Gone Baby Gone is the film whose final action represents a controversy between the application of the law and moral judgment as core guidance for making decisions. In this paper, the final action of the selected film will be analyzed from the perspective of Kant’s moral philosophy and its three maxims. In brief, the film revolves around kidnapping of a little girl who, eventually, is found safe and well. The girl’s kidnappers seem to be taking better care of her than her mother did. The main protagonist of the film is faced with a dilemma. He could either let the child stay in a safe and caring environment of her kidnappers’ home or bring her back to her neglectful mother.
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The First Maxim
The first premise for the analysis aligns the First Maxim and says that one acts morally if their actions are the right actions for anyone in similar situations. Practically, it can be noted that in Kant’s moral philosophy one’s duty is prioritized over the action’s outcomes (Thomas 3). In this regard, the decision made by the main protagonist in Gone Baby Gone follows the premise because the agent was convinced that he was making the right choice for anyone in a similar situation. However, in reality, his situation was the only condition under which his action was legally right but morally wrong.
The Second Maxim
The second premise states that one’s conduct is morally right if they treat themselves and others as ends but not exploit them as a means to an end (Potter 71). This way, once again, the protagonist’s actions are confusing. According to the plot, he was working on a case for which he could receive recognition and a reward from a child’s mother. Differently put, apart from the perceived morality of his decision there were additional factors that could stimulate it. He was aware of the neglectful attitude of the girl’s mother and witnessed the conditions in which she lived after the kidnapping. It looks like, making the decision, he did not consider the child’s wellbeing thoroughly enough but mainly cared about the law and her mother’s feelings.
The Third Maxim
According to the third premise, one’s action is moral when they act as if establishing a law that applies universally. In Gone Baby Gone, the main protagonists’ actions are led by the requirements of the law solely without considering the moral side. When asked to take into account the wellbeing of the child by the kidnappers and his partner, the protagonist mentions the child’s mother. He is driven by the idea that she can change and should not be denied in a chance to have her daughter back. This action needs to be evaluated from the perspective of it being a major law applied worldwide (“Kant’s Moral Philosophy”). When making his final decision, the protagonist is convinced that his action is the right one and should be applied universally and globally.
In Gone Baby Gone, the main character faces a dilemma. He has to make the decision that would dictate the future quality of life and wellbeing of a child who could stay with her kidnappers offering her a caring home or go back to her neglectful mother. The protagonist chooses the second option. Making this decision, he takes into account the situation of the child’s mother and the actions supported by the law. However, he fails to consider the wellbeing of the child who is the primary party affected by the decision. According to the actions of the protagonist, it is possible to notice that he is driven by a strong belief that following the law is the only right way of acting.
“Kant’s Moral Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2016, Web.
Potter, Nelson T. “Maxims in Kant’s Moral Philosophy.” Potter in Philosophia, vol. 23, no. 1-4, 1994, pp. 59-90.
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Thomas, A. Jean. “Deontology, Consequentialism and Moral Realism.” Minerva – An Open Access Journal of Philosophy, vol. 19, 2015, pp. 1-24.