Many philosophers have developed arguments for and against the theories of good and evil. Some argue that one’s goodness or level of being evil is a relative concept that only depends on the interpretative nature of the person involved. John Stuart Mill and Emmanuel Kant are among the scholars who have contradicting views on the concept of good and evil. Mill views this in terms of utilitarianism, arguing the basis on which the moral and ethical action rated and doubting whether the majority of people is able to draw their good or happiness from it. Kant, on his part, argued that goodness or the level to which one is evil should be judged by the way in which a person performs such duties as will be of benefit to her/him rationally and universally. This paper uses the views of the two philosophers to discuss the characters in the movie Casablanca, concerning the concepts of good and evil.
The movie Casablanca exhibits the views of Emmanuel Kant on good and evil in terms of categorical imperative and the concept of duty. Mill’s view on the same subject in terms of utilitarianism and the concept of the "greatest good for the greatest number” is also evident in the movie. This paper discusses how two characters in the movie, Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund, help to bring out the views of the two philosophers, concerning good and evil.
Rick Blaine is a character in the movie who displays both Kant’s and Mill’s views on good and evil. He first gets a letter of transit from Signor Ugarte and determines that the letter is important for many refugees who are seeking asylum in the United States. Therefore, he hatches a plan to have this letter from Signor Ugarte. Apparently, Signor Ugarte did not want to use this important document to help the refugees who are running away from the war in their countries. In Kant’s view, it is categorically imperative for Rick Blaine to have the letter from Ugarte so that he can help the refugees in their transit to the United States. It is also his duty, since he is the only person who knows that Signor Ugarte has this letter. In Mill’s view, Rick Blaine is acting for the good of all people because the letter can help a large number of people to avoid war in their countries (West, 2003).
However, Rick Blaine’s personal interests are revealed when he meets his former lover, Ilsa Lund, who is accompanied by her husband. He changes his initial plans to have the refugees transferred using the letter to help Ilsa Lund and her husband transfer to the United States. He does not use the letter as he initially intended, because he decides to use it to help her former lover, with whom he is still in love. Thus, Blaine’s actions reveals that his interest is based on his sense of duty and not on just the results, because he believes that he is to help his former lover to transfer,and it is not obligatory for him to give a helping held to the great number of people that are depending on the letter that he holds (Engstrom, 2009).
She displays her character as a person who loves her husband so much, so that she abandons Rick Blaine when she realizes that her husband is still alive. She therefore displays her sense of duty to her husband. When they are stranded in Casablanca and Rick Blaine threatens to shoot her, she goes back in memory and tells him that she is in fact still in love with him. Ilsa Lund displays Kant’s view in a way that she has a duty to protect her husband and therefore she accepts to lie to him that she still loves him, so that he can help them with their transit. On the other hand, Ilsa Lund displays her utilitarian character when she decides to share her love between Rick Blaine and her husband Victor Laszlo, a renowned fugitive.
Nevertheless, Ilsa Lund proves Kant’s view that the ethical claim, especially the one based on a rational duty, forms the highest claim. It happens when she accepts to use the letter that Rick Blaine has to transfer to Canada with her husband, despite the fact that she has also told Rick Blaine that she is in love with him. To her, that is not a crime, provided she can give in to assist them flee to Canada. Ilsa Lund’s actions are opposite of what Mill views in terms of utilitarianism, because the letter of transit is only used to transfer two people, while the rest of the refugees are left stranded in Casablanca (Auge, 2009).
The other character in the movie that displays both Kant and Mill’s view on the good and the evil is Victor Laszlo. When he discovers that Rick is holding an important transit letter, he contemplates letting him take away his wife despite the fact that he knows that the two are still in love. Laszlo feels a categorical imperative responsibility to protect his wife even if it means letting her go away with another man. He also sings patriotic songs in the wake of adversary that is facing his fellow refugees. He is concerned with the wellbeing of everyone stranded in Casablanca just as he is. However, Laszlo betrays his intention of good for all when he accepts to leave for America with his wife Lund after he realizes that actually Rick would be willing to let him go.
In conclusion, Kant and Mill’s views on the good and evil were contrasting each other. However, in the actual life, people occasionally can display both Kant’s view of categorical imperative and Mill’s view of greatest good for all through their relationships and actions. In the film Casablanca, the main characters display each point at one time as they continue to associate with people; moving from good intentions to bad intentions occasionally.