|Dean, Castiel, and Sam|
And yet every season is distinct because the answer to that question is informed by each brother's previous experience as well as the experiences and opinions of those who know them best.
Over the past 9 seasons (I am currently waiting for 10 to come available through my library), each brother--and Castiel--have formed a personal philosophy about life and people: when to get involved, when to stay removed. The philosophy of each morphs with time yet remains true to that character's personality.
|Sam, Death, and Dean (Gadreel)|
This is not exactly libertarianism which claims, correctly, that sometimes inaction is a positive act. Sam's point of view is far more subjective; consider, for example, the heartbreaking request he makes of Death at the beginning of Season 9: if he dies, it will be permanent and "no one will get hurt" by bringing him back.
To a large degree, Castiel--who has also burnt a number of bridges in his pursuit of the right course--agrees with Sam: it's better not to get involved. Castiel, however, is run by a slightly different set of desires, which continually pull him back into the action.
|Sam and Castiel (Benny in the background) in Purgatory.|
Arguing with Castiel, Metatron (played by the marvelous Curtis Armstrong) proclaims:
And the angel tablet--arguably the most powerful instrument in the history of the universe--is in pieces again and for what? Oh, that's right-- to save Dean Winchester. That was your goal, right? I mean, you draped yourself in the flag of heaven, but ultimately, it was all about saving one human, right?From a military or economic point of view (both legitimate points of view, by the way), Metratron is right--giving up everything for one man might sound noble; from the above mentioned points of view, it is rather stupid.
From the point of view of heaven, however, it is utterly perfect, even Aslan-esque, hence the undisguised wonder in Metatron's voice. He is flummoxed yet impressed, disgusted yet awed. The preservation of one man is worth everything to Castiel. The individual matters!
Dean's philosophy might be best summed up as "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Dean is a romantic pragmatist who deals with whatever is in front of him at the moment. Unlike Sam and Castiel, he doesn't dwell on possible future ramifications as much as problems in the now. Interestingly enough, as C.S. Lewis would argue, this puts Dean closer to eternity than any of the other characters; C.S. Lewis argued that since the past is gone and the future is largely imaginary, the place where real action, affection, and faith occur is in the present.
Dean is run by a constructive desire--to keep his "family" intact. Out of all Supernatural's core characters from John Winchester to Sam to Castiel to Crowley, Dean managed the best to build a functional home-life (Season 6). And he left only when pushed to extremes.
|Dean's disappointment in Castiel.|
In sum, Sam wants to lead a life that doesn't cause others harm; Castiel wants to save the individual, and Dean wants to keep his home intact, which entails sometimes siding with Sam and sometimes with Castiel (or, rather, entails non-action or action as needed). All three positions have equal merit and the tension between these positions, which develop and expand with each season, create good drama.
*See Dean--I have my own theory about the missing God and Dean's true identity; see above notes regarding Dean's philosophy.