William James's lost souls in Ursula le Guin's utopia

Philosophy and Literature 28 (1):89-102 (2004)
: Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973), a staple of short fiction anthologies, was inspired by James's "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life." In Le Guin's moral tale, a devastating bargain causes some citizens of Omelas to reject their apparently utopian community. Although critics have seen this rejection as a Jamesian act of pragmatism and free will, this essay examines the story in the context of "The Moral Philosopher" and other writings by James on pragmatism, its moral consequences, free will, and faith to refute that conclusion. I argue, instead, that James's work suggests responses that reflect his thinking about the limits and meaning of possibility and about sustaining belief in a transcendent force
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