Moral dilemmas are common problems that people face when making decisions in their day-to-day lives. Directed by Ben Affleck, the chef-d’oeuvre film, Gone Baby Gone, highlights different moral dilemmas involving the kidnapping of an innocent girl, Amanda. The protagonist, Patrick, is forced to make a decision, which critics may argue is philosophically immoral. On the other hand, from Kant’s perspective, Patrick’s actions are morally right. This paper explores the morality of Patrick’s action in the film, Gone Baby Gone.
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The Final Actions in the Film
Towards the end of the film, it emerges that Jack has kidnapped Amanda. However, he defends his actions by saying that he wants the girl to have real-life under his care as opposed to going back to her drug-addicted mother, Helene. As such, Patrick is faced with a moral dilemma based on the issue before him. He can let Jack take care of Amanda by failing to report him to the police. On the other hand, he can report the crime to the authorities, have Jack arrested, and take Amanda back to her mother. In this case, Amanda may live under deplorable conditions given the irresponsibility of her mother occasioned by drug abuse. However, if Patrick allows Jack to bring up Amanda, she will grow in a healthy environment and parental care. Both actions can be said to be morally right. Nevertheless, Patrick chooses to report the crime and return the girl to her mother.
According to the first Kantian maxim of the categorical imperative, one is supposed to “act only by that maxim by which you can, at the same time, will that it be a universal law” (Misselbrook 211). In this case, Patrick’s actions could be applied as a universal law, hence morally right based on the Kantian first maxim. According to Kant, acting of duty can lead someone to do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons (Wood 44). Therefore, the only way to act morally right is from duty. Kant says, “duty is the necessity of an action from respect for the moral law, which is rational, absolute, and universal” (Wood 48).
Based on this observation, Patrick’s actions of reporting Jack’s crime to the police and reuniting Amanda with her mother are morally right. The moral law requires crimes to be reported to the relevant authorities. Such an act is rational, and it can be applied universally, which fits into Kant’s categorical imperative. The second Kantian maxim says, “So act as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end in itself, never as a means only” (Misselbrook 211). In this case, Patrick’s actions do not seek to achieve something else. All he wants is justice by holding Jack accountable for his actions and reuniting a daughter with her mother. While critics may argue that Amanda will get better parental care from Jack as compared to Helena, Patrick acts from duty and does what is right.
The rightness or wrongness of an action depends on its context and the philosophical school of thought that is being used for analysis. In the movie, Gone Baby Gone, Patrick acts from duty to report a crime to the police and return Amanda to her family. From the Kantian categorical imperative perspective, it suffices to conclude that Patrick’s actions are morally right.
Gone Baby Gone. Directed by Ben Affleck, performance by Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan, and Madeline O’Brien, Live Planet, 2007.
Misselbrook, David. “Duty, Kant, and Deontology.” The British Journal of General Practice, vol. 63, no. 609, 2013, pp. 211-212.
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Wood, Allen. Formulas of the Moral Law: Elements in the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Cambridge University Press, 2017.