If something (a tool, a work of art, a dish, etc.) was created with a specific goal in mind, fails miserably at achieving that goal, but manages to be pretty good at doing something else, is it still a failure? Suppose a movie sets out to be dramatic and heart-wrenching, but ends up being inadvertently hilarious (in a good way). Should it be considered a failure? I ask because there are lots of people who tend to argue that X fails as an X and thus, regardless of how it might otherwise succeed for some people, it should be considered bad. I'm not so sure that's the case.

This strong position seems awfully black and white to me. It's easy enough to distinguish "failing to accomplish goal x" from "failing to accomplish goal y," generally speaking, so why not use that? So of course it's plausible that something would fail to accomplish its creator's intended goals while inadvertently accomplishing some other "goal." Of course, that latter sounded awkward -- what is it to have a goal (for a project such as a film) if not a deliberate or intentional one, and what is success if not 'fulfilling one's intended goal"? In other words, if (in your example) the film was not intended to be hilarious then it didn't have the goal of being hilarious, in which case it could not be counted as "successful" if "success" = fulfilling one's goals ... But then again, "success" means different things -- not merely 'accomplishing one's goal' but (in this case, say) "making money" or "making people laugh" etc.... But then again, again, as I think more about it, I'm leaning towards the view that we SHOULD define the success of a venture as "accomplishing its goals" -- so in your example that film would count as a failure, and a miserable one at that, after all, despite being "good" at making people laugh.

Thanks for an interesting question!


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