Crimes and Misdemeanors
In Woody Allen’s film Crimes and Misdemeanors the central character, Judah Rosenthal, is faced with a serious moral dilemma: he has committed adultery. After not ending his marriage with Mrs. Rosenthal as Judah had promised, his mistress Dolores Paley (a flight attendant) has taken matters into her own hands and has sent a letter for Mrs. Rosenthal to read telling her about the affair she has had with her husband for nearly two years. Judah first discovers the letter his mistress sent to his wife stating that she wants to have all three of them talk about the affair since certain promises by Judah were never kept. Now Judah is faced with the reality that his affair with Dolores will become exposed and his life will be ruined. In Judah’s panic he seeks help from his brother Jack who hires a hit man from New Orleans to murder Dolores. Using Aristotle’s “virtues of character”, Kant’s “categorical imperatives”, and Mill’s “utility principle” one can decide if Judah’s resolution to the matter to have Dolores murdered is considered a “moral action” or an “immoral action”.
Aristotle’s theory of “virtues of character” tells us that in order for a person to attain “the highest good” and to be “virtuous” one must meet three conditions to satisfy certain actions. In Aristotle’s book Nicomachean Ethics (chapter four), he states that the first condition must be done knowingly, the second is a choice of action that is chosen for its own sake (it is good in itself) and that the third comes “from a stable condition”. If Judah’s moral dilemma is applied to Aristotle’s “virtues of character”, Judah violates all because the action of having Dolores murdered was not good in itself because it caused harm to others and Judah’s emotions were not from a stable condition because they were acted out of panic and fear. When talking about the ten virtues of character that Aristotle lists, Judah embodies at least three. Judah possesses the deficiency of cowardice...
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