Superheroes 12/20 – Utilitarianism and Deontology

Today we looked at two competing philosophies appearing in Civil War: utilitarianism and deontology. Here are the class notes: deontology-consequentialism

Then, we read the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas. Post the answers to the following two questions in the comments before Thursday:

1) Explain how this story can be both deontologist and utilitarian. As always, back up your opinions and ideas with quotes from the text.

2) Are you more of a deontologist or a utilitarian? How would your guiding philosophy inform your beliefs about whether or not you would stay in or leave Omelas?


7 thoughts on “Superheroes 12/20 – Utilitarianism and Deontology

  1. 1. This story can be both deontologist and utilitarian because one part in the story mentioned a dark basement under the beautiful public building, “it has one locked door, and no window,” where they have one child sitting in the basement. “To exchange all the goodness and grace of every life in Omelas for that single small improvement: to throw away the happiness of thousands for the chance of happiness of one..” The line goes with utilitarian because back to what we talked about during class on Tuesday with deciding to give the kidney to the billionaire who’s offering money to help about 10,000 people or give it to Mr.Smith who has been waiting for years possibly it’s the same thing with Omelas. They sacrifice one child to feel horrible, naked, and strip them of their happiness to help preserve the happiness of possibly 10000 people in Omelas. Utilitarians believe the morally right action is the one that provides the greatest good. A deontologist moment in the story would be as the people soon realize after being enraged at this kind of idea that is being done that it won’t matter at the end because even though the child is released it would not receive as much freedom as they would, but know because of that child they know how to raise theirs. “It is because of the child that they are so gentle with children.”
    2. I do not really know where I would fall under. I feel like my beliefs could change from time to time where i can be dentologist, but then at some point when I am faced with a situation I could move to being Utilitarian. I think it varies whenever a situation occurs. I think i would leave Omela. I would not feel right that they would sacrifice a childs innocence and happiness to help give 10000 people happiness. Did that child have a choice to do this or was he/she tricked into doing this? I do not think i would walk away into darkness, but I would walk away from the darkness of Omela because is it really a bright, beautiful, and happy place if they have a hidden cellar for a child to suffer in for the happiness of others and “young people go home in tears, or in a tearless rage.” Is that child actually creating happiness by doing this if others are distraught about learning what the “beautiful, bright and happy,” Omela is doing?


  2. 1- The isolation of the kid and stripping of any clothing that can have the kid relate to the people in omelas is to benefit all others but one the source of happiness emanating from one kid’s sorrow. This is utilitarianism due to the happiness of many outweighing the happiness of one person. They emphasize on this by making the one kid feel alienated thus leaving the kid at his worse to keep the joy spread amongst the others. The deontology can be visible by the actions of the people who make up the town when they discover that their happiness is the byproduct of a kid’s suffering, rebelling and seeing that everyone should have the happiness. The breaking away of the set system gives the people the happiness that was better then the one they were given from tears.
    2-im more of a utilitarianism of a guy due to me seeing that if you can spread happiness to an abundance of people by the sacrifice of one person then it’s a chance worth taking. however the sacrifice would have to be noble and not an act of alienation nor disgrace for then the amount of happiness gain wont outweigh the suffering. My philosophy would lead to me leaving omelas once the discovery that the sacrifice of that one person isn’t from a noble act.


  3. This story can be both deontologist and utilitarian because it shows the act of seeking to produce good for the greatest number of people in Omela, also shows a moral aspects towards the person who is being sacrificed for the happiness of the city of Omela.

    The city of Omela is a perfect world where people live happy without worrying about anything. However thier happiness is based on the sacrifice of a child that they have locked in a poor place with paucity of food. “ In the room a child is sitting. It could be a joy or a girl”( Ursula K). The people from Omela know that this child child is the person that provides them the perfect world. The child could scream and ask for help but the people could not help him/her because they know that’s the person that had formed their perfect Utopia. Therefore on this part of the story they are focus on the good for the greatest number of people which fall into the definition of Utilitarianism. On the other hand this story can be an deontologist as well. This is due to the fact that people of Omela know know that sacrificing the child was wrong. Therefore they leave Omela to walk away from the sacrificial of the child. “ they leave Omelas , they walk ahead into the darkness and they do not come back”( Ursula K). This shows how these people are focused on the wrongness that is happing in the city of Omela which fall into the definí of deontologism.

    In this case I am more deontologist than utilitarian because I feel that it is so wrong to have one person to suffer for your happiness. I know sometimes we need to weight the consequences and actions and decide based on the circumstances. However in Omela they are sacrificing a child so in this case I would rather leave Omela than live under the sacrifice of a poor child.


  4. What the heck did you make us read shulkin :/

    1) The story can most definitely be used to describe both utilitarianism and deontology. One being for producing the greater good for the greatest number of people (utilitarianism). And the other for on the spot, moral and ethical beliefs and justices (deontology). Because of the fact that some people leave and choose not to do anything in helping the child, it helps provide the “freedom” the people in omelas have. Where as if one was to help the child, the deal would be broken! Thus leading to a mishap society and not causing the greater good for the greater people.

    Now with deontology, it’s a little different. There’s not proof that there is actual deontologistic thinking by anyone in the story because no one actually helps the child out. HOWEVER! Because of the thought of helping the child out, I believe it will place you under the catagory of deontologistic thinking. So when the people go and visit the child and go back home in anger with tears because they wish to help, disregarding the consequences is an example of deontology.

    2) Would I leave? Sad to say but yes. I would definitely have misdemeaning thoughts about myself being cowardly for not doing what’s right in helping the poor child but I wouldn’t face the greater cowardly action of knowing that I live in a place where that is allowed. So technically I’d fall under utilitarianism, because I don’t want to be the one to carry the burden of having messed up everyone else’s “happiness”. But I feel It overlaps with Deontology because of the fact that I would feel the need to help the child and for not staying in that city


  5. 1. The story can be both Utilitarian and deontology because Towards the end of the story it reads ” They know that if the wretched one were not there sniveling in the dark, the other one, the flute-player, could make no joyful music as the young riders line up in their beauty for the race in the sunlight of the first morning of summer.” utilitarianism is when one believes that the right choice is the choice that’s best for the most people even though one may suffer. The good of many outweigh the needs of one so the happiness of the kid that is locked in the closet means less than the happiness of everyone. The story can also be deontologist because in the story it reads ” Often the young people go home in tears, or in a tearless rage, when they have seen the child and faced this terrible paradox. They may brood over it for weeks or years” The kids of the town feel remorse and empathy for the kid locked in the broom closet which demonstrate a deontologistic way of thinking. Deontologists feel that you have to treat others the way you want to be treated. So for a moment the kids of omelas show deontology.
    2) I think I would leave. I wouldn’t be able to live with the guilt I’d have for the kid. I wouldnt be able to stay and not do anything. I think I see things in the perspective of a deontologist. People should treat others the way they want to be treated.


  6. The story is an example of both utilitarianism and deontology because the place being described is a utopia and everyone is enjoying life although with one flaw. The flaw is, that a little boy is stuck to live in solitude and only fed a little amount of food. Sort of like what we discussed in class if a life would be sacrificed for the greater good or someone would choose their life instead. In this case the little boy is being sacrificed to endure the mistreatment in order for humanity to live in peace. Although if he chooses to leave then all would come to end. “Often the young people go home in tears, or in a fearless rage, when they have seen the child faced this terrible paradox,” which goes to show that one is too endure the bad things in the world for the greater good to help out humanity. In a way this could also be deontology because the little boy could feel that it would be morally unjust if he choose to leave or seek help because then no one would be happy or live in peace.
    2. I would leave or trade places if I were to witness what is exactly happening to the kid. Or stand against the situation because it would be morally unjust for one to be sacrificed for our own benefits. Although If the boy agrees with what he has to endure and does not want to be helped then my view would change because I can’t make him go against what he wants to do.


  7. 1. The story can be seen as having aspects of both Deontology and Utilitarianism. When soldiers come home from war, what greets them is normally a celebration in their glory and triumphs but in Omelas, the city “do without soldiers”, they don’t have soldiers so “the victory they celebrate is that of life” and not glory. Glory and triumph are examples of intrinsic motivation and beliefs which aligns with Deontology because we are adhering to our “intrinsic nature”, or inner desires and not basing our decisions on what would be the consequence of not having soldiers, for example, what would happen if the city is attacked, they would have no one to protect the city. We know there is life outside of Omelas because in the past, people in Omelas have “[walked] away from Omelas”, furthermore, we know there is land outside of Omelas, which we can interpret there is the possibility of life outside the walls of Omelas but it may not be know to them. Another example is the boy playing the flute and the “people pause to listen, and they smile, but they do not speak to him”, the concept explored here is similar to the ideology at Clark University where people are allowed to do what they feel comfortable doing and not showing judgment, this is example of what is good for the person but not for the people because the boy playing the flute, the flute playing is making the boy feel happy but not the people collectively as a whole.
    Aspects of Utilitarianism peak out when the story introduced the boy in the basement, because of his sorrow and unhappiness, the people of Omelas are happy. Their happiness “depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery”. One child bears example of the world’s unhappiness in order for the rest of the people to be happy, after seeing unhappiness, we begin to appreciate what they have now and happiness more.

    2. I hold my beliefs very highly so I view myself more of a Deontologist. I am not willing to compromise my beliefs in order to make others happy. My beliefs are my sense of self, if I discard them then what would stop me from getting swept up by the beliefs of the others and becoming one with the masses. I would end up losing my individualism. I also have a high belief in being unhappy, even though it can be unpleasant at times, unhappiness is what allows people to appreciate happiness more. Sticking to my beliefs, if I saw the child in the basement and saw that the city was creating a false state of happiness, I would “walk away from Omelas”.


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