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“In selfish men caution is as secure an armour for their foes as for themselves. What I think of on this point is, when self is the fixed point the centripetal force is balanced with the centrifugal; when duty, a cause, etc., is the fixed point, the latter force is paramount, and only accident or a series of accidents can balance it.”

What, exactly, is Seward trying to say here? I think he is using “accident” in a philosophical sense, to mean “circumstances”.

So I would paraphrase this musing as:
“When someone is primarily driven by self-interest, concern for their own safety and well-being keeps them from extreme acts that may have negative affects on themselves. When someone is driven by an ideal, they do not fear for themselves, so the only thing constraining their actions is external circumstances.”

Renfield, we later learn, wants to consume insects, animals (sparrows, kittens, and cats), and human blood in order to become like a god. So that is self-interest. Jonathan and his fellow vampire hunters pursue the Count all the way back to Transylvania in order to save Mina. In this selfless pursuit, they spend a great deal of money and also risk their reputations, their freedom, and even their lives.

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