of choosing the best and happiest future for you, I’d tell you to stay home. Stay here, grow up, be happy…But we need you.” (p.18) Ender understands the gravity of the situation and how much they need him in the war, stating, “It’s what I was born for, isn’t it? If I don’t go, why am I alive?” (p.19) Graff’s transparency about some of the challenges of Battle School and allowance for Ender to decide whether or not he comes is the reason why it is morally okay to recruit these children to battle school at such a young age. If Graff would forcibly remove Ender from his home or deceive him about the challenges of battle school, then that would be morally wrong. The element of choice allows the International fleet to use these children as tools, without crossing a moral line.

The use of human beings as tools because humanity needs them is central to the argument as to why it is okay to use these children as means to an end. It is okay because it is for the greater good of humanity. In addition to this, it is okay because the children are aware that they are being used and are for the most part okay with it. Graff describes this idea of being a tool, stating, “Human beings are free except when humanity needs them. Maybe humanity needs you. To do something. Maybe humanity needs me- to find out what you’re good for. We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives then we were good tools…. Individual beings are all tools, that the other use to help us all survive.” (p.23) This reiterates the idea that Graff mentioned when he convinced him to join battle school. It is the idea that Ender has the duty to sacrifice his life to being used as a tool in this war because it is for the greater good of humanity. Throughout his time at Battle school Ender definitely realizes that he is a tool of the teacher’s. While frustrated by this, he ultimately is okay with it because he acknowledges that he is needed to save humanity from the Buggers. When talking to Dink about the hardships of battle school the says, “But that’s what I came for. For them to make me into a tool. To save the world.” (p.79) Ender is aware that he is being used as a tool, but he is okay with it because he understands that it is for the greater good of humankind. Because Ender understands and is okay with being used as a means to the end of the war, it is morally okay that the International Fleet uses him in that way.

The commander’s



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