Final Fantasy and Philosophy: Kefka, Nietzsche, Foucalt

This essay spends a lot of time talking about, as the title implies, Nietzsche and Foucalt. This is kind of unfortunate, since Nietzsche and Foucalt were objectively wrong. I don’t mean in the sense that their philosophical opinions were fundamentally invalid because I have unlocked the secrets of objective morality and can measure the ethicalness of a statement with the inarguable exactness of a ruler measuring length. I mean that they justify their philosophies using a history that never happened.

Let’s start with Foucalt. Foucalt describes an evolving opinion of madness in which, during the middle ages, insane people were considered to have some greater understanding of the universe that humanity was unable to grapple with, driving them mad. Sane people could thus learn by listening to them for scraps of intact wisdom that fell from their shattered minds. Then, in the Age of Enlightenment, reason become the ultimate source of good, which meant those whose reasoning was impaired became inherently evil, whence the insane asylum was developed.

The problem with this is that we don’t have a goddamn clue how the insane were treated during the medieval era, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the insane asylum is not a new thing. The Royal Bethlehem Hospital is the oldest psychiatric institution in continuous operation, having been “treating” the mentally ill since at least 1403, at which time its inventory included multiple sets of shackles, stocks, and locks. No record explicitly states that these were used to restrain mentally unstable patients, but it’s hard to imagine what else a set of shackles would be used for in a hospital. There’s no evidence that treating the mentally ill like criminals regardless of whether they have actually committed crimes was an invention of the Age of Enlightenment.

Nietzsche claims that in the beginning, “good” simply meant “superior,” in the objective sense of being better at something. Like a sturdy chair being good compared to a flimsy one. Then at some point there was a “slave revolt” in which the weak ruled over by the strong grew tired of being subjugated and developed a morality in which “good” was associated with virtues like meekness and compassion. The closest you could get to such a “slave revolt” would be the rise of Christianity in the late Roman Empire, but that then led to medieval Christian kingdoms in which the strong subjugated the weak even more than they had under imperial Rome. Nietzsche talks of the “slave morality” as reigning over the modern world he lived in and only beginning to crumble during his lifetime, but he lived in 19th century Germany right amidst the great powers of Europe who were at that exact moment scrambling for Africa, and in so doing committing the latest in a long history of colonial atrocities against native populations across the world. The idea that the European powers contemporaneous to Nietzsche operated under any kind of morality that exalted meekness and compassion is laughable. The success of early Christianity had turned those concepts into moral buzzwords but powerful empires had never once followed them no matter how Christian they claimed to be.

This isn’t a history book, though, it’s a philosophy book, and while the digressions elucidating Foucalt and Nietzsche’s completely inaccurate histories take up plenty of space, they aren’t the ultimate point. Rather, the ultimate point is an existential one: Kefka’s omnicidal mania is not especially manic. After ascending to godhood, Kefka sees no meaning in the world and has therefore decided to destroy it. This perspective isn’t insane. It doesn’t defy reason. You can’t sit down and objectively prove that it’s morally correct for the world to continue to exist. Obviously, the overwhelming majority of people want to go on living and Kefka’s desire to end everything puts him in opposition to practically everyone he hasn’t already killed, but that doesn’t make him unreasonable. He has a terminal goal that’s different from everyone else’s.

Then it ends by speculating that Kefka’s near-annihilation of the planet was the best thing for everyone because the struggle to overcome him made the six-ish people in the party better, and apparently the untold hundreds of thousands of lives he exterminated along the way don’t count for shit. I’m not sure Kylie Prymus thought this all the way through.

Speaking of that guy, he was studying for a PhD in 2009 and now manages a game store. His education field claims he has a master’s in philosophy from Duke University, but nothing about a PhD, so I guess he never finished that thesis. This isn’t the first time someone with a degree specifically in philosophy has submitted an article that drops the ball on ethics to the tune of completely forgetting hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders murdered, but it is the first time a degree from as prestigious a university as Duke has managed it. Achievement unlocked, I guess.

2 thoughts on “Final Fantasy and Philosophy: Kefka, Nietzsche, Foucalt”

  1. I know next to nothing about Foucault, but I do know about Nietzsche, and you are wrong here.

    > The closest you could get to such a “slave revolt” would be the rise of Christianity in the late Roman Empire, but that then led to medieval Christian kingdoms in which the strong subjugated the weak even more than they had under imperial Rome.

    That’s not a gotcha. Nietzsche didn’t think that at any point one brand of morality entirely crushed the other, so saying “see, there are still noble jerkasses” proves nothing. He saw history as a continuous conflict between the master and slave moralities, with them replacing each other as dominant over time.

    > Nietzsche talks of the “slave morality” as reigning over the modern world he lived in and only beginning to crumble during his lifetime, but he lived in 19th century Germany right amidst the great powers of Europe who were at that exact moment scrambling for Africa, and in so doing committing the latest in a long history of colonial atrocities against native populations across the world. The idea that the European powers contemporaneous to Nietzsche operated under any kind of morality that exalted meekness and compassion is laughable. The success of early Christianity had turned those concepts into moral buzzwords but powerful empires had never once followed them no matter how Christian they claimed to be.

    This is a misunderstanding of what “slave morality” is. According to Nietzsche, slave morality is utilitarianism and subversion. It’s not just the exaltation of compassion – it’s undermining of the masters’ strength on a moral basis. Spider-Man would be the prime example of the slave morality – that because he possesses great power he ought to be subservient to his community and must work twice as hard and sacrifice to protect it. Nietzsche associated democracy with slave morality, as the subjugation of the rulers by the masses.

    But, slave morality doesn’t have to extend outside the community. Being nice to your neighbor doesn’t mean being nice to your neighboring village. It’s a morality of operating within the community, not of interacting with the other communities. And they are both ultimately oppressive – the masters force you to submit by their strength, the slaves force you to submit by robbing you of the will to use your strength.
    ——————————————

    Now, despite all said, Nietzsche himself wasn’t an ultra fan of the Master Morality. He believed it to be the superior morality for an individual, for obvious reasons, but not the best morality for the humanity as a whole.

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    1. >That’s not a gotcha. Nietzsche didn’t think that at any point one brand of morality entirely crushed the other, so saying “see, there are still noble jerkasses” proves nothing. He saw history as a continuous conflict between the master and slave moralities, with them replacing each other as dominant over time.

      Unless you’re arguing that Nietzsche literally meant only the brief period between the rise of early Christianity and the beginning of feudalism as the one and only time that slave morality triumphed over master morality, this still doesn’t really help (and even then, that period was immediately before the beginning of the Dark Age when records were already getting scarce, and it is not unreasonable to believe that this brief aberration in the behavior of ruling classes was due more to empty claims of Christian piety that stand uncontradicted because of a lack of competing records rather than an actual change in culture). Democracy spread when a large army of randos with relatively cheap muskets became more powerful than a small cadre of heavily armed knights trained from birth, because those in power required the support of the people to stay there. The elites didn’t become populists because they were successfully guilted into believing it was their moral obligation. They feigned loyalty to the moral obligations valued by the middle class because that middle class had gained the power to shoot them in the face. No one was ever robbed of the will to use their strength. They were robbed of their actual strength.

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