Thursday, April 3, 2014


      Throughout this entire class we've read texts that are confusing, difficult to read, and just plain weird. As I sat back and thought about the final project, I began to find connections between some of the novels. That presence is psychological egoism. Psychological egoism is the idea that people are motivated by what we perceive to be in our own self-interests (IEP). With the help of Marcuse, I believe it is possible to make a psychological speculation that connects Jimmy Corrigan, Frankenstein, and Neuromancer through the idea of psychological egoism.
        In each story we are faced with main characters that act selfishly and many of their motives are weak or almost dumb. In Marcuse's first chapter he delves into the theory of "repressive needs" and "true needs". In each of the three stories, we can see these needs that Marcuse discusses. The execution of these needs changes and impacts the three stories in multiple different forms and facets.
        In a class named narrative and technology, this semester we spent time reading stories that fuse technology into interesting stories while also playing video games with complex story lines. Taking a step back for the technological aspects, looking at the stories as a whole we can see numerous similarities, many of which are psychological characteristics that multiple protagonists share.
        In Jimmy Corrigan, we see obvious psychological deficiencies in every aspect of his life. Many of Jimmy's biggest draw backs can be traced to his father having left him as a young child. But this doesn't completely explain his obvious psychological egoism; he ignores everyone in his life, including his mother. Yes, Jimmy is suffering from severe mental issues, but that doesn't discount the fact that he lives each day in hopes to self-satisfy.
       For Neuromancer, the psychological egoism occurs before the story starts and impacts the course of the story. From what we know, Case was a successful computer hacker, until he got greedy. His possessive desires inevitably ruined his life. Moves to Japan, meets a girl, the usual romance ensues. With Case however, things are slightly different. Even with the confusing story and dialect that encompasses Neuromancer, the fact that case is essentially on this hunt for his own well-being exudes his egoism.
       The most obvious case of psychological egoism is Victor Frankenstein himself. Victor is a man who set out to create a new race, just for fun and because he could. When he was done creating, he abandoned his work because it wasn't what he wanted it to look like. Victor puts his selfish needs and desires before he even considers anyone else in the entire novel.
       The topic might seem intense in the grasp, but I feel like it can be formed into a psychological view of the course that we have taken as a whole, from beginning to end. For this proposal the use of psychological studies and other views on egoism would be beneficial. In C.D. Broad's entry to The Hibbert Journal, he discusses the theories of egoism and examines the different reasons behind it. I believe with a deeper understanding of psychological egoism, we can more thoroughly understand the characters we read about all semester. With just a shallow reading of these books without trying to find deeper meaning in the stories and characters, are we truly able to assess the narratives we experienced all semester?

Bibliography (I assessed their benefits within)

Broad, C.D. "Egoism as a Theory of Human Motives." . N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.
Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2004. Print.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. By Steph Lady and Frank Darabont. Perf.
 Kenneth Branagh, Robert De Niro, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, and Aidan
 Quinn. TriStar Pictures, 1994.
May, Joshua. "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Psychological Egoism []. N.p., n.d. Web.
 31 Mar. 2014.
Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon, 2000. Print


Kristen Welsh said...

I really like the concept of your essay – that people are motivated by their own self-interests. I think that psychology is an excellent realm of study to base a research paper off of. Characters are the integral part of any story. Truly, without them, the whole story would cease to exist. To examine how a character’s mind works is the perfect gateway to understanding the character, and then on a broader scale, the book as a whole. I also like that you are fusing so many of the stories together, three and Marcuse, because you will be able to show your understanding of a good portion of the class concepts, which is what a final project should do.

I would be very careful analyzing four different works together, though. You don’t want to spend too much time on one or two of the works and little time on the others like I noted in the essay we critiqued in class. You need to make sure that you strike a good balance between the four.

If you’re still looking for sources, then I went ahead and did a search on JSTOR, a database I like on PittCat. I found an article by a famous philosopher, W.D. Glasgow, that I have heard a lot about that goes into detail about psychological egoism. He lays out the theses for motive egoism and principle egoism, both of which have to do with psychological egoism. You can use his views on these two types of egoism (principle egoism is his revised form of psychological egoism) in order to supplement your argument with another accredited philosopher’s viewpoint. The link to Glasgow’s article is:

Good luck! I think you’re off to a great start!

Adam said...

I'm tempted to just let Kristen's comments stand without adding any of my own - they're dry useful.

Let me emphasize her point that you might be trying to work with too many books - one or two is usually better than three or four. I'd also like to understand your exact agenda with Marcuse - for instance, I feel kind of like you're arguing that Marcuse is providing the counterpoint or alternative to psychological egoism, which is interesting (and would be an interesting way of using Marcuse to read, say, Frankenstein).

So the approach seems solid, but I want to be clear on what really matters here. What should the reader take away? My suspicion is that Marcuse is central to that, but I might be misreading. And do consider focusing on fewer books rather than more.