a 12-men without mercy. “A reasonable doubt”

When a movie, apart from fulfilling its primary function to entertain, this is master a real problem of a social nature —the one we are interested in this weblog—, the contest of the critical ex-post beyond the merely movie buff and adds a series of analyses and reflections on dilemmas that are at the very core of the social sciences and philosophy. In the end, the film represents a document that the social research can be an object of study very interesting. A document that is assumed as an event with materiality information that has social importance, unique and singular. As well, the films that reflect aspects of ‘transcendental’ of the social reality, do not cease to be authentic practices, expressed in the methodology of foucault’s call, have: a strategy (the soil: it has its roots in a particular society, composed of other documents, being able to carry the analysis to the infinite), an intention (what you try to do the document in the society), and consequences (what the document makes to society).1

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

12 men without mercy (Sidney Lumet, 1957) is one of the films best appreciated in the history of cinema; for example, Fimaffinity the is among the top five by voting (see the tab in the same web of Fimaffinity: 12 men without mercy). But, in addition, it is one of those film whose theme and the way you have been treated you have the interest that I have described above. With a great talent, its director, Sidney Lumet, manages to represent through a situation microgrupal a big problem of level macrosocial that, in addition, is at the very origin of the human condition, the moral and social ethics. This is how the prejudices, the interests and influences, and is thought by the dominant society exert a lot of pressure on the individual to judge and make a decision on another, and that by the evidence, only apparent, create act with certainty of justice until “a reasonable doubt”. A doubt that you don’t always have the luck of being sufficiently attended to, but when you make that individuals reflect, such reflection does not only lead them to rethink the problem itself, but also lead them to a true retrospective analysis and to question their own moral values.

As you’ll see in the reader, the underlying theme of this movie has a remarkable importance for disciplines such as moral philosophy or sociology, but not least for any individual and the society in itself. He then presents an interpretative analysis, as cool as the same film, Esther C. García Tejedor (Doctor in Philosophy by the UNED). This analysis has been excerpted with permission from an article of your blog Seven steps. Philosophy in images, teaching and reflections.

Naturally, the reading of this analysis will be pointless if the reader has not seen the movie, which I recommend that you see strongly, especially if you have, for little as it is, the hope that society can improve.

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By Esther C. García Tejedor, June 3, 2009

 

Argument

A boy of 18 years is tried for the murder of his father. The jury must render its verdict in a case in which all the evidence seem to condemn the accused. These twelve men, to which the system presupposes impartial, they begin to manifest their personalities as they deliberate, at the request of one of them, on the testimonies that were presented. The strength of the dialogue and the logic is undoing the consistency of these testimonies that, once they are joined like a puzzle, you show your inconsistency. The rationality of the protagonist is making headway among the mist of the prejudices, passions, motivations and mood of the other members of the jury. One-to-one are encouraged to reflect, understand and clarify what is hidden behind the appearances of the case. In this process, are their own personalities which are being analyzed, once you embark on the exercise enlightening of the reason.

 

The plot

Our judicial system is based on the principle that since the establishment of the roman law: in dubio, pro reo (when in doubt, favor the accused). This means that every person is innocent until proven guilty. However, the society tends to happen often otherwise, as is reflected here: the guy seems to be guilty, the evidence tends to focus on it as well; the discussion of the jury is undoing the consistency of such evidence, to result in a “reasonable doubt” enough by law to acquit a defendant.

It is important to note that does not prove the innocence of the boy: what that demonstrates is the set of pre-judgments that determine an appearance of guilt, of which there is to be delinked to judge objectively whether there is evidence consistent –not merely circumstantial–.

 

The topic

The starting point: the previous opinion

The subject, more than justice to dry, it is the human judgment. How do you forge a judgment about the reality? The film is raised in an environment in which the irrelevance or innocence of the “opinion” itself has no place: the judgment that is forged, every one of these men on a few facts will result in the death sentence for a boy of 18 years.

Our view of the world has some consequences; the human being is responsible for the way in which the forge: to analyze own approaches, to know one’s own biases, divorced from the own interests, are the moral obligations to which all human beings must respond. The slackness to the knowledge of the truth, about oneself or about the world, makes us inexcusably guilty.

Many are the factors that mediate or alter in any way the formation of a judgment: prejudice (preconceived ideas about reality), the interests, the influence of the thinking of the society and of the opinion of others (attitude, subject is often the fear of the image that we project), the appearance, which is often a membership uncritical… All these attitudes are reflected in one way or another in any of the characters, that make up a microcosm of social, a reflection of a human model enclosed in a room. There is only one way to overcome these barriers: the reflection.

 

Reflection as a pathway of development

In the film poses a number of attitudes to reflection: in the beginning, only one has chosen to carry it out, and is dragging it to others. In others we find: either a first passivity, which are overcoming a different way, or open hostility: in one scene we see how one of them refuses to evidence, rational to accept as possible a particular interpretation of the facts.

After a first attempt, that promotes reflection proposes a second ballot, before the result of which will. That sequence is not trivial: the dialog can only be established when two parties are willing to do this. Fonda realizes that his monologue will not lead to any party; the attitude of the old-represents that acceptance of the challenge of dialogue. To the blindness or indolence of others, one arouses the critical consciousness, which gives rise to the development of the film.

 

The origin and nature of justice: human consciousness

Although the film seems realistic, in reality the end result is more an argument of ethics about what should and could ultimately be if the human reason, the fundamental instrument of ethics, guide our conduct.

Justice can not be expected of the future of life; it is an ideal human, but an ideal within the reach of each individual, but of humanity as a whole. The ethical consequences of our behavior, left to the fantasy of the “cosmic justice”, will depend entirely on the chance. As the life of the boy of our film depends on the “chance” that has made the members of his jury, and that in this case has allowed you to participate the reason and conscience, necessarily entered by a human being.

In the case that occupies to us, the character played by Henry Fonda takes on this role. Exceeds all type of attacks: it is accused of craving attention, to give importance, provocative… critical to the ignores with a completeness bordering on heroic (this same attitude is impassive also keeps the stock broker). In the real world it is more common to the attitude of other members of the jury, who are so disgusted with the malice of the comments of those who insist on boycotting the arguments.

It is important to note that this debate does not occur because one thinks that he is innocent; his statement is that he does not know. The first step is doubt. The film poses a constant dialectic which revolves around the concepts of what is obvious, what is possible and what is probable. What at first appears that it leaves no doubt, is put into question when someone starts to consider to what extent the facts are, indeed, obvious.

To place ourselves in this position it is essential to analyze it first to ourselves. Throughout our life and in the socialization process we acquire a series of prejudices, conceptions, positive or negative, about the reality. It is something that is necessary to develop and to extend the scope of our action and our response-ability to the environment that surrounds us. This is what we call “experience”.

 

Experience and prejudice

The experience, indeed, is a type of practical knowledge which provides a greater plasticity of response. As the saying goes: “the young man knows the law; the old, the exceptions.” But the experience is not something that is acquired in a passive manner, by the mere passage of time. Requires learning ability, reading one’s own life. When we confuse the nature of the experience and transform our own experiences in law, the experience ceases to be the practical knowledge that is and becomes prejudice. One of the characters seeks to make universal law the coducta antisocial that abounds in certain marginal neighbourhoods; the other, abandoned by his son, develops a generalized opinion towards all the children, and unable to face the reality of their feelings, projected onto all the children. Randomly stating how educated your son based on your own opinion on what should be a man. Without realizing it, his inability to understand and respect his child is what caused at the time that he will leave her. And that inability is what leads him to deny their feelings, while it is dominated by them to become prejudices. When reality forces him to give his arm to twist him speak: “I curse you to all the children by the giver of life”. It is the time of the atonement.

The portrait of the true experience provided by here the old man of the jury, a man with true experience, with a keen sense of smell developed through the observation of a lifetime, that allows you to discern characters, motives, needs, in the various testimonies that the two main witnesses; it is from this subtle psychological knowledge as they manage to fit the pieces of the puzzle that were missing: why would they lie or disguise the truth from witnesses.

The next step is the dialog: Almost at the beginning, when the protagonist proposes a second round of voting would have given up if I had not found support. Justice can never thrive in a society that is deaf. The monologue, by truthful and instructive it may be, cannot transform the human reality, because it is basic and radically social. This dialogue, to be effective, must be focused, rational and objectively at all times. At this point it is essential to return to the beginning of the question, at the starting point: the view.

 

The opinion

The opinion, as we have seen, can not be free of prejudice. An opinion can only be acceptable to the extent that it can be reviewed. Human beings perceive reality from a perspective of existence, of life itself. To the extent that we are open to dialogue, to understanding other points of view, experiences and memories cease to be mere experience of a life and they grow in experience of the life.

Dialogue is essential for the vital development of the reason. The reason single, individual, is purely theoretical and contemplative. To be able to implant in the life, it is necessary that there be only one the one that is applied to it.

The last step, logically, is the understanding of a truth that is more radical, of nature as distinct to the closure of the previous reviews uncritical. You never know if the guy killed or not actually his father, but to the conclusion of the film, this is irrelevant. Anyone just in the process like that started; the security in the mode of intervention and expression of each one are giving the return; the strength of the prejudice weakens, the little society there concentrated is transformed. Rationality, in all its power, has fulfilled its mission.

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The characters

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 1. The president of the jury. Profession, assistant coach. A simple man in his judgments, but with a willingness to make things right. He looks good, but emotional and sensitive to criticism.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 2. The short guy with glasses. Employee in a bank. Personality weak, which is reflected in his own physical appearance, can not justify your first vote of guilty; it is the kind of man without apparent judgment, very susceptible to the environment, but that just waking up their values and become strong precisely as it is introduced in the frame of the reflection. Counterpoint of the publisher (no. 12), appears to be a man so fragile that you let dominate with ease. But the development of the debate makes you grow as a person by getting involved in the arguments and better understand. And ldesarrollo rational arguments, encourages you and leads you to discover your own strength and morality -at a certain time is confronted with the of the tickets for the match when he made fun whistling, who surprised are limited to responding, “you’re a little man”-.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· # 3. The wrathful. Says engage in the sale of insurance; is proud to have made to himself (“thirty-one employees, and I started out of nothing”). Soon it is known that his son left him a few years ago. Without the association of his judgment to his feelings (or rather, resentment) personal from the beginning, precisely when you declare without the need to adhere to the facts, without sentimentality (excusatio non petita, acusatio manifesta); something that, however, accuses angrily that he grew up in a suburb because you believe that it is whom you are encumbering on your target unconscious: to condemn his son symbolically through the conviction of the young defendant. Without realizing it, he identifies with the dead father, and his son with the boy to the judge. However, its release will come precisely from where I least expected it: when the pressure of the social environment-the rest of the members of the jury – makes him see that his struggle has ended, all the torrent of pain that leads inside explodes, and causes it to collapse. It is the only thing we see of him at the end: a broken man before the recognition of your own truth and before the defeat in the battle so fiercely had undertaken. The loneliness and shame seem to lower the curtain for him; perhaps the viewer, emotionally biased against “the bad guy”, you could simply wait to rejoice for it. But it is quite another message emerges. Our protagonist, Henry Fonda, understand. What seems to be a total defeat, it may be for this man, a new starting point. In this gesture, he put the jacket shows your understanding and support, making to leave as the room. To face his own reality, has purged your heart. We don’t know that it will be him, or the future of your relationship with your child. Nothing of it appears in the movie or anything we can deduce. But what it does show is that the protagonist was not looking for victories, awards or revanchismos. Who seemed an enemy, was no more than a man who is suffering. Nothing can help disguising the reality, because this pain and this deception will spread to your surroundings-remember that you play with the life of a human being-; each which should open the eyes to its own reality and face your own destiny.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 4. The broker. This character offers a curious mix between parallelism and contrast to the played by Henry Fonda. The same logical thread of the argument is wound between these two men, each one of which part of defending a verdict opposite of innocence or guilt. This character conforms with coldness and detachment to what he says his reason, and is able to change their minds without hesitation when, only by the force of the arguments, you have a reasonable doubt. His judgment does not depend on anyone; not looking for sympathies or antipathies, or disturbed that I could inspire. The angry attempts to seek his complicity in all the time, clinging to the logical arguments that he does not know how to. In the same way, and despite the fact that others live the debate as a struggle between two sides, establishing complicity and animosities, expresses his detachment, independence and impartiality when, without getting up, answer ymanda silence to the excited and prejudiced, no. 10.

 

However, being your reason inflexible, it is not he who sets in motion the mechanism of the argument or reveals the inconsistencies of the evidence of guilt. Why is this happening? We talk about the need for rational reflection on morality, and this leads us to a radical point of the question. Without a logical approach firmly taken it is impossible to impose ethics on the world, because to change the world or redirect his course is necessary to get to know him. But what begins the path to justice is, without doubt, the concern for her, and this is what moves to Fonda; our main character is part of a concern moral: that guy used to get hit after another, deserves that we dedicate at least a few words. There are a empathy of our protagonist towards the defendant which does not affect, in contrast, to this other man. Don’t want to say this without attitude and moral criterion: it does not put any problem in devoting your time to a case that nothing affects your life, that is not going to benefit nor harm. Nor is there any passion that prevents you from changing your vote when it reaches the criteria that the justice needed: reasonable doubt. We have been seeing how the passions and feelings can disturb the judgment: override our capacity of issue, blind us to evidence, to fight against them if they threaten our interests. But the reason alone, conceived in its most cold and impartial, it does not explain the whole of ethics. Has produced a restlessness, a feeling of rebellion, of dissatisfaction with the reality of the world, to activate the mechanism of the moral response. And this concern provides the empathy. Empathy is a form of knowledge closer to the noahic that the logical thing to do. It allows us to put ourselves in the place of others from a perspective of emotional. Its nature consists in the emotional recognition of the feelings of others. The greater is the degree to which the individual possesses, the greater will be his goodness. The higher your rationality, the greater will be your ability to have a sense of justice and carry it out.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 5. The who grew up in a suburb. His presence at the trial is important, because it represents the counterpoint to the prejudices of the other of them (no. 10). It is a character that brings the reflection that the influence of the environment is not everything in the modeling of the personality: far from being a delinquent to most, is an honest man who has struggled to get ahead with honesty; it does not appear to have reached a position of importance in society, but retains dignity in the face of his own conscience. Your past helps to build reasonable doubt, to explain the handling of the razor for those who are used to it. This shows that each individual life has some experiences different than others, so the age is not a determining factor of the experience: your experience about the suburbs only you can provide it here.

The scene in which he is accused, without foundation, for the no. 4 soft and sentimentalist shows how to operate the social prejudices on individual morality: knowing his origin and circumstances, that it presupposes what may be their critical attitude, their emotions and their character. Despite the fact that this character is trying to judge with impartiality, bias and the offense received could have cancelled his / her intention to dialogue if the facts had not shown the rejection of the other. In effect, it could have been he who had changed in the first place their vote for moral reasons, but the distortion of this intention would have nullified your credibility and right to speak in society.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 6. The more young, employed, by profession a painter. It has a noble character and is governed by principles, a quality that manifests itself when it comes out in defense of the old man in front of the no. 3 at the beginning of the film. Do not have prejudices, so your approach will be clean, and aiming to find the truth. But, as he confesses to the protagonist, you are not used to make decisions, to think, so that, in principle, tends to accept the appearance of guilt without perceiving these inconsistencies of the statements of the witnesses. This is not a character of low intelligence, but of excessive modesty in its capacity of reflection is concerned. However, it is able to recognize arguments when the situation presents itself.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 7. Who has tickets to the baseball game. Of profession, seller of jams. You do not have the slightest interest in the result. Your only concern is to stay the shortest time possible. Changes his vote with that single purpose. Represents a type of person primary, selfish and hedonistic, in the more vulgar meaning of the word. Avoids responsibilities. This personality type tends not to admit criticism and to not allow you to alter your rest. Your judgment is limited to criticize the way and when the way: this is why you do not have a consistency of opinion. Expressly declares that it uses the humor and the joke with that purpose.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

·No. 8. The main protagonist. Of profession architect. is the character who starts the debate, pointing out the duty to speak. Stand out in his huge temperance and rationality. With these qualities is able to cope with a society –that these twelve men are metaphor– hostile, diverse, clinging to his own preconceptions of the world and their rooted habits of behavior and judgment. This rational domination of your person is what confers the independence of judgment, and the firmness of his convictions. The mere fact of disagreeing peacefully with all, in the beginning of the trial, presents us with the character of the character. Caused and even insulted on several occasions, it does not cease however to maintain its stance of dialogue. In fact, placed their qualities in a superior position: to endure such attacks, and this closure without losing your cool, you are good to go knowing and clarifying each personality, which will be used in your favor when apart one of the arguments: who heard the boy threaten death to his father.

 

But there is another essential feature in it. It is not only that it is guided by his reason and that he adheres firmly to the objective analysis of the facts (this same attitude, as we have seen, also maintains one of its strongest opponents: the stock broker). It is also a man of ideals. Believes in justice, he feels obliged to carry it out. The ideal is the motivation, and without that motivation it would not have felt the need to find a review of the so-called evidences that were presented at trial. It is not the only member of the jury with a moral conscience, but the only one that puts in appearances, to the social pressure, the “realism” conformist that premium in the beginning in other characters. Even when his most enervated opponent crumbles, it is the only one that remains close to him, the only one who shows empathy, warmth and respect, helping you to get the jacket. It is, therefore, a character of great empathy.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 9. The old man. It is not the most eloquent or rational, but his finesse in lapercepción psychological witnesses, is of vital importance. Represents the experience of that form of discernment of the particular, the singularities of the life. It appears as a humble man, without success, that life has not granted any recognition. When he describes one of the witnesses at the trial, declares against the guy seems to look to himself. Speaking of an old man, poor man, seems to be that no one would have wanted to hear ever, whose experience nobody requires. For once in her life feel important: people are watching his word; what he says is going to have an impact. Afraid of being humiliated and displayed as an old useless.

 

Interestingly, that feeling, a mixture of vanity and lack of confidence, which makes the boy could be condemned unjustly is the one who will give strength to the old man of the jury. Despite the wisdom that his experience alone has given you in life, there seems to have never had the opportunity to prove, not only to others but to himself. Unlike the witness, he is not activated by the mere vanity of being heard, but by the admiration he arouses the moral attitude of the protagonist. Yours will be a decisive experience and saving: overcome by convincing the iron rationality of the stock broker (no. 4) marks the triumph of the desire moral to guide the discussion: getting to reasonable doubt. Without his insight and fineness psychological –it looks very well, declares, and we must add that not only with the eyes– would not have been able to question the woman’s statement.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 10. The one who despises the people of suburbs. Owns a chain of garages, and for the duration of the deliberation is losing money. His prejudices are of a social nature; to nullify their capacity for reflection and obcecan to the conviction. By your personality type, your judgment and ability to of learning and criticism are deadened by the selfishness and greed. Identifies exclusively with his property. It is this greed that prevents them from perceiving in the guy charged more than a member of that social class threatening to their interests –they are “criminals”– and that, by its shortage of resources, you may not get any advantage.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 11. The lord of moustache. By profession a watchmaker. It is a character little flashy, but no less necessary for the development of the action. The conviction of the members of the jury in face of a reflective and responsible to reality is only possible in the measure in which each person is willing to do so. Some people are unable to access the reflection for the single moral force that implies, but it does yield to the pressure of the society, in which we have to develop our life and our interests; hence the importance of the moral values of a society. This is another character decidedly temperate and moral, representing a point of support more to create that social conscience which press on the arguments as biased, interested, and contaminated by the emotions of each individual. It will be him who will denounce the lack of moral principles, who wants to go to the baseball when you change your vote.

 

12 hombres sin piedad. “Una duda razonable”

· No. 12. The publicist. It is a relatively young man, of the presence more or less bet. Your outgoing personality and professional development of the eloquence to confer an appearance of security and personality that is lacking: for his profession, is accustomed to persuade you to get purposes, not to analyze the reality as it is. Your mastery of the persuasion do to be overvalued in this aspect and that shows his weakness when, already advanced in the judgment, the adherence to the truth of the facts is imposing and it is this quality which gives you success in your work and your life, is inoperative. At that point, you hesitate and change your vote several times without any real conviction.

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(Original article published 3 June 2009: http://cadenasverticales.blogspot.com/2009/05/doce-hombres-sin-piedad.html)

The images here seem to have been linked to the original source of the article.

NOTES

  1. Callejo Gallego, J. (2009). Introduction to the techniques of social research. Editorial Centro de Estudios Ramón Areces, SA [↩]

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