The Way to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions Essay Writing Service

The Way to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions Essay

It is an established fact that good intentions should always be followed by good actions, needless to say that such good action might not have positive consequences but to restrict the good to oneself without giving opportunity to the other people to derive benefit from it or if such good does not counter evil in the society, then such good tantamount to an evil in itself and it is of no use or rather it brings harm to the bearer of such good intentions.


It was this idea which Samuel Johnson(1709-1784) wanted to forward in the late eighteenth century. This famous intellectual of that era when said that the way to hell is paved with good intentions did not mean that a bearer of good intentions would live his after-life in hell and the God would punish him for having good intention, and neither he wanted to emphasize that the road to Heaven is paved with bad ones. What he wanted to say, was, that such motives if not put into practice would give such person a hard life to live, creating for himself a paradoxical alliance, of actions and motives, different in their real sense (that is) from inside of is heart he is an upright person but outwardly he travels in the stream of evil.

Samuel Johnson himself was an honest person and an intellectual. He was born in a humble family went to Oxford where he could not complete his education due to financial constraints.  Such were the conditions in which he suffered all his life. Finances created problem after problem in his life. Six month before his death, he arrived at a conclusion that his personal faith was inadequate for his salvation, why? because he kept his good ideas to himself or he was unable to implement them for the society as a whole.


For the further clarifications of this phrase one is bound to dig up history, so that a better view is established under which he was influenced to speak s ch phrase.Eighteenth century was the century of Benevolent Despotism and political revivalism among the people. Many great Monarch like Maria Thresa, Joseph II of Hapsburgh Frederick the Great of Prussia Louis XIV of France and king Georges I, II and III of Hanoverian line were dominant on the scene of Europe. Though these kings ruled with iron hand but were subsequently developing a sense of rationalism to grant freedom to the people. On the whole royal absolution was in practice.

Secondly personal glorification of a king was another dominant characteristic of that century, Nations began to sought colonies overseas and within the continent. And thirdly intellectuals like Montesquo Roseau, Volataire of France and Edmund Burke of Great Britain were also present, writings of french philosophers led to the two major revolutions in this world i.e. American revolution and French revolution. These circumstances seem to be the contributory factors in the creation of this phrase. The kings of that time had noble intentions like glorification of their nations ‘but in doing so they killed hundreds of people in the war, slaves trade was another trait of such glorification.

Secondly, though these kings and queens wanted to give more freedom to the general public but they were unable to put their ideas into practice, Rich being over privileged class were always supported by the Kings and emperors as their interest were directly attached with the beings, hence they were unable to practise their ideals. Thirdly, there are possibilities that Johnson had been unable to achieve what lie really wanted to and he feared that his ideas might go dead with him.


According to the English Idiomatic Dictionary, this phrase has two means.

(1) blame or punishment is’ incurred by having good satire which are either not put into practice or

(2) which have evil or harmful results.

Explanations (Part 1).

According to this segment of the interpretations, blame or punishment is incurred by a person who does not transform his idea into practical utility either for his personal sake or for others. Such person is bound to receive punishment or blame, because an alternate of good which God has given him remains useless and of no utility, whereas God commands that “His words should reach the cars of each and every human being. ” Whatever the amount of good, God instills in a human soul, should be transferred or put into practice. One should practically act out in order to satisfy those good motives and intentions.

It is only then a man is able to achieve peace, not only for himself but for the society as a whole. As said by Emerson. “Nothing can bring you more peace but the triumph of principles”.Thus if intentions are not put into practice they would not result in peace but in the triumph of evil (as said by Edmund Burke)

An important attribute of this phrase is, that, after passing through more than hundred years it still holds water. Any person with not an average sense of observation and insight could feel that it is applicable for all times. One can find many such examples scattered through out our society. One such example is a conflict between personal interest and collective interest. There is hardly any person who would not speak for collective interests. Any person would win your heart by the rhetoric of his support toward collective interests and it is vital to note that he speaks with all the good intentions. But the conflicts appear when it comes to the application of such motives and intentions in the larger interest of the community what results out is the triumph of personal interests over the collective ones. Take for example a politician who avows to eliminate poverty and further avows to work for the welfare of the people. It is not to say that the author undermines their credibility, no they certainly can do it and the worst part is they want to do it, but again these good intentions are shelved at some .remote corner of his soul when his personal interest is at stake He would first fulfill his own needs but the irony is that such needs are never fulfilled in their entirety.

Explanation (Part 2)

A human kind cannot bear very much reality. T.S. Eliot

Eliot the famous English poet was right when be said so. Reality is the bitter of all pill a human being needs to swallow and in most cases he does not. To depict stark reality has never been a viable concept. It was the reality which emerged when Louis XIV came to realize that the country has gone bankrupt. The french nation could not bore that reality and the result was French revolution. It is not to suggest that reality should not be told or exposed but what it means, is that while exposing reality one should keep in mind the consequences, of such as. There are chances that a person exposing the truth with good intentions but such truth might lead to disaster, take for example a rape victim in the present circumstances.  If a journalist, in a larger interest of the society, print’s her name and picture captioned as victim of a rape. One can well imagine the kind of life she is going to live afterwards. This exposure of reality would create a lot of anomalies in her life and instead of gaining sympathies she might further be tagged as a whore. or prostitute. Such stark realities in pursuance of one’s good intentions are not desirable.

Another such example can be quoted with respect to media. If too much crime is exposed in the society, there are possibilities that it would place undesirable impact on the psyche of the people living ill that society. The people might feel insecure which would subsequently result in chaos. It is also to pinpoint that one major cause of any revolution is the feeling of insecurity among the people, while insecurity is like a pregnant woman whose stomach gets bigger and bigger day by day while the net result is an issue. Therefore good intentions not put into practice or such good intentions having undesirable consequence are both blame worthy.


One cannot deny the theory propounded by Samuel Johnson, it was need of that day and perhaps his personal need as well and nevertheless it still holds water. Yet it is vital to observe that time has changed. Time and space in which this theory wave propounded had other attributes which are not available in this era. People have gained their freedom and best of all is that it is people who are ruling this planet. Royal absolutism has transformed into a constitutional monarchy.A Monarch is now the custodian of good in the society. Whereas whatever people want from their govt. or from their representatives, they can easily derive.

Posted on February 27, 2016 in Essays

Share the Story

Back to Top
Share This