The philosophy of C: a mock dialogue and a titular analysis featuring Kierkegaard and Hegel
I have often stated in previous posts that I am not very well-educated when it comes to philosophy, although I am indeed more knowledgeable on it than I am on economics. When people send me enlightening letters, however, I try my best to address what they write. This letter is special because it’s from someone who seems to know a lot more about other philosophers than I am; he also offers a different prism from which C can be viewed at. I can only welcome feedback like this. To Simone, thank you very much.
The mock dialogue
Simone: Michael, I hope you’re having a good day. I’ve been intrigued by your articles about [C]. Too often anime are seen as mere entertainment, subpar to other, more ‘serious’ media of expression. Reviewers seem to (forcefully?) avoid any debate set at an higher level than the usual topics – soundtrack, clichÃ©s present in the episode/series, character development, etc. I’m glad I’ve found someone willing to lighten up the discussion about the same series I like: I’m writing you to share my thoughts, hoping you’ll find this e-mail an interesting read.
Michael: First, thanks for the greeting and for the compliment. I do see most anime as entertainment, but I also try to give credence to it as a medium of expression. If certain anime pique my interest enough, I try to view the series through different lenses, so as to obtain more insight from it. Of course, it can’t be done to all anime series, but certain series like C are open to this interpretation and analysis.
Simone: The key concept of [C] is future. Future, in origin, is the realm of possibilities, which can become reality through the choices we constantly make in the present. This is also the way the future is comprehended in the present; but it’s more accurate to say that every possible future is comprehended in the present, not only the possibilities that will actually become reality. An individual chooses or discards one future through decision-making — it’s unavoidable. However, we cannot be sure a priori that choice A is better than choice B. And, even if we reach a higher level of happiness/wealth/etc. by making the ‘right’ choice, the amount of possible alternatives we’ve discarded, of potential future risks and subsequent[ial] choices spawned from that very choice, is infinite, and has a devastating weight, if compared to the weight of the individual’s inner self. We control the future through our choices, but we soon realize that this ‘control’ is illusory. One choice can never be deemed right or wrong, not even a posteriori. As a result, one collapses under the weight of the infinite possibilities in front of us, and falls in a state of perpetual anguish. Very Kierkegaardian indeed.
Michael: You have to forgive me for being ignorant of Kierkegaard. I have indeed read a few pages of Sickness Unto Death, but I can’t say I read that closely. I have forgotten about it for the most part, and I have not undertaken Fear and Loathing as yet. So you’re saying that the weight of the potential choices clearly outweighs even a ‘right’ choice, and that anguish is the effect of these infinite possibilities? I do see your point regarding man’s illusory control of the future.
Simone: It’s fascinating that it’s not just a matter of philosophical debate, but also something experienced by everyone at some point of their lives. ‘Anguish’ is not just a concept, but a powerful feeling, too. I think Kierkegaard takes his own argument too seriously — not every choice has the same weight, nor is always cause of perpetual unhappiness: most of our everyday choices have a minimum impact on the broader scope of our lives. But his point still stands, if applied to the important choices everyone has to make in his life (studies, career, marriage/love interest, etc.). Whenever we think about the choices we’re not so sure about, we feel that very anguish; it’s indifferent whether we’ve already taken them or not.
Michael: I can relate to anguish. Everyone, I believe, has experienced it at some point in their lives. I do agree that not every choice has the same weight: some are simply primal and more important ones, and certainly choosing not to brush one’s teeth during a night doesn’t cause immediate death or devastating consequences, if taken in isolation. I have been watching dramas lately: this anguish is often what fuels these shows forward. Dramas are often about very important choices and the anguish that these characters feel when surrounded by such choices.
Simone: Kimimaro is rather Kierkegaardian in his approach towards life: he tries to avoid making even seemingly innocuous choices, like going out with his friends, and shows the tendency to seclude himself from the world. His way to control his future is to lower as much as possible the number of possibilities in front of him; his original objective is to lead a normal and uneventful life, free of the pain that striving for something difficult to achieve brings along.
Michael: He tries to limit his anguish by lowering the number of the choices he has to make. Is this what you pertain to as Kierkegaardian? By limiting the weight of the choices upon him, he is also lowering the amount of anguish he feels?
Simone: This is what makes Kimimaro the perfect candidate for becoming an Entrepreneur in the Financial District. It’s apparently a paradox, but to explain it, I have to talk about ‘possibility control’ first. Possibility Control is having control over one’s future. A choice has weight, and is a possible source of anguish, only if the possibility not chosen is discarded forever. This is the core of Heidegger’s Sein-zum-Tode, or being-towards-death: choices have a meaning only if our lifespan is limited. If we could live forever, we would eventually be able to explore all the possibilities lying in front of us, thus making the act of choosing irrelevant. But I’m digressing. Of course, making Kimimaro (and all the other Entrepreneurs) immortal wouldn’t have worked so well.
Michael: I have read and learned a bit about Heidegger, and I’ve written in a previous article that in contrast to Merleau-Ponty’s perception of the future as seated in the present, the idea of the Sein-zum-tode seems to be seated in the future. Choices have weight because we are temporally limited as human individuals, and the fact that we have a price to pay for every choice we make. Is this your point? How do you think this relates to Aristotle’s concept of entelechy? Aristotle proposed that potential may be immense (possibility), but it is entelechy that is much more important, which is the realization of that possibility. Possibilities are meaningless so long as they are unfulfilled. How do you think this relates to your argument?
Simone: The matter is resolved through Hegelian Idealism. If one cannot have an infinite amount of time to explore every single possibility, the only other way left to make choices become irrelevant, is to have every single possibility coexist during the limited lifespan of the individual. Narrowing down Hegel’s phenomenology to our subject of interest, if two opposing choices are reduced to a single unit, since every choice is linked to every choice made before, and to every choice that could be made afterwards, soon everything within the scope of the individual is comprehended into that single unit, even the individual himself. If one choice is, at the same time, itself and its opposite, there’s no actual meaning into making choices, since the number of possible answers is reduced from two (or three, four, … infinite) always to one and only one.
Michael: I’m having some difficulty understanding you here. I’m also not well-versed in Hegel, sorry. What does he mean – that there’s truly only one choice in life, as every choice is connected to one another?
Simone: This line of thought has no real limit, because every opposing force can be subverted and recomprehended into the unit; it can go well beyond the individual — everything becomes part of the unit (or absolute identity of Subject and Object): time, space, God, pain, love, people that make us uncomfortable or that we hold dear, death, sound, laughter, the objects we see everyday, everything eventually loses its autonomous identity, and holds some meaning only if related to the unit. A giant, floating, golden coin, whose value (or number of attributes) is ever-expanding, is an image that fits quite well the description of the unit.
Michael: Everything does seem to be contained in that floating coin. When that is taken away, a thorough devastation occurs.
Simone: How to convey the coexistence of two opposing choices through storytelling? In [C], we know that, every time an Entrepreneur loses a battle, some of his possibilities (or choices) are negated, and reality is reverted to its original state; or, in other words, whenever a battle is lost, a choice becomes its opposite. This way, an individual is unburdened of the anguish of choosing, since by controlling the results of the battles, one can freely explore his own potential futures without the fear of making the wrong choice. In [C], the conflict, as theorized by Hegel, is both unavoidable and ultimately meaningless, because everything, in the end, is recomprehended within the unit. Conflicts are only apparently avoidable: since a price has to be paid for it, there will always be consequences.
Michael: Every choice or possibility is gulped up by the golden coin, at the end of it all. And even when one attempts to avoid battle like Sennoza, he still has to pay a certain price for his avoidance. Is this what you’re getting at?
Simone: If an Entrepreneur desires to broaden the number of his possibilities, he has to win a battle; if he wants to take back one wrong choice he has made, he has to lose; if he wants to leave his present unchanged, he can even avoid conflict (if all Entrepreneurs were organized in one force, the price of avoiding conflict could be paid by someone who wants to go back on a choice, ultimately preventing everyone from giving up some of their possibilities against their will). Note that, since only Entrepreneurs have memory of the different past realities, the Financial District has, in fact, no actual effect on reality. The very definition of ‘different past realities’ is incorrect. The changes are perceived by the Entrepreneurs, as a result of their ability to go back on their choices, but they’re not real: every possible world is on the same level of every other possible world, they do coexist within the same timeline, and are ultimately the same thing, part of the same single unit. Bankruptcy and natural death (if an Entrepreneur never loses during his lifetime) are the ultimate failsafe: all the choices explored through the power of the Financial District are the incorrect ones, one can revert everything to its original state, and leave the Financial District. Everything will eventually be reverted to its original state, when the Entrepreneur dies (as a result of his inability to take part in any more battles). What on the surface seems a situation where one can only lose, is, in reality, an immense playground where an individual can explore the infinite realm of possibilities lying in front of him. The cost is the exact value of these possibilities: to enter the Financial District, an Entrepreneur must accept the coexistence and the ultimate loss of meaning of everything present in his life, past, present or future. The ever-expanding value of the giant, floating golden coin is the only thing which holds a meaning per se.
Michael: Only the golden coin holds meaning because it is the only one that contains all the choices, right? Because when one joins the FD, he pays that cost of losing the meaning of his life?
Simone: Now, onto the ‘money of soul’. Money is something that holds no real value per se, but embodies a value not in possession of a player in the economic market. In this case, this ‘value’ is the future, seen both as a single concept and as endless possibilities: Assets are the embodiment of the future as a single concept, while Midas Money embodies the endless possibilities (one possibility per bill, I’d say). Possibilities become something which doesn’t hold anymore a real value per se, that can be exchanged and traded freely. The money is ‘of soul’ because the value it represents is immaterial, and pertains to the realm of ‘soul’, or of the individuality of the single Entrepreneur.
Michael: You’ve made a wonderful comparison here.
Simone: The expression ‘The Money of Soul and Possibility Control’, thus becomes ‘the control of one’s future by making his individuality have the nature of money’, which, I think, summarizes this whole argument. Everything is already explained in the title, albeit in an obscure way.Thank you for taking the time to read all this. I sincerely hope you’ve found it interesting, and I apologise for the length of this e-mail. I hope to hear back from you.
Michael: Don’t. I am seriously impressed at your philosophical and titular analysis. I am only saddened by the fact that I have not yet exposed myself to the philosophers you refer to, and so can’t analyze your argument more thoroughly. This conclusion you’ve made is very impressive, however, and it does seem to me that the title is very apt especially when placed vis-a-vis the series itself. Thank you for this enlightening message. If you have time, kindly elaborate on the concepts that seem alien to me.
If anyone else is interested in Simone’s concepts, do post your reactions. I’ve already notified him.