The Corner

Vampire Rights Cont’d

From a reader (and lecturer in philosophy):

Subject: Spike is an exception to rule: “Vampires have no more rights than Inquiring Murderers” 

Mr. Goldberg,

When the Nazis come to your door and ask you if you’re hiding Jews in your attic, you tell them “No.” Even though you are, in fact, hiding Jews in your attic. The (Inquiring) Murderer has no moral rights. (That’s why killing a person in self-defense is okay.)

Vampires are like Inquiring Murderers. They are vicious (in Aristotle’s sense). They have left the governance of the Law of Nature (Reason) to live by the Law of Animals (“Kill or Be Killed”), and thus become “outlaws” (as Locke describes in his 2nd Treatise).

The one mistake Mr. Schaff makes is to miss the difference between having Reason, and using Reason virtuously (or being ruled by Reason). The vicious person/vampire has Reason, it’s just subordinated to emotion/desire.

It’s only because Spike gets a chip implanted in his head — which introduces a tension between his mind and his emotions — that he becomes not-fully-vicious (and therefore attractive to Buffy, or worthy of being thought about as having moral rights).

Me: While I agree that the transformation of Spike into something of a morally respectable being begins with the chip in his head, it’s worth keeping in mind that he’s not totally redeemed and respectable until he is actually re-ensoulled. Which brings me to this email:

What would the founding fathers say about a vampire WITH A SOUL?Corner readers demand an answer!

Me: I think the founders would agree that vampires with a soul would be eligible for the presumption of having rights. Though I’ve always thought this was a bit of a problem with the Buffyverse in that in the case of Spike and Angel it is assumed that having a soul equates to having something like a properly formed conscience. This is hard to square with all of the evil perpetuated by normal, soul-possessing, humans. 

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