Watching anime with Sartrean existentialism: a short reflection

I honestly never put much stock in Murphy’s law because I always sought to be the ‘true optimist’ in Sartre‘s words. In his seminal essay ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’ Sartre describes the true optimist to be the ultimate pessimist. Man can rely on and must rely on nothing else except himself. He must not find fate, God, or others to blame, because ultimately it is only he, and not these others, who can do anything about it. This is not to say that I’m perennially happy, but Sartre’s existentialist viewpoint has helped me put things into perspective. His existentialism is not the Gurren Lagann type of existentialism: he recognizes that we are situated in this world and we are all, as humans, characterized into a human condition. As humans, we are limited; we must, however, rely on no one but ourselves as we explore and develop within the world.

I had some time to, so ...

I had some time to, so ...

To many, self-reliance is a very scary and difficult thought. The reason why most people have gods is to be able to have something to lean on when everything else goes to shit. Yet Sartre argues that it is in this self-exile, in this autonomy, are we only able to achieve the fullness of our own human existence.

No, I haven’t become an apostate. I love my dependence on a God that for me lurks around and speaks through his silence. But I implement some of Sartre’s ideas in my life, and it has greatly helped me deal with stress that comes my way. For example, I have failed to obtain a minor in literature. The reason primarily is that the classes I should get for my minor were in conflict with my required classes. The only class available so that there would be no conflicts was incidentally a class specifically tagged for literature majors only. I was unwilling to endanger my final semester of undergraduate studies just because I was obstinate enough to take a class I wasn’t supposed to be on in the first place. My plans of going abroad to pursue further studies in literature fell into pieces: the only practical options I had were to either pursue medicine, or to teach biology.

I dislike both choices. Between the two, however, I would rather proceed to medical school than teach a subject I wasn’t even passionate enough for. With haphazard preparation I took the nationally-administered medical admission test, and I was very glad I was able to obtain a pretty good score. All I could hope for now is to get a scholarship, because I do not want to be a burden to my family (even if they wanted me to take medicine in the first place).

This thinking also applies well with regard to anime viewing. One can tolerate watching even the worst anime so long as one blames not the series, but oneself when one watches it. If I don’t like a series, I drop it. I will tell people I know that the anime is pretty bad; complaining about the series doesn’t really do any good, however, since I can’t change what is happening to it. Viewing series in this manner oftentimes makes me a lot more tolerant than most people.

Tags: , , , , ,

9 Responses to “Watching anime with Sartrean existentialism: a short reflection”

  1. IKnight Says:

    God: he’s like a lurker and a mod at the same time. I haven’t read much of (or about, for that matter) Satre, but, from what little I have read, really I liked the whole recognising-one’s-own-agency stuff. (If I understood it right, of course.)

    Glad to hear you pulled off a decent result in the medical admission test.

  2. jp Says:

    Never too late to pull a Robert C. Solomon!

    I love that you’re not simply reading existentialism but putting in practice what you got out of it. Philosophy would be useless if people were only to read and never act on it you know.

  3. Ryan A Says:

    It’s too absolute to say that only self-reliance is the true reliance. Perhaps if life wasn’t so interconnected on so many intimate and unimaginable levels throughout the universe, we could truly see a self-contained blame [etc], but for now it is similar to Newton’s 3rd…

    Wanting to help someone while they refused, but I helping anyway… one can be blamed for helping.
    Daughters born, then sold to smugglers… how could they blame themselves.

    There’s something in the free will of another which can drastically affect this notion of self-reliance and blame for a given individual. It’s extremely rare, but I feel it does break the absolute notion of pure self-reliance.

  4. Asperger's Anime Blogger Says:

    @IKnight: “God: He’s a lurker and a mod at the same time”


    @Mike: Good article, though a little short to explain everything I need to know about this.

  5. Michael Says:

    I have only read a few of his essays and will probably pick up his No Exit. Thanks, Daniel.


    I don’t expect anything, but I have Arturo Rotor and Anton Chekhov as role models, especially at the state I’m in right now.

    Ryan A:

    You’re right. Levinas says something about this, and he actually weaves it in such a way as to defend God’s existence (calling it the Wholly Other, though).


    I didn’t really seek to explain anything. I was just navelgazing and I came up with the idea to write it. Nothing truly deep or analytical, though: I need to read more on Otto, Levinas, and Eliade.

  6. Hige Says:

    You’re making me want to read Camus, Mike, and for that you get a reluctantly existentialist highfive.

    I think I’m existentialist by default. I was raised in a deeply religious environment but one that never denied questions or suppressed dissent. As a result I don’t prescribe to any religious ideologies but do have a healthy respect for those that do. Existentialism (from what I can tell) basically describes my natural state after being raised in that fairly liberal atmosphere; god isn’t a saviour nor is he a figure of blame. He feels more like an embodiment of what people are too fearful to find in themselves.

    I agree with Ryan that the concept of complete self-reliance is flawed and there’s obviously many aspects of our lives that we have no control over, thus can’t blame ourselves when they affect us adversely. I still support we shape our own ‘essence’ though… or at least, we can choose from the variety of essences that our socio-economic circumstances allow. That undermines the belief in agency for me in many ways… but I’m gonna stop there. Sorry to use your comments to think-out-loud. I have no idea what I’m talking about 😀

  7. jp Says:

    I don’t think Sartre’s doctrine of liberty is entirely a descriptive one. There’s a sense in which he just wants you to grab life by the horns and do everything you can to better your situation and the world. He says that at no point in your life should you throw your arms down and say “I can’t do anything about it”.

    He fought the nazis in the French resistance so he’s not talking out of his ass either.

  8. Michael Says:

    Camus is an awesome writer.

    >I was raised in a deeply religious environment but one that never denied questions or suppressed dissent.

    I was raised in this environment, too. I once was an atheist, but my parents were still patient with me and I slowly got back into religion, anyway.

    >He feels more like an embodiment of what people are too fearful to find in themselves.

    Nice. I agree. In the end, it’s only us who can define our own essence. What we all really have is just an existence: we are condemned to be in this world.


    Are you talking about Sartre or Camus? I know Camus fought in the French Resistance.

    I agree, though. He’s a take-the-bull-by-the-horns guy.

  9. Arletta Duris Says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and each time a remark is added I get 4 emails with the identical comment. There has to be any way you possibly can take away me from that service? Thanks!

Leave a Reply