In the contemporary world, people have to deal with moral dilemmas especially when deciding what is ultimately good. Philosophically, the definition of a good act varies depending on the different schools of thought. Immanuel Kant came up with the categorical imperative on moral philosophy, which defines what is right based on one’s actions. This paper is an analysis of the final action in the film, Gone Baby Gone, using Kant’s categorical imperative.
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In the movie’s final scenes, Patrick discovers that Jack, a drug dealer, has kidnapped Amanda as opposed to the earlier claims pointing to Cheese as the abductor. Jack admits that he has broken the law, but the girl would be better off living with him than staying with her mother. However, while Patrick understands Jack’s concerns, he has to make a decision that yields the best results for everyone. He is faced with a moral dilemma of whether to report Jack to the police and take Amanda back to her mother. On the one hand, taking the girl away from Jack means that she will not have a conducive environment to grow normally under parental care. On the other hand, if Helene does not get her daughter back, it means that she will be wrongfully denied the opportunity to bring up her child. Ultimately, Patrick reports Jack to the authorities and Helene gets Amanda back.
In this case, the moral question is whether Patrick is doing the right thing. Under the first maxim of Kant’s categorical imperative, a person acts morally if his or her conduct would, without condition, be the “right” conduct for any person in similar circumstances (Kohl 341). In this case, Jack has committed a crime and the right action for Patrick should be to report the same to the police. Patrick has the duty not to be an accomplice in crime and anyone in his situation would do the same. Additionally, children should have the right to enjoy care under the watch of their biological parents. In this case, Helene has drug-related problems, but she is willing to change and bring up her daughter as a responsible mother. The third Kantian maxim states that a person acts morally when he or she acts as if his or her conduct was establishing a universal law governing others in similar circumstances (Kohl 341). Based on this argument, it suffices to conclude that Patrick has acted morally by reporting Jack to the authorities and taking Amanda back to Helene. The third maxim urges individuals to set a precedence that can be applied in different scenarios (Merrit 60). In this case, Patrick has set the antecedence that crimes should be reported to the authorities and that children should enjoy maternal care from biological parents. Therefore, if anyone is faced with the same scenario, he or she can make decisions based on Patrick’s actions. Therefore, from a Kantian perspective, Patrick’s actions are moral.
The philosophical morality of an action depends on the context under which it is being taken. According to the categorical imperative, acting from duty leads to moral actions. In the case of Patrick, he is obligated by duty to report crimes. As such, Jack has been involved in the crime of kidnapping Amanda, and thus he should be reported to the police. Therefore, by following his call to duty and reporting Jack to the authorities, Patrick has acted in a morally acceptable manner.
Gone Baby Gone. Directed by Ben Affleck, performance by Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan, and Madeline O’Brien, Live Planet, 2007.
Kohl, Markus. “Kant on Determinism and the Categorical Imperative.” Ethics, vol. 125, no. 2, 2015, pp. 331-356.
Merrit, Mellisa. “Practical Reason and Respect for Persons.” Kantian Review, vol. 22, no. 1, 2017, pp. 53-79.
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