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German philosoher Immanuel Kant's deontoligical theory talks about the good and bad things in relation to their universal accetability. His theory includes the idea of a categorical imperative which suggests an unconditional and absolute requirement in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself (Categorical imperative, first two paras).
On the warship, Claggart, his master-at-arms, somehow dislikes Billy. One night, one of Claggart's loyalists tries to bribe Billy in an attempt to make him join the group of some naval men ready to rebel. Aghast, Billy threatens to dump him in the high seas (About the novel, a brief synopsis, fourth Para).Later, Claggart lies and complaints to the Captain Vere that Billy is involved in an attempted mutiny. In the enquiry, Billy, unable to control his anger and spurred by inability to speak due to stammering, unintentionally hits Claggart and kills him in the presence of Captain Vere.
The Captain faces a dilemma as to what he should do in the circumstances. He immediately calls for a drumhead court and sentences Billy to death, despite his love for the latter and the fact that Billy is not intentional in hitting and killing Claggart. The Captain is also sure that Billy Budd would never resort to involve in a crime of mutiny. Here, the Captain knows that his action of giving a death sentence to Billy is immoral and bad on his part but right and compulsory according to the universal principle of military rules, as laid out by the Kant's deontoligical theory. When viewd in the backdrop of Kant's theory, the court martialling and hanging of Billy is imminent , despite the fact that he is not at fault. ...
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