South Park and Philosophy: Bigger, Longer, and More Penetrating

By Richard Hanley | Go to book overview

14
Are We All Cartmans?

RICHARD HANLEY

When in “Cartmanland,” Cartman gets a million dollars, and Kyle gets a painful hemorrhoid, Kyle doubts that there is an allpowerful, knowing and good God. Probably Kyle thinks he is a better person than Cartman, and so in a just world would do better and not worse than Cartman. But is Kyle really a better person, and why?

The obvious answer would go something like this. Kyle is not perfect, but he's pretty normal, whereas Cartman is a completely selfish asshole. Kyle often tries to do the right thing, from good intentions, whereas Cartman is out to get everyone else if he possibly can. Even when Cartman appears to be well-intentioned, this is always just a front. “Maaaamm,” he begins, and we know some bullshit is on the way, as he tries to talk his mom into giving him exactly what he wants for himself, such as entering the Special Olympics in “Up the Down Steroid.”

To put it bluntly, Cartman seems purely egoistic. He seems always to act to further his own perceived self-interest, and for no other reason. For instance, in “Cherokee Hair Tampons,” Kyle needs a kidney transplant, and Cartman is the perfect donor. Cartman will give his kidney to Kyle, all right—for the bargain price of $10 million! His actions might produce benefits for others, like saving Kyle's life, and Cartman might even recognize beforehand that his actions will benefit others, but this seems to motivate him not at all. If anything, that an action will benefit others seems to count as a reason against doing it for Cartman, but this isn't necessary for pure egoism. It's enough that it never counts as a reason for doing it. Contrast this with

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