The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions
An alternative form is "Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works"The saying is thought to have originated with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who wrote (c. 1150), "L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs" (hell is full of good wishes or desires).
The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions （通往地狱的道路是由善意铺成的），这一谚语的另一说法是：地狱里全是善意，但天堂里却全是善举。该谚语最早源于 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux 的“地狱里满是美好的心愿和渴望）。
A common interpretation of the saying is that wrongdoings or evil actions are often masked by good intentions; or even that good intentions, when acted upon, may have unintended consequences.
Things don’t always go the way we’d like them to. Despite our good intentions, we could end up causing a lot of harm. Before you take action, you should reflect on what you’re doing, whether you can actually do it, and what consequences might result.
If you wanted to operate on a sick family member in order to save their life, you’d need more than good intentions; you’d need the proper knowledge. Otherwise, you’d end up killing them, even with your good intentions.
Even Hitler, the modern symbol of ultimate evil, had good intentions, as did his followers. Otherwise, he would not have been able to convince intelligent, educated, enlightened Europeans that the world would be a better place without Jews and other impure people like homosexuals, Gypsies, blacks and intellectually deficient people. However, his good intentions spawned the most horrific genocidal crusade in human history.
(Self-)Righteousness Fallacy: Assuming that if a person (whether self or other) has good intentions, then they have the truth or facts on their side.
Logical Form: You make claim X. You have good intentions. Therefore, X is true.
Economist Adam Smith, with his "law of unintended consequences," warned us that "interventions in complex systems tend to create undesirable outcomes".
The theory goes that the larger the planned change in society, the greater is the probable likelihood of unforeseen and adverse outcomes. Substantial evidence was gathered to back up this theory in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton.
该理论认为，对社会计划开展的变革越大，不可预见的负面结果出现的可能性就越大。20世纪，美国社会学家Robert K. Merton 为这一理论提供了切实证据。
In the social sciences, unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action. The term was popularised in the twentieth century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton.
在社会科学中，意外后果（有时被称为不可预料的后果或未预见的后果）是指一项刻意开展的行为所导致的未预见到的、并非本意的后果。美国社会学家 Robert K. Merton 在20世纪普及了这一词汇。
Unintended consequences can be grouped into three types:
Unexpected benefit: also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall.
Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect.
Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse).
Possible causes of unintended consequences include the world's inherent complexity , perverse incentives, human stupidity, self-deception, failure to account for human nature, or other cognitive or emotional biases. As a sub-component of complexity (in the scientific sense), the chaotic nature of the universe—and especially its quality of having small, apparently insignificant changes with far-reaching effects (e.g., the butterfly effect)—applies.
Robert K. Merton listed five possible causes of unanticipated consequences in 1936:
Robert K. Merton 于 1936年列出了意外后果的5种可能原因：
Ignorance, making it impossible to anticipate everything, thereby leading to incomplete analysis.
Errors in analysis of the problem or following habits that worked in the past but may not apply to the current situation.
Immediate interests overriding long-term interests.
Basic values which may require or prohibit certain actions even if the long-term result might be unfavourable (these long-term consequences may eventually cause changes in basic values).
Self-defeating prophecy, or, the fear of some consequence which drives people to find solutions before the problem occurs, thus the non-occurrence of the problem is not anticipated.
In addition to Merton's causes, psychologist Stuart Vyse has noted that groupthink has been blamed for some decisions that result in unintended consequences.
除了上述原因，心理学家 Stuart Vyse 指出，集体思维（从众心理）也被诟病是导致一些决策发生意外后果的原因。
The Dunning-Kruger effect
Less competent people have a tendency to believe that they know more than they actually do. Well-informed people usually have very low confidence in their own views, because they know enough to realize how complicated the world is. People that are not well informed are extremely confident that their views are correct, because they haven’t learned enough to see the problems with those views. This is what Socrates meant when he said that true wisdom was “to know that I know nothing.”
The same thing can happen with the actions we take or the advice we give to others with their best interests in mind. People who start a business on the basis of nothing but good intentions, without the proper knowledge, are generally just sealing their unfortunate fate.
If good intentions aren’t supported by necessary knowledge, they can be dangerous. The decisions you make can affect both yourself and the people you love, and even if you don’t mean to hurt them, you still could.
All of us justify our actions to ourselves. It is human nature to do so.
There is a particular weakness in human psychology when it comes to our goals and dreams. We use magical thinking （characterized by the belief that thinking or wishing something can cause it to occur.）and confirmation bias in the following way: We set ourselves an idealistic or ambitious goal that will make us feel good about ourselves - say, for example, attempting to grow tomato plants in a cold climate.
We make ourselves believe that by sheer force of will power, positive thinking, faith, love and perseverance, the plants will grow. But when they wither and die, we either pretend to ourselves that they grew quite well, or we blame some other factor and depict it as malevolent (the local cats, an unexpected storm). The last thing we want to do is examine our initial intentions, because they may turn out to have been ill-planned or even foolish.
We then experience cognitive dissonance; The cognitive dissonance effect explains that having contradicting thoughts, such as “I think that I do good things for other people” and “people often tell me that what I do can be harmful,” creates a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.
We feel emotional distress at having failed at out own values, so to get rid of that horrible feeling we create rationalisations after-the-fact that justify what we have done. We tell ourselves that even though, the results weren’t quite perfect, trying to grow tomato plants in a cold and barren land, is still a beautiful ideal.
Then, we hide all the evidence of failure. We might even feel ashamed after telling all of our neighbours about our great plan, and so we lie and tell everyone the plants grew brilliantly.
When cognitive dissonance is added to the Dunning-Kruger effect, the results can be destructive. There’s nothing more dangerous than an ignorant person who thinks they’re capable of any achievement, but who refuses to see any other perspectives than their own.
Rationalization is actually a defense mechanisim
We all have thoughts, feelings, and memories that can be difficult to deal with. In some cases, people deal with such feelings by utilizing what are known as defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms are unconscious psychological responses that protect people from threats and things that they don't want to think about or deal with.
Rationalization is putting something into a different light or offering a different explanation for one’s perceptions or behaviors in the face of a changing reality. For instance, a woman who starts dating a man she really, really likes and thinks the world of is suddenly dumped by the man for no reason. She reframes the situation in her mind with, “I suspected he was a loser all along.”
You can overcome the need for this defense mechanism by not needing excuses, or being able to “handle the truth.” You may have failed at something, forgotten an important task, or been late, but rather than make up endless reasons to exonerate yourself, accept the fact that once in a while, even good people do something bad.
One of the most ambitious pieces of society-wide utopian planning was Chinese Communist leader Chairman Mao’s "Four Pests Project" in The Great Leap Forward(1958-62). It was intended to eradicate mosquitoes, flies, rats and above all sparrows from China, destroying all the parasitic creatures that diminished the rice crops. But after the populace killed 23 million birds, something unanticipated occurred: swarms of beetles emerged, then locusts, slugs and all of the smaller crop-eating insects that the birds would have eaten. This massive ecological imbalance contributed considerably to the Great Chinese Famine of 1958-61. In one county, Guangshan, one-third of the population died from starvation, while the total national death toll from starvation was 20-45 million people. Mao Zedong's communist party had to then hide the evidence of mass starvation, and then, in the next year to import more birds from the Soviet Union. With the magical thinking, made of the union between guilty conscience, reality denial, and self-deception, the communist party declared the Great Leap Forward to have been a huge success, with the suppression of anyone who had evidence that proved otherwise. Good intentions prevailed again.
Although most people have good intentions, remember that sometimes they’re not enough. Reflecting before you act and obtaining an expert opinion can be more beneficial than letting yourself be guided by beautiful, seductive, dangerous words.