In the story, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, two points of view are introduced. The Kantian point of view is contrasted with the Utilitarian point of view. In the story there is a city named Omelas, in which a single child suffers so that the community may live with great happiness. Most of the community accepts the fact that one child must suffer for happiness to exist. However, the odd citizen becomes so disgusted with the fact the child is allowed to suffer that they leave Omelas for good. In this essay, one character will be a Utilitarian and another character will be Kantian. The two characters will debate the issue of sacrificing one person for the good of the community, and they will answer the question, Would you walk away from Omelas? The first character is named Sandra, and the other is named Ben. Finally, this essay assumes that Omelas is a unique city on the planet earth.
Ben: I went to look at him yesterday.
Ben: You know him, the one locked up in the basement of the old church. I finally got up enough courage to go and see what the sacrificed one really looks like.
Sandra: I dont like how he is just called the sacrificed one. Im sure he must have a name. Everybody has a namethats just part of what make us a person.
Ben: What do you mean!?He needs no name. Why would he need a name? Nobody is allowed to talk to him, because that might give the impression that we actually care about him. You only need a name if you interact with other people, just like how when I talk to you I call you by your name. I will never talk to the sacrificed one.
Sandra: Never? But that doesnt show any respect for him he must deserve at least a little respect. Every person on Earth deserves respect, even the sacrificed one.
Ben: He doesnt deserve any respect. Giving him respect could jeopardize all that me and you have. His pain allows us to live with such joy. Our parents lived like this, and their parents lived like this. It is almost like happiness is a tradition in Omelas.
Sandra: Sure, Omelas has always sacrificed a child in order to achieve happiness for the community, but why doesnt the rest of the world also do this. If it is such a good idea, why too doesnt every city on the planet adopt this method?
Ben: Every other city is ignorant to the benefits that are achieved through a sacrifice. I feel that the world would be a much better place if everybody lived such as we do. Our life is a life of constant utopia.
Sandra: I think that the world doesnt adopt our idea about sacrificing because they feel that it is morally wrong. Quite frankly I would have to agree with the rest of the world. How would you feel if someone you loved were forced into a life of suffering and confinement? If it was someone such as your sister or brother? What if it was you who was chosen to suffer? Would it still be acceptable if it was you who had to live a life of pain and isolation? I think that most people in the world would argue that it is immoral to allow someone to suffer.
Ben: Your argument against sacrificing is based on morals, however decisions shouldnt be made based on morals, but rather on the outcome of those decisions. Actions, such as sacrificing, should be measured according to the overall happiness it will achieve. When weighed out, sacrificing produces much more happiness than if we didnt sacrifice. Therefore, allowing one person to suffer is perfectly acceptable. It is our duty to make sure that maximum happiness is obtained for all.
Sandra: Sacrificing this child is an action that has no moral worth. You allow this child to be sacrificed because you want to be happy for the rest of your life. Youre not accepting the sacrifice of this child because its your duty; youre doing it because you want to be happy. Therefore your acceptance holds no moral worth.
Ben: I accept the suffering based on the overall consequences. Overall, the suffering is justified and thus acceptable. The happiness of the whole city greatly outweighs the suffering of the child, and this makes the sacrifice okay.
Sandra: The fact is, a childs life has been ruined. I cant see how this is justified.
Ben: Let me give you an example of how a sacrifice was made in order to protect the whole world, including Omelas. World War II was ended because of a great sacrifice. A bomb was dropped on a city in Japan and a large number of people were killed. This destruction caused Japan to surrender, and ended the war. Had the bomb not been dropped, the war would have continued and millions of people would have died. Omelas lives in freedom because the bomb was dropped and the war was ended. This is a case of how the resulting happiness of the whole world, outweighed the sadness caused by the bomb. Would you rather live without freedom, without happiness?
Sandra: Of course I want to have freedom and be happy. But there must be another way to achieve these things. Why must we sacrifice a person? This child is a rational human, he has rights, and he deserves respect.
Ben: How can you argue that he is rational. When I went to see him he was about as irrational as anyone could be. He is an imbecile. he is afraid of mops and he just sits there and whines quietly, eh-haa, eh-haa. He has no idea of what happiness is, and probably never will. Therefore, I have no problem with allowing him to stay locked up and suffer so that the rest of the city may live a perfectly happy life. You argue that it is wrong to keep him locked up because he is a rational being, but I have just explained why he is not rational. Do you still think that his suffering is not justified?
Sandra: I can see how you would argue that he is not a rational person, but dont you feel guilty because you get to enjoy happiness while someone suffers.
Ben: Let me ask you a question. Would you rather live in a different city? In a city where there are worries, murders, hurt, and sadness? Could you give up constant happiness? Could you walk away from Omelas?
Sandra: Honestly, I couldnt live somewhere that didnt bring me happiness all the time. I guess that being a part of the Omelas community forces me to accept the fact that someone must suffer for me to enjoy life to the fullest.
Ben: Dont forget that the suffering child will never know what happiness is. He is an irrational child. He is barely functioninghe is an imbecile. Having the child suffer is justified because the happiness of the whole city outweighs the suffering of the child. I dont see how anyone could ever leave a life of continual happiness. I dont see how anyone would walk away from Omelas. I would never walk away.
Sandra: I too, could not imagine my life without continual happiness. But, my decision to never leave Omelas is an interesting decision. Ive just realized that I came to my decision through the same method that you used for your arguments. By this I mean, that I came to my decision through weighing out the consequences of leaving and staying. I came to the conclusion that staying would give me the greatest happiness. I even took into consideration the fact that I may feel guilty because I know that a child is suffering so that I may live a life that is full of pleasure and joy. I now see that the suffering of the child is in fact justified because a whole city gets to live a life of pure happiness.