The suffering child in LeGuin's story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" is the scapegoat for the misery of others, so that the others are able to live in comfort and happiness.
The concept which LeGuin explores in this work of philosophical fiction is that of the greater good, a concept explored in William James's The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life. In this work James writes on a supposition that one person might be able to absorb the pain, illness, and misery for all others:
Or if the hypothesis were offered us of a world in which...millions [could be] kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a...
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