Immanuel Kant, a prominent philosopher known for his deontological moral theory, argued that moral actions should be based on reason rather than subjective desires or consequences. According to Kant’s moral philosophy, a person acts morally when their conduct would be considered the “right” conduct for anyone in similar circumstances, treats others as ends in themselves and not as means to an end, and acts as if their behavior establishes a universal law governing others in similar situations. This essay will analyze the main FINAL action in the film “Sleepers” and evaluate whether it can be judged as moral or immoral based on Kant’s moral philosophy.
In the film “Sleepers,” directed by Barry Levinson, four friends, Lorenzo, John, Michael, and Tommy, find themselves involved in a tragic incident that alters their lives forever. The initial event occurs when the young boys accidentally kill a man while playing a prank, leading to their incarceration in a brutal juvenile detention center. During their time in the facility, they suffer from physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the guards, particularly from Sean Nokes, one of the head guards.
Years later, the story takes a twist when Michael and John, now grown men, come across Nokes by chance at a bar. Fueled by their unresolved anger and past trauma, they decide to take revenge on him. They ambush Nokes, and in a fit of rage, they kill him. This is the main FINAL action in the film, the defining moment that determines the outcome and moral evaluation of the characters.
Applying Kant’s moral philosophy to this action, we can evaluate its morality by analyzing each of the three premises. Firstly, would killing Nokes be considered the “right” conduct for anyone in similar circumstances? According to Kant, moral actions should be universalizable and applicable to everyone. In this case, it is unlikely that killing someone in cold blood can be considered universally acceptable behavior. If killing were to become a universal law, chaos and anarchy would prevail in society. Therefore, the killing of Nokes would not conform to the First Maxim and could be deemed immoral under Kantian ethics.
Secondly, does the act of killing Nokes treat him as an end in himself or merely as a means to an end? Kant argued that individuals should be treated as ends in themselves, with inherent dignity and worth, and not merely as a tool for achieving one’s goals. In the case of Nokes, while his actions were heinous, the deliberate killing of another human being goes against Kant’s principle of treating others as ends. Taking a life without due process denies Nokes the opportunity to face legal punishment and seek redemption, violating the Second Maxim. Thus, killing Nokes can be seen as immoral from a Kantian perspective.
Lastly, does the act of killing Nokes establish a universal law governing others in similar circumstances? According to Kant’s Third Maxim, moral actions should set an example for others to follow. In this case, if the act of killing Nokes were to become a universal law, it would lead to a society where vigilante justice prevails and people take matters into their own hands. Such actions would undermine the legal system and the concept of justice itself. Consequently, the killing of Nokes cannot be considered morally justifiable under Kant’s moral theory.
In conclusion, the main FINAL action of killing Sean Nokes in the film “Sleepers” cannot be judged as moral according to Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. The act contradicts the First Maxim by failing to be universally accepted behavior, goes against the Second Maxim by treating Nokes as a means to an end, and does not establish a universal law as per the Third Maxim. Kant’s moral theory emphasizes the importance of reason and universalizability in determining moral actions, and in the case of killing Nokes, it would be deemed immoral.