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Friday, April 22, 2011

Morality by Bernard Gert , re: "Broadway Danny Rose" Philosophy and Ethics

Gert’s Morality
I. “Broadway Danny Rose” and Gert’s Morality
The way morality is defined leads to the understanding of ethics. It can be viewed that morality is not a systematic law that everyone must obey but something that is flexible and relative. As Bernard Gert have made his point, morality is something that must be “rational” (Morality versus Slogans, 1989). In fact, he pointed out that “a good moral theory also shows how morality is related to our more general values and to impartiality and rationality.” But what is morality? He defines it as a “code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.” (The Definition of Morality, 2005) It is very interesting to know that in Gert’s view, one’s own interest is in accordance with his morality. “There is not necessarily a conflict between self-interest and morality” and his view that an act of evil, if justifiable enough, diminishes its evil character. To kill for self defense as to prevent someone from killing yourself is something justifiable according to Gert, and this idea of morality, is very agreeable.
            In the film Broadway Danny Rose when Danny had to take his talent’s (Lou) mistress as if she is her own girlfriend, Danny committed an act that endangered himself. This is not in accordance to the rules that Gert has presented. However, Danny made this for his own interest as well, which, is to let Tina go with Lou in the latter’s concert. But the question of morality comes in as to the acts of Danny. Was the act of Danny moral? In Gert’s theory it can be derived that Danny had acted not in accordance with good moral by pretending to be the boyfriend of Tina.. Moral values is attained by a person who avoids evil, both for himself and for his friends, or anyone for that matter unless one has a “reason for not avoiding it” (Morality versus Slogans 1989).
In the film Danny Rose, to identify his virtues and vices according to Gert’s theory, it is first important to go back to the basic rules. How a person can be morally virtuous? It is when, according to Gert, that person:
  1. Does not Kill                                     2. Does not Cause Pain
  1. Does not Disable                               4. Does not Deprive of Freedom
  1. Does not Deprive of Pleasure.           6. Doesn't Deceive
  1. Keeps His Promise                            8. Doesn't Cheat
  1. Obeys the Law and
  2. Does His Duty--where Duty includes those actions that he is required to do by his job, his position, his family, his circumstances.
Given the above criteria, Danny is half-way between a virtuous person and a person of vice: meaning, Danny is a normal human being, not very contented and not very happy, like the rest who has limitations and weaknesses fighting out the struggles of life. Danny’s strong virtues can be accounted for his helpful nature and friendliness to his talent persons, especially to Lou who became famous under his management.
Compared to Danny, Lou is much more a person of vice than of virtue committing “irrational” acts as Gert may call it. By having a mistress is one fatal attack to Lou’s morality as he does cheat and deceive, he did not keep the promise in his marriage vows as well as disobeying the law of marriage causing pain to his wife. Lou also failed to perform his duty as a husband.
In the case of Tina, she can be viewed with almost similar character to that of Lou than that of Danny’s. She has more weaknesses in her moral values making her not a very virtuous person. Tina has caused pain and danger to Danny and she also acted irrationally by becoming a mistress of a married person.. Moreover, she deceived both Lou’s wife and the public by being Lou’s mistress and by pretending to be the lover of Danny, respectively.
However, the moral virtues of the three main characters in the film eventually made a better path when Lou and Tina stopped their illicit relationship and Danny became Tina’s lover instead.

II.  Let and Let Live

            “Live and let live.” This sentence is almost synonymous to the golden rule almost everyone is familiar with. However, we have to acknowledge that Gert himself is questioning the real meaning of this golden rule. Thus, his statement about living and letting others live should be examined independently.  Indeed this statement of Gert is excellent and I do not only agree to it but I have to say that I strongly agree with what has presented. As opposed to the rule of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” which is very ideal and could not be achieved by normal human beings, “live and let live” offers humanity a chance to be of morally virtuous character. Morality should not be something very ideal or very utopian yet unachievable, instead, it should be something that humans can attain. As explained, morality should be a positive guide of life embodying the “lessening of evil”, not its elimination or the perfection of human values: as long as humans can live with each other in harmony, morality does not require more of it. However, a morally virtuous person tries to lessen every evil in his deed, thereby retaining the good or better side of his character. In this situation, it is where a “better” morality is achieved, more than just passively living and letting others live.
When the good moral agents act upon the virtuous character of a moral being, it makes him, as encouraged by those moral agents, act positively towards the achievement of more “lesser evil” as he helps out others around him. Thus, quoting Gert, “morality consist of more than requirements; it also encourages people to help others, to prevent and relieve the harms they are suffering.”
Morality, I agree with Gert, is not something that requires strict compliance to the ideals but to the achievement of the basic rules that govern co-existence among humans and not a set of severe ideal rules that require obedience. The applicability of morality is on everyone, thus, it should be inherent for morality to be achievable and can be followed by anyone. Morality is not a one-time guide for an action, instead, it is a guide for life letting each human live with each other. Living with each other is not possible without their permission and efforts towards harmonious co-existence. Thus, one should not kill others because he does not want to be killed by others. But this is not as simple as this rule. Gert emphasized that this kind of rule must have reason behind it. The reason itself is morality. As previously presented in {I} the ten moral acts of a morally virtuous person do not allow him to kill, nor the rules allow him to hurt others. These guiding rules apply to everyone.
The ideas that Gert presented in his book, and in fact in all of his philosophical arguments on morality, it can be viewed that he has parallel ideas to that of John Stuart Mill. In Mill’s idea of morality and the moral worth of an action he has emphasized the importance of overall utility in having the greatest happiness and pleasure for the greater number of individuals. This argument runs parallel to that of Gert who pointed out that having pleasure is not wrong and one’s self interest is not necessarily in contradiction with his morality. One’s self interest is his pleasure. Moreover, in Gert’s idea of  “goods, evil and rationality” (Morality versus Slogans, 1989) he noted that it is evil to act and result to a “loss of pleasure” while under his arguments on moral rules, he stated that a person, to be act in accordance with these rules must  not “cause pain” and must not “deprive pleasure”.
It is to be understood however in the idea to “live and let live” that one’s pleasure must not cause pain to others. Therefore, what is important in the lives of human beings is that everyone can live happily in harmonic peace with each one, for all maintains their own pleasure without depriving the same from others. “Live and let live”!

Broadway Danny Rose (1984). On-line. Available from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087003/plotsummary . Internet. Accessed 12 May 2008.
Gert, B. 1989. Morality versus Slogans Paper Presented to the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Article on-line. Available from http://aristotle.tamu.edu/~rasmith/Courses/251/gert-paper.html . Internet. Accessed 11 May 2008.
Gert, B., ed. 2005. The Definition of Morality, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2005 Edition), Edward N. Zalta. 

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