Introductory Philosophy through Crystals and Heroes of Light

  • Title: Final Fantasy and Philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough
  • Part of: The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series
  • Editor: Jason P. Blahuta and Michel S. Beaulieu
  • ISBN-10: 0470415363
  • ISBN-13: 9780470415368
  • Current Goodreads rating: 3.55 out of 5
  • Current Amazon rating: 3.8 out of 5

What’s this all about?

«Final Fantasy and Philosophy» is a book of short-ish essays about philosophy topics that arise from playing and watching the Final Fantasy games. Mostly FF VII because that’s the one everyone loses their minds about.

What sort of topics?

The books in the series are not so much a deep dive into modern philosophy; rather they tend to explain “core” philosophy concepts and ideas through the lenses of popular culture. This particular book deals with the games in the series, while also taking a brief detour through the movies («Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within» and «Final Fantasy VII Advent Children»).

Mind you, these are not bad literature by any measure, but they are directed towards a more casual philosophy reader (or rather, a philosophy-interested gamer). It’s certainly more than your typical high school philosophy class, but it certainly is not the edge of philosophical thought.

Generally speaking, the authors pick a general topic (and sometimes a game) and guide us through the general thought process of great philosophers and philosophical currents. There are few definitive answers—par for philosophy—and the authors generally are positive about letting the reader ponder the subjects for themselves.

Chapter summaries

  1. The FFVII saga; writerly texts and how the Compilation of FFVII is a great example of Barthes’ ideals.
  2. Kefka; the concept of «madness» as a means of control; knowledge, nihilism and the meaning of life.
  3. The FF series; common elements; art appreciation; David Hume; great works of art, art critics and art standards.
  4. The Lifestream and its real life analogies; holism vs organicism; reductionism vs mechanism; the Gaia Hypothesis; reductionism in sciences; Dr. Cid’s Gaia cannot be reconciled with reductionism and mechanistic features of science.
  5. Gaia hypothesis; its interpretation in «The Spirits Within»; reasoning for and against the use of force against Gaia; relationship of humankind to the larger Gaia system.
  6. Objectification of living beings; Kant and utilitarianism and virtue ethics; some paradoxes; Aristotle vs Nietzche’s virtue ethics.
  7. The meaning of life; FFXI; how to judge FF characters according to Hobbes, Mill and Aristotle; judging the players; potential cans of worms
  8. The Four Heroes of Light; prophecies; free will (and lack of); responsibility (and lack of); alternative views by contemporary philosophy; biological considerations and ramifications
  9. FFVII and Shinto; kami and tsumi; analogies with post-WWII Japan; invading cultures; cycles of life and death.
  10. Communist ideals, unfulfilled in FF series and why. Pre-FFXII
  11. FFX and Sin and Yevon; a society trapped in a promise; Machiavelli’s and Nietzsche’s arguments for a worldly life; two possible endgames
  12. FFVII; Cloud’s demeanor; existentialism with Heidegger, Sartre and Nietzsche; freedom to choose; good faith and bad faith; (in-)authenticity.
  13. FFIX; fear of death; subjective and objective values; memories; Epicurus and death; is death harmful?; what do you value? Why do you fear death?
  14. Cloud Strife (FFVII and FFT) and Cid in the FF series; direct reference theory; Russell’s descriptivism; Searle’s criticisms/problems; Kripke’s objection; names across all counterfactual states of affairs; «lineages» of names; causal histories and «dubbing ceremonies» of referents; their problems and possible futures

What do you think, Andy?

This is just about the perfect amount of philosophy for a hobbyist like myself. There’s good topics and even though I don’t like how over-represented FFVII is, I see a good variety of themes, names and questions (unlike that other book «Superman and Philosophy»).

Is it the frontier of Philosophy? I’m sure it’s not. Some reviews have criticized this book for being shallow and trivial. I believe those reviewers expected this to be a very different book. As mentioned before, this series it not so much the deepest explorations of philosophy—an idea that is hinted by the fact that this is not a philosophy journal—but a non-fiction book by a large publisher for a general audience.

Should you read it? It’s not bad, and the independent chapter structure means you can just jump to whatever strikes your fancy and forget about the rest. Me? I have an irrational liking for the [Final Fantasy] series as a whole—even if I have trouble with specific games—and so I read the whole thing as a treat to myself. It’s just the right amount of food for thought versus mental snacks. If that seems a good thing to get for your time and money, go get it.


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