Gone Baby Gone is a movie about kidnapping a girl Amanda and investigating this crime by the young detective Patrick. At the end of the story, the man realizes that the police officer Doyle kidnapped the girl to save her from her neglectful mother involved in the drug business. This main final action represents the moral issue of choosing between the socially appropriate behavior of informing the police and leaving the girl with Doyle without revealing her whereabouts to her mother. The application of Kant’s philosophy might help to understand whether man acts morally correct. According to Kant’s maxims and contrasting concepts, Patrick behaves morally appropriately, making the right choice, respecting Amanda, reacting according to the universal laws, choosing duty, autonomy, and categorical reasoning in his main final action.
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According to the first Kant’s premise, the detective’s decision can be regarded as morally correct because he decides to make the right choice rather than beneficial to someone. Kant believes that people’s morality is associated with their preferences (Sandel 65). These choices are based on the general interpretation of the actions rather than the analysis of the consequences of such solutions. This perception of morality explains that Patrick’s intention is not based on the analysis of a girl’s living conditions and well-being. On the contrary, he prefers to act according to the general concept of right. In this case, calling the police is the right choice because it is what people are supposed to do in such situations.
The man also behaves morally correctly when he informs the police about the girl’s whereabouts because he considers her dignity. The second Kant’s maxim states that humans act morally appropriately when they regard individuals as the main concept in the situations rather than a means (Sandel 65). This idea implies the necessity to focus on the value of a human being in ethical decisions. Considering this philosopher’s idea, Patrick behaves morally suitable since he respects the girl’s life. In particular, he does not allow the police officer to manipulate Amanda’s life, even though she might feel good staying with him.
The third Kant’s premise supports the morality of Patrick’s act because the man calls the police, understanding that this is morally acceptable behavior of any citizen. The philosopher explains that people should follow the universality of the opinions of the society regarding the specific issues (Sandel 65). They should understand how the other individuals evaluate this situation and how they are expected to behave according to the general law. In addition, an individual might analyze whether most citizens would accept this decision considering it morally appropriate. Since Patrick realizes that the universal solution for this dilemma would be to follow the law, he acts according to the instructions of the police.
Applying the contrast of duty and inclination demonstrates that Patrick acts ethically suitable because he chooses duty over inclination. Sandel explains that Kant opposes such motives as acting according to one’s duty, interests, and preferences (69). The analysis of the man’s behavior displays that he hesitates about the correctness of his decision, assuming that Amanda’s staying with the police officer might benefit her future. However, his understanding of his duty as a responsible citizen makes him choose to return the girl to her mother. This decision is associated with his intention to follow the rules and ignore the doubts and feelings that might distract any person from the objective situation’s examination and perception.
Patrick behaves freely because he disregards Doyle’s attempts to convince him of the necessity to leave the girl with the man. Sandel’s contrast between acting autonomously and heteronomously concerns identifying the source of people’s actions (61). Mainly, when people behave according to their reasoning, they are autonomous. On the other hand, when their actions result from the decisions of others, their conduct is heteronomous. Dayle explains to the detective that Amanda feels better staying with him than with the mother involved in the drug business. He introduces his reasons and justifications for this decision. Nevertheless, Patrick decides to call the police, choosing his reasons over the explanations and ideas of the police officer.
The detective reasons categorically rather than hypothetically because he does not apply any explanation to justify his solution. Sandel describes the contrast between categorical versus hypothetical imperatives, explaining that while the first implies that the action is good in itself, the second presents the specific reference to something else (64). Dayle’s attempts to persuade the man can be regarded as hypothetical reasoning because they include particular causes and justifications. Patrick ignores them, preferring to focus on the rightness of calling the police because it is morally acceptable and correct.
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Thus, according to Kant’s moral philosophy, Patrick’s behavior is ethical because he acts according to the philosopher’s premises and chooses duty, autonomy, and categorical imperatives in deciding to report about the girl’s location. The young detective’s decision to choose right over the good, focus on Amanda’s personality, and follow the universal laws proves the moral correctness of his intention. Moreover, he prefers duty to interests, autonomy to heteronomy in his decision, and categorical concepts to hypothetical in his reasoning. All these facts prove that his behavior is morally justified, and he makes the right choice.
Sandel, Michael J. Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.