Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth, even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless.
That is your oath.
So my friend,
the time has come to conclude my affairs.
In this pivotal scene in Kingdom of Heaven
Balian – the film’s protagonist – is asked to marry Sybilla
to prevent Guy – the film’s antagonist –
from starting a war with Saladin, king of the Muslims.
If Balian agrees, Guy and his followers will be executed…
and war might be averted.
Balian however doesn’t want to be the cause of that.
I cannot be the cause of that.
This leads to Guy becoming king, going to war and losing.
Balian is left in charge of defending Jerusalem
and ultimately surrenders the city to Saladin
on the condition that every soul is given passage to the sea.
Now Balian has been criticized by some viewers
for not taking an action that could have avoided a war.
Even the characters in the film seem frustrated;
There’ll be a day.. ..
when you will wish you had done little evil to do greater good. Yet,
I want to argue that this view is missing a vital element
from Balian’s journey and the film as a whole.
For although a lot has been said about Kingdom
of Heaven’s portayal of religion and religious conflict,
I believe it also contains an interesting discussion on moral philosophy,
Especially the ethical theory of Immanuel Kant.
The fundamental element of Kant’s moral philosophy is the Categorical Imperative.
For Kant, an act is similar to a syllogism;
a logical argument consisting of two or more propositions that lead to a conclusion.
Aristotle defined the earliest form of this as follows;
There is a major and a minor premise
from which a conclusion can be deduced.
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
Kant uses the same structure and explains an act as consisting of a maxim,
原则 情况 结论三部分组成
a situation and a conclusion.
I will not run a red light.
The traffic light is red. Therefore,
Of these three elements,
Kant argues that you can only determine one of them.
You can not determine the conclusion,
because that follows automatically out of the maxim and the situation.
You also cannot determine the situation.
So the only thing that’s left for you to determine is the maxim.
The main question then is”what must I do?”,”which maxims should I live by?”
Kant poses two main formulations to answer this.
One is often referred to as the universalizability principle.
The second is referred to nowadays as the principle of respect for persons.
Universalizability is that you should always act according to a maxim.
A maxim is a moral rule.
According to a maxim that you could will as universal moral law.
So this basically means that if you can imagine your maxim to be the maxim of everyone;
it is morally okay.
A second formulation is;
We should always, there’s the universalizability carried over into this..
We should always treat persons as ends in themselves,
rather than as means only.
Now he’s not saying never treat persons as means,
we do that all the time.
You’re using me right now, to get some credit.
And I’m using you to earn a living.
He’s not saying that’s wrong
But he is saying that in the ways in which we use people..
treat those people as a value in themselves.
This makes Kant’s moral philosophy a deontological one..
meaning that morality is not judged
on the consequences of one’s actions,
but rather on the rules that precede them.
You see the turn is a turn away from the observing,
the external world of science..
to the inner world of the self.
That was his Copernican revolution was it not?
Kant is hardly a romanticist, but he’s often called an ethical idealist.
That is to say, one who describes the ultimate reality in ethical terms,
in terms of right and wrong.
An ethical idealist.
A great example of this is of course Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy.
You have all these rules and you think they’ll save you?
I have one rule.
You gotta be kidding me.
No guns, no killing.
Where’s the fun in that?
And more recently; Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge.
I’m sorry Sergeant, I can’t touch a gun.
I got no problem with wearing my uniform and saluting the flag and doing my duty.
It’s just, just carrying a gun and taking a human life.
This kind of morality usually goes against our instinctive desires..
and is therefore often described as rule- or duty-based ethics.
One core assumption of the Categorical Imperative is
that human beings have an autonomous will.
A fundamental freedom which enables them to act morally if they choose to.
The Categorical Imperative requires that you act out of your own good will.
Goodness comes from within.
Goodness is chosen.
When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.
That it be a free act.
Self-determined Acting of your own will.
Rather than being governed, driven by other people’s desires and expectations.
Going along with the crowd.
Conforming to social pressures.
Following your own desires rather than acting out of free will,
enslaved by your own inclincations.
Now let’s go back to Kingdom
of Heaven to see how Kant’s philosophy has shaped Balian’s journey.
Balian’s moral philosophy is mostly based
on his encounters with three characters;
鲍德温四世 医护骑士和戈弗雷 贝里昂的父亲
King Baldwin, the Hospitaler and Godfrey, Balian’s father.
Let’s start with him.
In this scene, Godfrey knights Balian and gives him the following rules.
“保持无畏 即使敌人近在眼前保持勇敢和正直 上帝就会爱你们
These are basically the maxims that Balian is given.
Most of these maxims speak for themselves,
but one seemingly extreme line that springs out is this one.
In Kant’s philosophy, this is actually a valid maxim.
This is because lying is in conflict with
the earlier given answers to the question of which maxims one should live by.
For one would not want to live in a world where everyone lies.
Nor does one want to treat people as means rather than ends
as lying implies a deception of the other.
A second influence on Balian’s moral philosophy comes from the Hospitaler.
圣者 侠也挺身而出 见义勇为 除强扶弱
Not only does the Hospitaler, like Kant,
emphasize that morality is found within.
He also points out the autonomy
that people have to decide everyday whether they act based on that morality.
Finally Balian encounters King Baldwin.
None of us know our end really,
or what hand will guide us there.
A king may move a man.
A father may claim a son.
But that man can also move himself.
He goes on to note one vital element of Kant’s moral philosophy.
Here we find the moral absolutism that is
at the foundation of Kant’s work.
The excuses that King Baldwin mentions;
Acting against your morality because others told you to,
or because the situation wasn’t convenient,
also do not suffice for Kant as they are determined
by outside forces instead of the maxims that precede them.
Going back to the earlier presented choice Balian is given.
Taking into account Balian’s journey as shaped by Kant’s moral philosophy,
it has now become a situation in which Balian’s moral integrity is tested.
If he would have accepted, he would have acted against his maxims.
Ironically exactly because others told him to,
and because his virtues were not convenient at that moment.
He would have gone against his maxims
because by marrying Sybilla and executing Guy and his followers,
He would have used them
as mere means to achieve the end of political power.
And he would have been no different
from all the others who have been fighting over Jerusalem..
to manifest the kingdom of their God.
Instead he stays true to his inner morality.
His Kingdom of Heaven.
Concluding with the fitting statement:
“在这个王朝里 要么保持良知 要么一切皆空”
It is a Kingdom of Conscience, or nothing.