Moral Bounds

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What are the moral bounds of sacrificing a child's life for the enhancement of all others? How does living in a land with a buried burden affect its citizens? Although these rhetorical questions are complex and difficult to answer, this problematic situation is present in many contexts in our society today. In this paper I will argue that the captive child should be free to live, not just survive in LeGuin's dystopian short story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. In order to support my claims, I will first dissect the main points of the story in order to introduce the ethical issue. I will then connect Aristotle's deontology roots to explain why the child should have never been sacrificed, and thus be set free immediately.

The utopian city of Omelas is introduced in the short story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas written by, Ursula Le Guin. The aromatic, soothing description of Omelas pulls the reader in to easily picture the beautiful land and what joyus treasures it holds. ...a cheerful faint sweetness of the air (1). In the beginning, the reader is introduced to Omelas celebrating at a summer festival. The delicate and picturesque image of the city alludes the reader to believe it is a perfect place. However, Omelas is only beautiful on the surface. Whereas an innocent child lies captive below its land, barely surviving; an ugly price for the happiness of those at Omelas. ...there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window.

A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed window somewhere across the cellar (3). More and more citizens are gradually introduced to the buried horror that is Omelas. And despite their transparent reactions, they do nothing. The dilemma then becomes, is it the responsibility of the citizens to free this innocent child of the daily torture and horror it has experienced? Or, are they ethically correct to sacrifice one life to those of many?

To connect The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas to an Aristotle perspective, one must understand deontology ethics. In moral physiology, deontology ethics is ethical theories that place special emphasis on the relationship between duty and the morality of human actions ( In other words, basically the grasp of deontology is the idea of do unto others as you would want done unto you. Aristotle was a very famous deontology philosopher. In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, he emphasizes the role of habit in conduct. To state it more explicitly, Aristotle believes an actions count as virtuous.

In relation to The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas based on Aristotle's beliefs, what would Aristotle do? It is not hard to know that Aristotle would believe freeing the child is morally and ethically the right thing to do because--actions count as virtuous. An utilitarianism ethic point of view would disagree with Aristotle. Utilitarians believe the best ethical choice is the one that will produce the greater good for the greatest amount of people. Furthermore, a deontology ethical standard is the best most moral decision in terms of the child.

In conclusion, Aristotle's deontology roots are the most ethical solution for the well-being of Omelas and the child. This is because, although it will impact all citizens of Omelas, it is ethically incorrect to let one suffer at the benefit of others. In other words, the citizens that agree with utilitarianism beliefs in this case are benefiting at the cost of an innocent child. Which overall, is unethical and wrong. Personally speaking, I take the deontology/Aristotle side being that I Thus, to answer the overlapping question; Aristotle would indeed free the innocent child even considering the fact that the lives of all Omelas citizens will be impacted.

Works Cited

  • Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
  • Utilitarianism. Ethics Unwrapped,
  • Aristotle, and W. D. Ross. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford University Press, 1959.
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Moral Bounds. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved July 12, 2024 , from

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