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Crimes and Misdemeanors Essay


According to Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.’ In this light, a fictional philosopher in the film Crimes and Misdemeanors, an individual is responsible for the choices they make that influences their state of happiness by stating that we are the total of our options. Human beings will always be attracted to pursue goals of self-interest above all else. As such, they will result in doing non-ethical activities in pursuit of these objectives that directly influence the state of, by happiness (Litch). The movie Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989 by Woody Allen, explores ethical themes that come to define the lives of the main characters within the film. Crimes and Misdemeanors explore aspects that are non-consequentialistic; as such, the definition of morality hinges on the outcome of the choices made.

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The bad choices that individuals make at points of high stress are judged as the right decision if the desired result is achieved. Judah one of the main characters in the film and a married man is having an affair with Dolores. After, Dolores ascertains that Judah had no intentions of marrying her she decides to blackmail Judah that she is going to inform his wife of their relationship. Humans are continually experiencing situations that threaten to destabilize their social structure and foundation, and as such, they are forced to make bad decisions with the hope of a favorable outcome (Module 4). Judah evaluates his options, and despite being an ethical man, he could not be able to do the right thing; instead, he chooses to kill his wife. Following the death of his wife, Judah experiences guilt and struggles to find happiness in his new life (Woody). As a result, he turns to God to absolve himself of the blame. In the end, he manages to work through his guilt’s and leads a happy life justifying his decision to kill his wife to live with his new wife, Dolores. Judah did not make the right decision; however, as a result of the choices, he was able to overcome a significant challenge and live happily after.

In other situations, good decisions do not always end up having the desired outcomes. Non-consequentialism is evident in the decisions of Cliff who is hired by his brother in law to shoot a documentary about his life and successes. During this time cliff grows to resent Lester partly because his marriage to Lester’s sister was failing. Furthermore, he falls in love with Lester’s assistant producer, Halley and tries to win her over by showing her that he is merely working for Lester for the money. Several months later cliff is heartbroken to find out that Lester and Halley were in a relationship and his decisions to this point had all failed. (Woody). Cliff’s decision to despise Lester was unwise and unethical of him, and as a result, it led to a sequence of events that did not work in his favor. Cliff decision is not a bad decision while at the beginning because he chose to pursue his selfish interests (Module 4). However, all did not go according to plan because not only did he lose his work but the woman he loved; therefore, making his decision, poor.

Non-Consequentialism the result justifies the means and the choice to act does not matter so long as the desired effect is achieved. The movie addresses two individuals who make similar decisions but experience different outcomes. Judah chose the un-ethical route but eventually found a way to justify his actions. In the end, he is a happy man married to his former mistress. On the other hand, there is a cliff who selfishly decides to pursue his interests, but as a result, he ends up losing both his job and the woman he loved to the man he despised. Individuals determine the happiness of their lives through everyday decisions.

Litch, Mary M. Philosophy Through Film. London: Routledge, 2014. Print.
Module 4 lecture notes
Woody, Allen. Crimes And Misdemeanors. Hollywood: Orion Pictures, 1989. Film.
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