Let's Get Philosophical! Part II

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More from the "Let's Get Philosophical" topic on Mighty Big TV, 2/22/01-4/1/01
February 22,2001 01:18:42 AM EST

lejo, thanks for raising the question. Although "one girl in every generation" is probably the most important premise of this show, the writers haven't attempted to address why. Why can't there be more than one? Why can't there be boy-slayers (I mean slayers who are boys, not slayers of boys.)?

There have been many occasions when the entire world depends on Buffy's decisions/sacrifices. Putting aside the issue of fairness to Buffy, is it fair to the world? Why should a world of 6 billion people let one girl determine its fate? If the TPTB is really concerned with the greater good, they should let the greater part of the population participate in the fight for good.

That said, does "good" mean good for TPTB? It would explain a lot.

February 22,2001 01:36:46 AM EST

If you're going to assume omnipotent - or even reasonably powerful - Powers, you really have to decide they're not Good as we understand it. Else the way they've jerked Buffy (and Angel - I think the "Pangs"/"I Will Remember You" crossover makes most sense as a big ol' Angel manipulationfest) around makes no sense.

On the other hand, you could assume they *don't* have much power to directly influence events in the world proper, and this is for whatever random reason the best they can do.

February 22,2001 02:13:30 AM EST

Oy, I wasn't using my ellipsis for rhetorical purposes (not that I'm morally opposed to it or anything)! That was an incomplete sentence.

I've been reading up on Hegel and I've come to the horrible realization that his logic is damn near implacable. Thank god for that little pea under his mattress (well, Fool IV used all the good ones with Whistler!) we like to call the subconscious.

At any rate, I've decided after last night's "Angel" that neither Hegelian nor Kantian doctrines are appropriate analytical tools for the Buffyverse. It is too distinctly existential in flavour.

I'll come back to this after I've had some sleep, 'cause right now I keep thinking of Fool IV's (Word! on the underclass vibe, BTW. I've felt it too) Gedankenexperiment paper, only with Schaferin instead of Schachterin.

February 23,2001 7:04:44 PM EST

lejo & Kenshin -

I always thought the "why a teenage girl?" thing had to do with menstruation.

Sweeping generalization here, but many earlier, matriarchal societies celebrated girls when they became women. Fertile women were considered extremely powerful for their ability to create life.

In patriarchal societies, menstruating/fertile women, particularly unmarried ones, tend to be feared - on the surface of things, for their sexual power but most likely for that same ability to create life & bear children.

Regardless of whether they are celebrated/feared, many cultures have a tendency to isolate menstruating women (i.e. they are somehow out of mainstream society during the period of time that they are bleeding). For example, sending them to certain menstruation tents/huts to live during their periods, not allowing them to touch men, and not allowing them to enter churches.

I thought these elements of power, isolation from society, ability to bear life (as a foil to Slaying duties) etc. all probably come into play. Would be interesting to see Joss & co. explore this...

February 24,2001 12:27:18 AM EST


Of course, the real reason they did this was something like "I thought it would be cool if one of those women that gets trapped in a blind alley kicked the monster's ass for once." according to Joss.

But why, in show-logic, would it be that all the Slayers are adolescent girls? I agree that it has something to do with menstruation; that something being puberty. It makes sense to me that someone whose body is going through changes already would have an easier time adapting itself to Slayerness.

Why a girl, though? I'd have to say that it could be genetic, carried on the x-chromasome, so that only people with two of 'em can become Slayers, or it could be that girls have more of a "bait" factor, which makes them better at attracting vamps to stake. Or possibly a combination of both. Interesting question, either way.


Hehe -- when you said 'bait' all sortsa naughty things went through my mind.

February 24,2001 01:25:41 AM EST

Y'know I studied this stuff during college and wrote papers on it, but whenever I see it or try to think about it my brain goes poof! Hegel the Bagel and Kant the Cunt.

Both are really impenetrable and in the long run mean....jack.

I think I've always thought of the PTB on Angel as being like the Greek/Roman gods in mythology: mortals are just placed there for their amusement. Or there was some Anne Rice novel I can't remember the name of where it talks about how the God and the Devil have a deal where neither of them could win because then they would both cease to exist. I kinda picture the TPTB and the Evil PTB(?) as having a similar deal. Demons/vampires/whatnot have permission to run across the earth amongst the humans in exchange for the evil forces not opening the Hellmouth and the good guys not completely eliminating demonkind. Cus seriously. I don't think it would really be that hard to open the Hellmouth if you got your shit together. And if you're really interested in winning a war against evil, you send more than a teenage girl to fight for you.


Yeah, alkibiadhs, I know what Joss says. I'm just retrofitting...plus I'm on day 7 of this super toxic flu, so the rest of the thread is making my head hurt.
So...in show-logic...I like the X-chromosome theory, but I don't really buy the "bait" thing (bad, lejo, bad, no Scooby snack for you). Ideas about girls being the weaker sex are relatively modern - in ancient times women were considered spiritual powerful & worshipped as such due to their connection to life/birth/Mother Earth/whatever.

To me a female (= life) being chosen to fight death makes lots of sense.

I'm going to go take more Robitussin now..

February 24,2001 5:18:43 PM EST

Great theory, geminigirl. I think it explains the "teenage girls" part pretty well. However, it doesn't explain the "one in every generation" part.

Can't TPTB at least allow one slayer for every continent? How was a slayer in 1500 Europe supposed to stop African demons from bringing an apocalypse? linden was probably right about the deal between the higher forces of Good and Evil. Stupid politicians.

Fool IV
February 24,2001 6:01:34 PM EST

My pet theory is that the Slayers aren't technically chosen at all - or at least not by the Powers. The idea is that the Slayer was originally a rogue dark power that inhabited a human girl, but didn't eat her soul. The Powers or the Watchers or somebody manages to break this "vestige magick" to the cause of humanity, and the Slayer-essence just keeps flitting about from vessel to vessel, with the Watchers racing behind, trying to figure out where it's going to go next, via various divinations.

Mmm, I don't know, this feels more speculationish than philosophical. On-topic, on-topic... Most philosophy I've encountered is based on the supposition that humanity is the only sentient species, and current universalist ethics are based on the bedrock belief that all people are morally equal. Has anyone run across serious philosophic studies of what a first contact would mean to ethical structures based on the idea of humanity as a whole? Of course, said hypothetical studies would assume extraterrestrial contact, rather than "gya! demons among us!" I seem to remember that Tolkien intentionally created orcs as an irrevocably fallen race - not created by God, but rather a rebellious demiurge. I seem to remember that CS Lewis commented on it.

February 24,2001 7:05:52 PM EST

Hey, that's a really nice point about Orcs...they do seem to have a real connection to vampires in that way. And I feel a need to respond to whoever was talking about dense philosophy being useless; I think it's only useful insofar as you're interested. Being very interested, for whatever reason, I think both of them might go a ways towards solving Buffy's morality problems. The orcs' inherent damnation always really bugged me, as does the irredeemability of the vampires. Is this because I'm just personally an existentialist (existence precedes essence), do you think, or is it more that this sort of thinking gels better with most people's experience of the world.

Fool IV
February 24,2001 7:21:32 PM EST

I kind of think that irrevocability and exceptionalism both feel like hypothetical thin edges, sort of a racialist foot in the door. The modern western consensus is build on universalism; it could be ever-so-easy to generalize the orc into an allegory for some race or class you didn't like. You can usually kick up a lot of dust in any Tolkien fan gathering by bringing up the allegory assertion - that tLotR can be seen as an extended allegory of interwar England.

Edited because adverbs will be my downfall.

February 24,2001 7:46:49 PM EST


A variety of thoughts, all philosophical-

On Souls - As we've seen in the jossverse, a soul seems to be a little bit more than a simple conscience but less than the total spirit of a person (i.e. the soul is not your personality- Spike, Dru, Angelus, Darla et al. all have personalities without being "souled"). Perhaps the soul is a combination of superego, general nature/orientation, and "ability to change".

Vampires "don't have souls". However, they have the (corrupted) personality of the body's previous owner, complete memories of the human, same general intelligence and abilities, with the demon overlay (extra strength, healing, supernatural power/weaknesses). If the soul is the superego, the loss of the soul leaves the person with just ID and EGO, i.e. no stopping the base desires. With the demon spirit taking the place of the soul, the personality now has an orientation of "hunt. kill. feed.", and has no connection with humanity- no particular empathy, nor a drive to feel bad about what their doing. In fact, feeding and killing are *good* things (according to the new nature of the beast) and the ID is unrestrained. Vampires also seldom change their MOs or beliefs or patterns after beginning their unlife. This may be the function of the human soul- the ability to change your base nature. After all, it doesn't appear that demons change their base natures very FAST- they stay a certain template their entire existences, perhaps slowly "corrupted" by their presence on Earth, but within an individual's existence, things stay static. (tm previous on this thread)

Thus, the human soul is important because a) it provides the ability to change from base nature (which, as was pointed out on Angel, has at least a portion rooted in Evil & Nastiness), b) it provides an "orientation" about other people at least (empathy? ability to relate/care?), and c) through B can act to reign in antisocial/evil behavior.

Thus "soulless" demons just keep doing their demony things until slowly changed to domesticity by this existence (involuntary change) while humans can choose to be good or evil at will/whim- a soul is not necessarily GOOD, but it allows for good behavior if you choose.

On Good vs. Evil - It seems that the critical distinction here is based on the human-centric viewpoint. Good makes life better for humanity, Evil makes life worse for at least a portion of humanity, on purpose. If this is the starting point of Jossverse morality, then Vampires, who's very nature & sustenance depends on at least the harming of humans (usually results in their death) and who reproduce by killing humans, are invariably EVIL by nature. Demons, on a case by case basis, are more or less evil depending on if they hunt humans or just hang out. Defining "good" beyond "comfort & happiness for humanity" gets tricky and I think that's where all religions in the Jossverse diverge, but "Evil" seems pretty clear-cut: you're contrary to *humanity* and its continued existence on Earth.

On TPTB, Goodness, and Why Do Demons Give a Fig About Getting Earth Back-

Why is it that, with a zillion demon dimensions, they're all pissy about "losing their purchase on this (Earth) existence"? Why are the ones that are trapped here (or come here) always trying to destroy the world? Why do some Vampires go along with this earth destruction idea when it means (to paraphrase Spike) they lose their happy meals with legs?

Well, if the human soul is unique in that it allows for a variable nature, then perhaps the "creation" or appearance of humans changed the nature of Earth so most pure demons were purged and only the hybrids remain. Or, perhaps Earth is the only dimension that *can* effect change in the multi-jossverse- the lynchpin, master set, etc.

Perhaps TPTB created the human soul, shooed out the demons from the earth and human existence is one big "change experiment" by TPTB. The Evil TPTB don't want things to change, but can't count TPTB's hold on Earth (for whatever reason), so they send minions from the demon dimensions to harm people and try and bring about the apocalypse. TPTB maintain our existence, but at the price of losing the ability to do much else- and also their interest is in the "change experiment", not so much active "good". So, as long as humanity in general survives, TPTB win. So long as humanity doesn't fundamentally alter the multijossverse, the Evil PTB win.... I guess an apocalypse happens when there seems to be a good time to affect the scales one way or another (and eliminate some pesky human souls while at it), and why TPTB send champions out. It would be cheating to just stop the apocalypse- the choice and the struggle is the POINT of TPTB. Hence their aloofness to individual hurt and pain- "just stop the apocalypse, if you can".

Kind of makes universal/godly morality in the Jossverse as "Good = Change (that keeps humanity around)" vs. "Evil = Status Quo (or that which reduces humanity).

The implications of the soulness idea is that while Spike has the "functional equivalent" of a superego that prevents him from doing harm to humanity (directly), his base nature is still that of a predator, and he lacks both a visceral connection with humanity and the ability to change his nature. Can you love someone that you don't "feel" for (the human soul connection)? Without the empathy, the focus brought on by "love" simply becomes intellectual obsession, I think.


February 24,2001 8:01:05 PM EST

This is from "Reprise" I'm a little confused as to what this topic is supposed to be about(?) but I think it fits with what I was saying above about the deal between the "devil" and "god".

Angel: "You're not gonna win."
Holland: "Well - *no*. Of course we aren't. We have no intention of doing anything so prosaic as 'winning.'"
Holland laughs and for the first time Angel turns his head to glance in Holland's general direction.
Angel: "Then why?"
Holland: "Hmm? I'm sorry? Why what?"
Angel: "Why fight?"
Holland: "That's really the question you should be asking yourself, isn't it? See, for us, there is no fight. Which is why winning doesn't enter into it. We - go on - no matter what. Our firm has always been here. In one form or another. The Inquisition. The Khmer Rouge. We were there when the very first cave man clubbed his neighbor. See, we're in the hearts and minds of every single living being. And *that* - friend - is what's making things so difficult for you. - See, the world doesn't work in spite of evil, Angel. - It works with us. - It works because of us."
Oh, and umm...when I'm on my deathbed I'm not going to be pondering apriori this or that. That's what I meant by "in the long run" about a lot of philosophy not mattering. I tend to be a nihilist.

I don't think it's really what's in your heart that matters--whether man is inherently evil blah blah blah. Your actions are what speak for you and illustrate what is truly in there. Man has the capacity to do good and evil. This doesn't make him/her inherently evil.

Fool IV
February 24,2001 8:30:54 PM EST

What's in your heart might not matter to others - one presumes it matters to you - but the heart is one component which determines your actions, and that most certainly matters to others. Define "heart" as a combination of impulses and the sum total of a person's emotional relationships, and you've covered a lot of complex and broken terrain. Philosophy doesn't do well in mapping that terrain, but that's not its purpose. There's another element that tempers, restrains, guides, and directs the heart. That would be the mind, the sum total of rational processes, logic, education and intellectual experience.

Let's take the Aprilbot as an illustration. She's an interesting simulacra: she has a set of emotional responses, impulses, and a very rudimentary intellectual apparatus. I'd mark it down to her very newness. She has no intellectual depth because it requires time to accumulate that on one's own. Her creator was a dysfunctional geek, probably with no interest in anything intellectual outside of engineering/physical science. Thus her ethical intellect was retarded - she had no background against to judge her behavior. Her emotional relationships up to the beginning of the episode were totally limited to one person - her maker. She had no emotional experience, no connection to anything other than her and her creator.

Philosophy can’t help in development of emotional experience – that can only come with socialization. But it is a useful tool in developing an independent and effective ethical intellect. Philosophy can’t do much for a stunted heart – that’s the domain of psychiatry. But it should be useful for developing the mind.

February 24,2001 9:48:16 PM EST

Penseur, there's a BIG difference between good and evil in a universe of moral absolutes (objective OR intersubjective) as opposed to one where morality is a matter of perspective. And it speaks directly to the issue of whether vampires can change or not. I would equate the first view with Kant's argument that our notions of right and wrong are inherent, a priori and necessary (intersubjectively, at the very least) and the second with Nietzsche's denial that they have anything more than a psychological necessity.

In either case, I'm not sure that we really need to bring something as debatable and ill-defined as the Buffyverse conception of a "soul" into the discussion. On the surface, as Fool IV pointed out, there is no substantive, qualitative difference between the perceptual and intellectual capacities of humans and vampires. However, in Kantian terms, the simple fact of vampires being DEAD might explain why they are exempt from one of the most fundamental categorical imperatives ("thou shalt not kill" and all that), why they are no longer capable of relating to human beings, feeling empathy towards them and seeing life in general (sapient life in particular) as sacred and precious. Why should they, when they've already lost theirs and can only maintain the semblance of it by sucking it out of others? And, still in Kantian terms, the loss of this capacity for empathy would be irreversible, short of their becoming human again (or its being artificially and cruelly restored by some curse).

But if such moral commandments are merely psychologically necessary, because they happen to be useful in supporting and promoting certain values and a particular way of life, then there's nothing stopping someone from switching back and forth between different - or even opposing - moralities, whenever it suits them. In Spike's case, specifically, being in love with a human being would be the necessary and sufficient condition for him to revert (I was initially a bit put off by such backsliding, but later realized that it was quite unreasonable of me) to relating to human beings and respecting life in general. I mean, if a) we adopt a certain morality because of its value for the realization of our will-to-power; and b) what Spike really wants right now is to be loved, or at least accepted, by Buffy (and, implicitly, her friends. Accepted, that is), then he would adopt a morality that would help him accomplish that.

quote:The orcs' inherent damnation always really bugged me, as does the irredeemability of the vampires. Is this because I'm just personally an existentialist (existence precedes essence), do you think, or is it more that this sort of thinking gels better with most people's experience of the world.
alkibiadhs, thank you for so succintly summarizing my feelings on the subject. And I think it's for BOTH reasons.


posted February 24,2001 11:02:59 PM EST

In the interests of mutual backslapping, Manu, Word. And that's all I have to say about that.


posted February 25,2001 12:59:57 AM EST

I just want to say I never took philosophy in college (I was a math/computer science/literature major) and I now feel that I have just finished a survey course. Thanks (and I mean that).

posted February 25,2001 02:23:13 AM EST

quote:In either case, I'm not sure that we really need to bring something as debatable and ill-defined as the Buffyverse conception of a "soul" into the discussion.
Not to get all Keanu on you but, whoa. The debatable and ill-defined concept of 'soul' in the Buffyverse is for me the very *heart* of the matter, since it's various and sundry definitions have been presented to the audience as that substantive and qualitative difference between human and vampire natures.

* Vampires *are* EVIL because they have no soul.
* Humans are NOT evil because they *have* a soul.
* Non-vampire demons are only mostly EVIL because um, what was that again Joss? Oh, that's right you stink at math.

That right there is a big ole logic twist from which I find it impossible to extract any kind of sound argument for how morality works in Jossverse.

Not that I don't admire and enjoy posters efforts to make it happen
Like linden, the only salient philosophical thing I find communicated in the show is that good/evil are located in actions/choices not beings. And since vampires are meted out moral responsiblity they must also have some degree of free will, if they have free will they can change. Particularly if they are cursed with a soul or chip which allows a conscience to develop in oppostion to the bloodlust. Does that make either Angel or Spike Good? Hell no but it sure does make it interesting.

posted February 25,2001 04:23:13 AM EST

Fool IV--I'll probably respond to everything else later because it's like 4am, but your usage of the AprilBot makes no sense. She's a machine. A robot. She can't develop any sort of emotional or intellectual depth. She's been given a fixed set of "emotional" responses and obviously a very limited logic capacity (If I sit here long enough, Warren will return? Huh?). She can't accumulate any of those things (she can't judge behavior or develop a connection to anyone but her creator) because she's just like your calculator, but with breasts. Bad example. Pick someone else.

Oh, and a2zmom- Hegel and Kant are like the edge of the highest cliff overlooking the abyss. There are soooo many more.

posted February 25,2001 04:57:50 AM EST

blixie, what I was trying to suggest is precisely that the moral stance of the show is vague or, at least, inconsistent enough to allow for many irreconcilable interpretations. I happen to think that, in order to safely get that point across, it might be wise to avoid the word "soul" altogether.

I know that it's been thrown around a lot on the show, but have we ever been told what exactly a soul is? More importantly, have we ever been shown how a soul functions, other than precisely by affording one the capacity to feel a kinship towards humans, believe in the sanctity of life, etc., and, consequently, experience remorse at having ever acted against these prescriptions? All of which, IMO, can be explained without recourse to any metaphysical babble about inherent, essential qualities (as I've tried to show by arguing that DEATH was the substantive, qualitative difference between vampires and humans). Which babble is inevitably brought up by the connotations of the word "soul" (and I'm sure that the characters do have all these connotations in mind when they use it. I'm just not sure that it's not simply wishful thinking and CoW brainwashing on their part). Which is why I'd rather avoid it when discussing the morality of the show. Because I suspect that the use of a loaded word like "soul" is a large part of the reason why some people are so adamantly and vehemently opposed to the idea that vampires might change or be redeemed, when nothing that I've seen on the show established that as the incontrovertible truth.

Am I being coherent enough at this hour to convey the reason why I'd rather avoid such complication and confusion?

Of course, if your point was that all the theorizing in my post (and on this thread in general) is overkill and splitting semantic and philosophical hairs, you're absolutely right. But that's what this thread is for, isn't it? For people to get gratuitously philosophical.

Fool IV
posted February 25,2001 10:09:16 AM EST

Linden - Basically, that's why I called the Aprilbot a simulacra rather than a robot. An elaborate calculator is not capable of the most basic human interaction. In order to perform all of the actions shown in the episode, Warren would have had to have come up with an actual, working, sentient-level AI. By human standards it's still a pretty stupid person - along the lines of Dustin Hoffman's Raymond - but still, a person. Even the primitive, unsuccessful AI now in existence is capable of learning and gaining experience. Of course, the kind of AI necessary to make a Ted or April operational is highly fictional at this point, and Joss & the writers have the easy out of "Come on, Jack. It's Sunnydale." Sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from science fiction. :)

Manu - one point I wanted to make. The death/life distinction doesn't explain Angel's behaviour - he's dead, he's got a soul, he's buying into the human ethics structure. Also, the point about vampires only remaining active via stealing the life of the living - that doesn't fit the vampire mythology of *this* show. There are other vampire mythologies which rely on that metaphor, but the Buffyverse isn't one of them. Vampires like Spike, Angel, or Darla this last episode, have all been shown subsisting on cold, bottled blood. We've seen vampires raiding a bloodbank back in season 2. I think the conclusion is clear - vampires subsist on blood as a substance, not lifeblood as an essence.


Linden, this thread may actually only skim the beginnings of philosopical theory, but since I'm the mom of a 7 and 10 year olds I live and breathe practical ethics application every day (No, it is never ok to hit someone. Oh. Boy A was trying to stuff boy B into a locker? Well then, not only is it ok for you to have bopped boy A with your notebook, but I'm proud of you for doing so.)

In other words, this as much cant about Kant as I'm getting!

posted February 25,2001 3:24:49 PM EST

So, is a soul the same thing as a conscience? Does no soul equate no conscience? Because "Crush" aside, Spike has been pretty moral (by his own standards, I guess) to get Buffy to love him. Witness him not feeding off of victims at the Bronze, caring for Joyce and Dawn with no monetary compensation, etc.

posted February 25,2001 11:46:16 PM EST

Fool IV, if you're working from within the metaphor, as I was, Angel was simply cursed with a, umm, morality shift and what's really important is that vampires are [un]dead (having experienced death and now potentially immortal), whether they actually drink fresh blood or not.

However, both the curse and the fact that Buffyverse vampires are NOT really the classic lifeblood-sucking monsters of legend could be very significant in terms of analyzing the metaphor of the show. I'm just not sure whether that belongs here or in the Speculation thread.

B_S, I don't know what a soul is in the Buffyverse. I don't think it's ever been shown to be more than a conscience based on the fundamental principle of respect for life. I doubt that any of Spike's actions so far can be interpreted as signs of a conscience so defined, although he's always seemed unusually empathetic for a vampire. But there's still some potential. It's all up to the writers.

Fool IV
posted March 13,2001 10:16:02 AM EST

Taking the sociobiology discussion from the Spike delusion topic over here, per Manu's request. Since Manu argued that the memetic hypothesis is not falsifiable, I guess it belongs here, rather than in the Myth. Misunderstandings topic.

Milhous made an excellent point about the possibility of immortality derailing the evolutionary advantages of an altruism meme. Of course, in practice, few vampires are actually immortal. To quote Spike: if every vampire that claimed to have been at the Crucifixion had actually been there, it would have been like Woodstock. But a vampire with positive survival advantages will outlive disadvantaged vampires by a large margin, and thus have many more chances to reproduce by siring new vampires. On the other hand, siring lots of new vampires might be an anti-survival trait - the more idiot new ones rampaging about, stirring up society & encouraging pitchfork-waving mobs to go hunting vampires, the lower the chances for the sire to survive the turmoil.

So, one would theorize that vampires do not have a reproductive imperative, but they do have a survival imperative. To a certain extent, reproduction is contrasurvival. Hey, that actually sounds a little like American society after the widespread introduction of the pill. Economic survival being jeopardized by early reproduction, that is.

posted March 18,2001 9:17:35 PM EST

My apologies for neglecting this topic, Fool. It seems like every time I found the time to coax my thoughts on the subject into some semblance of order, the board was down.

First of all, I think it's important to distinguish between the memetic hypothesis (as I understand it, based solely on Dawkins' account in "The Selfish Gene") and sociobiology. The former does not pretend to be a scientific theory, but is merely a rather interesting and, hopefully, useful way of looking at cultural evolution as analogous to biological evolution (but very explicitly NOT genetically based). The latter, on the other hand, DOES have scientific velleities but, as far as I know, it makes no independent, falsifiable predictions and pretty much starts out by assuming things it should be trying to prove. Mainly, that animal/human behaviour can be accounted for in terms of genetically-based, evolutionarily stable strategies. I can tolerate that assumption for ethology (barely), but when it comes to self-aware, sapient, socially complex creatures like human beings... I don't think so. Furthermore, the neuroendocrinological research which might support some of its assertions is more than open to interpretation.

Of course, I don't think that psychology (minus neurology and neuropsychology) is a real science either, so I may be a bit harsh. Besides, since I'm only vaguely familiar with either field, I could also be dead wrong. But that's my impression, so I'd rather forget about sociobiology. No, REALLY.

As for applying the memetic hypothesis to vampires, for fun, that's a great point about siring new vampires being to a certain extent counter-survival. I hadn't thought of it and I believe that, added to Milhous' point about immortality, it makes for a pretty compelling argument against the propagation of an altruism meme in the vampire meme-pool.

However, I have serious misgivings about the very applicability of the hypothesis in this context. For the memetic equivalent of natural selection to be able to "choose" between various strategies/memes, there have to BE various strategies/memes, competing in a socio-cultural environment. I've seen little evidence of behavioural variation within the Buffyverse's vampire population and there really isn't much of a vampiric society or culture to speak of.

In fact, while I certainly DO think that vampires qualify as "persons" - since they are obviously sapient, sentient beings -, there does seem to be something essentially parasitic about them, both physiologically and psychologically/culturally. They seem to only define themselves negatively, in relation to - or reaction against - human beings, society, mores and values. They are... well, rebels and, as such, inherently dependent on that against which they rebel.

I find it fascinating that the personality and self-image of those vampires we got to know somewhat is very much a reflection of the times in which they became vampires. Compare the Master and Harmony: he's all feudal and sees himself in rather traditional, satanic terms; her idea of how to be evil seems to have come right out of Hollywood - she's a villain, ergo, she takes up smoking. Both Angel and Angelus' behaviour makes so much more sense when you consider the fact that Liam was both Irish, Catholic AND a product of the 18th century Enlightenment which gave us the Marquis de Sade. Drusilla is total 1820s/30s gothic romance. And Spike... well, he's the child of a later 19th century, rife with revolution, anarchy and nihilism and, even more interestingly, of an era which saw most of Nietzsche's works being published ("Human All Too Human" 1878-9). He WOULD seriously identify with the punk movement! Heh.

Sooo... I find that I can't really think of vampires as a different species.

Oh, god. This is totally not where I was going with this post. And now I'm too tired to figure out what it means. If anything.

Any ideas, Fool?

posted March 18,2001 11:22:32 PM EST

::giggle:: I'm sorry this is totally OT, but everytime someone calls Fool IV just "Fool" I always read it as though Mr. T or someone is saying it. "Watchoo think fool? I pity the fool who neglects this topic!"

I'm very very tired.

Fool IV
posted March 19,2001 12:05:27 PM EST

That's... interesting. Do you realize that you've just made an inadvertent case for competing memetic models of "evil" within the vampiric environment? I agree that there's precious little observational evidence of vampire "society' per se, but there does seem to be considerable evidence of peer groups and lineage-groupings of varying degrees of formality and organization. The Master's Order of Aurelius seems to be a strong example of "organized" lineage-grouping. Very structured, and efficient in maintaining the group identity - it survived for decades while the paterfamilias was locked in a mystic jailhouse. Most other groupings appear to be ad-hoc hunting groups, not exceeding a half-dozen in most of the cases I can think of.

But you could say that the lineage-groupings are built around the preservation of an ideal of evil - a cultural shadow, rather than a culture in itself. The Master exemplifies tradition - time-tested, careful, rigid, uninterested in innovation or change. The Angelus group is more of a "will to power" grouping, closer to the hunting-groups than the lineage-group that it spawned off from. Because the Angelus group emphasizes individual immorality, it displays a variety of approaches to wickedness - Spike as the howling anarchist and Dru as the mad Goth being the examples before us.

Interesting. I'm not sure where to take it, tho.

posted March 19,2001 1:26:13 PM EST

I do this all the time, you know. Start out an essay arguing one thing and end up arguing the exact opposite. This is the problem with having no real convictions or beliefs about the world - goodbye, consistency!

I'll have to get back to this when I get home.

Fool IV
March 19,2001 2:28:02 PM EST

In general, it's a good sign when the essay is extemporaneous. It means you are willing to follow the logic of an argument, rigorously laid out, rather than forcing the logic to fit the preconception. You'll notice that I tend not to commit myself too heavily in the early stages of a post - partially because I'm often unsure as to where my argument is taking me.

But then, you can get away with that sort of thing when you wear motley. :)

Objectivity - that's the crux of most of these philosophical arguments about Buffy. Whether the show operates from a standard of moral absolutism - an objective standard - or not. It's also a literary divide - is the narrative reliable?

March 20,2001 12:50:24 AM EST

Lesson the first: one should never post in the philosophy thread while still recovering from the mother of all hangovers. Again, not that self-contradiction is such a bad thing - after all, didn't Nietzsche say something about the will to a system being dishonest? Umm, yeah, that's the ticket: Nietzsche would approve. Heh.

OK, I think that while my conscious mind was rambling last night, my subconscious may have been onto something. Yes, there are shades of evil, from the Apocalypse groupies to... Well, Spike - the only vamp we know of who is actively anti-Apocalypse. Yes, there is some socio-cultural variation, from the relative complexity and formality of the Master's crowd (unfortunately, I have only vague memories of Season 1) to the haphazard groupings which seem more common. Enough for memetic selection to operate? Probably. But have we actually seen ANY evidence of vampire "society", culture and ideology evolving independently of human society, culture and ideology? IMO, no - it seems to me that all variations can be traced back to who, what, where, when the vampires were when human. That was the real point I was trying to make. And, dammit, it took me all day to figure that out.

Sigh. The truth is I don't really have anything interesting to add to this whole vampires-as-a-different-species thing (although I'd love to read more of your thoughts), because all that stuff about vamp personality/ideology being a function of the time period and circumstances surrounding the vamping has got me thinking about vampires as a metaphor again. And I think it's actually going somewhere topic-related, but my head keeps hitting the keyboard again and I wanna think things through before I post them. For a change.

March 20,2001 01:07:55 AM EST

Well, even Spike isn't all *that* anti-apocalypse. He was cool with it if it'd impress Dru back in "Surprise" and he was perfectly willing to let Angelus go through with awakening Acathla as long as he himself got to leave with Drusilla. I'll grant you he's no Master. (Hee, Spike and the Master. That could be funny...)

March 20,2001 01:12:09 AM EST

...Not to mention a kick-ass name for a sitcom.

Fool IV
March 20,2001 08:38:06 AM EST

I think we agree that vampire society doesn't exist in any recognizable form. Angel makes a pretty good case for demonic sub-cultures - the brain-eating demon immigrants from that bachelor party episode comes to mind - but it also seems to hold that vampires are barely-tolerated outliers to demon society.

Are you maybe moving towards an argument that vampires represent ossified examples of antithesis? Frozen shadows of candles long since extinguished? Ack, I have an attack of imagery coming on...

April 01,2001 12:42:21 PM EST

There's an amazing site devoted entirely to this topic that I thought some of us would find interesting:


Buffy Philosophy Part I