There are many different viewpoints on what is right and wrong and ethically and morally correct. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and Jon Stuart Mill (1806-1873), both considered to be two of the best philosophers of all time, had different views on how one should live the Good Life. John Stuart Mill’s theory was called Utilitarianism and Kant’s theory, the Categorical Imperative. Immanuel Kant believed that it was more important for a person to have moral values than to be intelligent, funny, or to have any other talents or traits of the human mind or body.
He believed of course that it was good to have these talents but that “moral worth” was invaluable. Kant expressed, “to act morally is to act from no other motive than the motive of doing what is right” (Sommers & Sommers, 2010, p. 230). Kant believed that morality was not just about the results or effect of an action but the will behind the action. He believed that our actions must come from a sense of Duty, not because we care for or love one another but because it is our Duty to “respect the Moral Law” (p. 246).
Judging the importance of a decision based on whether or not it was following a rule or set of rules is called deontological ethics. He believed that it was not the consequences of the action which were important but the person’s motive carrying out the said action. Many disagree with Kant saying that we must have a foundation to start from, a reason such as love or concern to do what is morally correct. John Stuart Mill believed that our actions must promote happiness to all involved, not just the person doing the action for it to be morally correct. Mill endorsed the “principle of utility” thus that actions are correct if
they produce happiness and wrong if resulting in the opposite of happiness. Mill’s version of the Golden Rule is “To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbor as yourself” (p. 211). Mill defended Utilitarianism saying that the result and consequences of the action, to produce happiness that is, would make the said action correct. This is called the Greatest Happiness Principle. Utilitarianism is not based on the happiness or satisfaction of one individual but of the whole mass or group of people involved, “the welfare of all citizens” (Rachels & Rachels, 2012, p.
101). Casablanca In the movie Casablanca, the main character, Rick Blaine believed in living the Good Life just like John Stuart Mill. He also was concerned with the consequences of action. Rick also seemed to be like Kant in that he had a strong sense of duty professionally. Rick had a duty to himself, which he made clear on many occasions, but also had a duty to his acquaintances and patrons of his cabaret’. Rick made decisions to promote happiness, like Mill, but his decisions were based on selfish reasons.
If others were happy he would make more money. Rick could have been considered a Utilitarian because he made decisions many times to put the happiness of the group ahead of the happiness of one individual, hence the second proposition of Classical Utilitarianism; “An action’s consequences matter only insofar as they involve the greater or lesser happiness of individual’s” (Rachels & Rachels, p. 110, para. 1). In the beginning, Rick made the decision to let the police take Ugarte into custody so as not to disrupt the rest of the patrons.
He also did it to make himself happy so that he would not have any problems with the authorities, so his establishment would run smoother, and also so he would be able to have the exit visas that Ugarte had given him to hold onto. In the beginning Rick was only concerned with his own happiness and he states this early on when he said, “I stick my neck out for nobody. ” But, as the story progresses it seems that Rick started to make decisions to benefit others, not just him.
When a young woman approached him and told him her story of wanting to get to America he rigged the game to benefit her and her husband so that they would have the money to buy their passes. This would benefit both the man and woman, make him appear good, benefit his acquaintance who sold the visas, and in-turn would probably come back to benefit him again. As stated earlier, Kant believed that one should have a moral obligation to do what is right and that it comes from a person’s pure sense of duty not from any emotion.
Kant strictly “denied that emotions could have any foundation for morality” at all and that we should actually “discipline our feelings by reason” (Betzler, 2008, p. 308). Kant actually believed that it is an obligation and it is required to do what is morally right. This is how Rick appeared to be throughout until he came into contact with his old love, Ilsa. Ilsa seemed to bring out the best in him. When he realized how much he really cared for Ilsa and loved her, he only wanted to see her happy even if it was not with him.
In the end he made a decision for the greater good of all involved instead of just himself. He helped Ilsa and her husband leave Casablanca even though he knew he would get into trouble. Rick showed his real sense of moral value when he did this. Another character that also showed his morality was Captain Renault. He helped Rick many times and recognized his good intentions towards others at the end of the movie. It appeared as if Captain Renault was impressed by Rick putting Ilsa and Victor Laszlo first even though it meant he would not have her anymore.
Captain Renault covered for Rick in the end so that Rick would not be arrested. Captain Renault also showed that he was looking out for the benefit of the group not just one person when he did this. So, who is to say what makes an action right or wrong? Does the action have to be backed by a sense of duty or should it be driven by love and compassion for others? Is it not only the consequence of the action that matters? If good comes from the action and the action comes from the heart, thus is it not good?
Kant believed that “love and compassion should not be allowed to cooperate in the performance of Duty” (p. 247). Cannot Duty, love, compassion, and friendship work together to make a decision right and justified with the end result being happiness? References Betzler, M. (2008). Kant’s ethics of virtue. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN: 9783110177282 Rachels, J. & Rachels, S. (2012). The elements of moral philosophy (7th ed. ). New York, New York: McGraw Hill Sommers, C. H. & Sommers, F. (2010). Vice and virtue in everyday life: Introductory reading in ethics (8th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
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