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Psychological Egoism in the Buffyverse

zobothehobo

Scooby
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Psychological egoism is defined as the theory that people never do anything that's not even a tiny bit selfish. The idea is even things that seem to be selfless on the surface, can and are actually selfish under the surface. The concept of psychological egoism isn't a foreign concept to much of the fandom. In fact, the evidence of psychological egoism irritates many fans, especially when it comes to Spike.

Spike is the biggest, most obvious example of psychological egoism in the Buffyverse. He fought in demon trials and became the only vampire in the history of the 'verse to win back his soul. But he didn't do it only because it was the right thing to do. He also did it for Buffy. To give her what she deserved, and therefore be with her, like he wanted. He played nice with the Scoobies so that he wouldn't get staked. Some would even say he sacrificed himself in Chosen so that he would look good, like a hero in Buffy's eyes.

But Spike isn't the only example of psychological egoism in the Buffyverse. It could be said there's evidence of psychological egoism (in it's most extreme form) every time Buffy or anyone saved the world. The doctrine of psychological egoism states that everything that anyone does benefits them in some way. Saving the world prevents that person's own death or hell torment (depending on which appoclypse we're referring to), therefore, making it true to the doctrine of psychological egoism.

There's also evidence of psychological egoism in the actions of every other major character. It could be stated that every time Willow practiced magic when it helped someone, it also helped her by boosting her power and her ego. When Xander skipped class in Welcome to the Hellmouth to go help Buffy, he was practicing psychological egoism. He was going to help his friend, and therefore not lose a friend. When Giles did pretty much anything, it could be viewed as evidence as psychological egoism. On the surface, Giles looks like the most selfless character. Because even when he's not being payed to do any of the stuff he does, he does it anyway. But, it could be said he does it because 1. he would die if the world did and 2. he likes helping, it makes him feel good. All of the sacrifices Joyce made while parenting Buffy were because she loved her daughter and got joy from seeing her daughter in school.

Psychological egoism isn't only in Buffy either. It's also seen in Angel. Cordelia is the most obvious example in Angel. She agrees to become a demon and give up the life she claimed she'd always wanted so that she could keep the visions and help. Her motivations were very similar to Giles' motivations while not being paid by the Watcher's Council.

She's no the only one in Angel. Gunn's self motivations are the most obvious of the bunch. But even when they're not, when he agreed to stay in the hell dimension in Underneath for example, they're still there. When he agreed to that, he remembered what he did and being in that hell dimension, paying for what he'd done to Fred, made him feel better about it and himself. Furthermore, underneath a lot of the "obvious" motivations Gunn had, was also that helping gave him a sense of purpose that he had been lacking all his life. Fred agreed to help out and not go back home with her parents partially for similar reasons to Cordelia and Giles, but also because at the time she had a crush on Angel. And Lorne stayed for so long because of the sense of community, family, and purpose the work gave him.

So you can see that the doctrine of psychological egoism holds true in the Buffyverse. All of the major character prove it with their actions at some point in both of the two shows. Underneath every seemingly selfless act, is a selfish motivation.
 

Tyger tyger

Betty Louise Plotnick
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Seeing as how Buffy is intrinsically altruistic by virtue of being the slayer it would only make sense for her nemisis to be her converse paradigm. But I feel by taking this veiw you are oversimplifying the show's narrative ability. Universal positivity is the antithesis of the shows allegory... with Angel we see a dual concept of self morally distinct from each other with limited insite into the others mental state like MPD patients. While the dual selves are depicted cognitive in constant flux. Without bringing up mental dualism and perception of self one can see in order to avoid one dimensional villains have dynamic selves reacting to situations much like people. Though Adam (I'm pretty sure intentionally sense Walsh taught abpsy was a Feudian ubermensh... hence why they did a scene from Oedipus Rex hilarious and precursor for ego vs duty in the face of prophecy... and moral rationality. Tubula Rasa (both the theory and.the episode) reinforce this. Might I add Joss is a Humanist. So he is probably always lean to the "choice above all things" and Evil is an action a state of being.
 
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zobothehobo
Well of course this was simplified. You could write a book on the complexities of this subject

Angel's vision

Silence! I Keel you!
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Psychological egoism isn't only in Buffy either. It's also seen in Angel. Cordelia is the most obvious example in Angel. She agrees to become a demon and give up the life she claimed she'd always wanted so that she could keep the visions and help. Her motivations were very similar to Giles' motivations while not being paid by the Watcher's Council.
To expand I thought her reasons were both selfless and selfish. Also irresponsible. I say selfish because she wanted to have a particular status that would boost her self esteem. Her imge of herself was if she had an elevated status she would feel happy and secure, her upbringing told her that to not have elevated status or some kind of importance you were not worth anything. Irresponsible because she gave no thought to the consequenses of her actions, took on board in blind faith all that Skip told her. She even blamed it entirely on Jasmine, not thinking of her part in things or gave any understanding of what it is like to make bad choices when confronting Angel over his.

Her death was a tragic waste and needless sacrifice. Cordelia is a perfect example of
Psychological egoism. Angel's sacrifice at the end of not fade away is another example. It was not only selflessness on the surface, (he had had enough of people using him,(powers that be, wolfram and Hart) letting him down, ( Scoobies) Judging him without mercy or wanting to encourage change ( both Cordy to an extent and Scoobies yet again)inside he felt powerless to change the situation.) It was the selfishness inside that made him express hoplessness and acted accordingly, bringing down the enemy (to an extent) with him, in a show of school boy retaliation.
 

Robb Stark

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Well, with all due respect, and while I found that to be an interesting read, I don't really agree with it. Of course every decision we make in life is gray. Very rarely are things totally black and white. But I don't think that things like "she saved the world because she didn't want to die" are grounds for diminishing what Buffy (or any of the others) did.

The two biggest examples I came up with are Buffy in "The Gift" and Cordelia in S3 of Angel (I can't remember the episode). Buffy sacrifices herself to save the world. I mean, I guess you can make some sort of argument that she did it because it raised her opinion of herself or whatever, but honestly, that sounds like crap, and even that played into it, I don't think it weight nearly as heavily as wanting to save Dawn and everyone else.

And the same applies to Cordelia giving up the life of a Hollywood actress, something she'd craved for years and years, in exchange for continuing to receive visions and help Angel. You can't tell me that's a selfish decision. Her doing that so that she felt better about herself isn't a good enough reason. She did it because it spared some other poor soul who would have taken her place and because Angel, and by extension the world, needed her.

I don't know. I've heard of psychological egoism before and while I'm sure it applies in many, many aspects of life, I don't think Buffy is one of them, or at least, not in a few big instances. The whole thing kind of states in principal that every decision we make isn't for truly altruistic reasons, and I just don't believe that.
 
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thetopher
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thetopher

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He fought in demon trials and became the only vampire in the history of the 'verse to win back his soul. But he didn't do it only because it was the right thing to do. He also did it for Buffy.
Spike didn't win back his soul because it was 'right'- there's no evidence of this. He did it only to get Buffy, to be 'what she deserves' and no other reason. He even tells her this when he's got a soul in S7. There's no other motive, those come later.
 

bespangeled

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Spike didn't win back his soul because it was 'right'- there's no evidence of this. He did it only to get Buffy, to be 'what she deserves' and no other reason. He even tells her this when he's got a soul in S7. There's no other motive, those come later.
Agreed - Spike couldn't know a soul was what he needed until he had a soul. But I think he also wanted to protect Buffy from him once he realized he was capable of hurting her. It was the one standard he had for being more than a demon and he destroyed any idea that it was achievable. He needed to prove to himself that he was able to control his actions so he went and bought himself a leash....with razor wire that he didn't expect to have included.

I agree with psychological egoism. There is nothing we don't do for some sense of personal gratification - including flagellating.
 
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