Directed by Ben Affleck, Gone Baby Gone tells a story of two investigators looking to solve a mystery behind a girl’s abduction from her single mother. While attaining positive reviews, the final decision of Patrick, who is one of the investigators, caused many controversies. Some people perceived Patrick’s action as lacking morality, while others claimed the opposite. This paper will discuss the decision within the context of Kant’s moral philosophy and Michael Sandel’s arguments on justice and righteousness.
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After discovering that the girl was kidnapped by Doyle only to provide her with a more favorable life and future, Patrick is faced with a tough decision to make. Doyle has positive intentions and will keep the child in safety and comfort, whereas the cocaine-addicted mother will neglect her. Patrick discusses the issue with his partner, Angie, who tells him to leave Doyle alone for the sake of the girl. She warns Patrick that she will leave him if he decides to inform the police about Doyle. Although it seems logical to leave the girl with Doyle, Patrick decides to call the police.
Through the Prism of Kant’s Three Propositions
Kant’s three premises help individuals to decide whether an action is moral. The first proposition is on differentiating between decisions motivated by duty and activities undertaken because of other factors (McCarty). In the case of Patrick, the decision was made not because of goodwill toward the mother, but because of his professional duty. He also made a promise to the mother that he will bring the girl back. The second proposition states that an action has moral worth when motivating forces have positive intentions (McCarty). It is challenging to derive what Patrick had in his mind when making the decision. His motivations did not include personal benefits because he sacrificed his relationship with Angie. Nor did they include positive intentions toward the girl – Patrick was aware that the mother is addicted to drugs, and the girl would only receive neglect. However, he acted out of the necessity to fulfill his promise, which is the topic of the third proposition (Simonetti). Therefore, in summary, it can be said that Patrick acted justly.
In the Context of Sandel’s Theory
Michael Sandel’s interpretation of Kant’s words on righteousness and morality results in the construction of three contrasts. The first contrast is between duty and inclination – an action is moral if motivated by duty instead of being done to satisfy a desire (Harvard University 00:31:10-00:33:26). Without this contrast, to promise given by Patrick can be seen as a duty. However, to fulfill that promise may be labeled as the satisfaction of the desire to present an image of a notable person. The second contrast is between autonomy and heteronomy – a person acts freely only if his or her actions are determined by reason (Harvard University 00:34:00-00:37:43). Patrick’s decision was not determined by reason, but by a societal belief that promises should never be broken. The last contrast is between categorical and hypothetical imperatives (Harvard University 00:38:05-00:41:36). Patrick’s decision is not categorically imperative – the action is not right in itself because Patrick was aware of the unfavorable consequences that the girl will experience.
Patrick’s decision is difficult to assess for morality because of many uncertainties. However, with the help of Kant’s three premises and Sandel’s interpretation and three contrasts, it is possible to determine that Patrick’s action was not morally right. He did not make a reasonable choice even though he had all the arguments. As a result of his decision, the girl will have an uncertain future.
“Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Episode 06: ‘MIND YOUR MOTIVE’.” YouTube, 2009. Web.
McCarty, Richard. “The Three Propositions.” East Carolina University, 2017. Web.
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Simonetti, Joseph. “Duty and Morality.” Emory University, 2014. Web.