Final Fantasy and Philosophy: Gaia and Environmental Ethics in The Spirits Within

Good God, what is this book’s obsession with the Spirits Within? It came out in 2009! We all knew the movie was terrible since it came out in 2001! Photorealistic CGI wouldn’t be ready for prime time for at least another decade! Granted, that doesn’t mean it can’t be philosophically relevant, but most of its philosophical concepts also come up in Final Fantasy VII, which is far better regarded.

The inclusion of this essay is particularly egregious, because it’s basically just The Lifestream, Mako, and Gaia but much stupider. Take this description of the philosophy referred to as “mechanism” in that essay:

[General Hein] espouses a view that is often criticized as a short – sighted, male conception of nature. Hein views nature at best as a collection of inanimate objects subject to humanity ’ s desires and, at worst, something hostile to the human species that needs to be dominated and made to conform to humanity ’ s will.

Thus essay author Jason P. Blahuta has become the eighteen billionth nominally feminist writer to discuss how awesome gender roles are. Bonus points: Jason is a man (confirmed in the contributors section), and his own opposition to the perspective he describes as a “male conception of nature” fundamentally proves that it’s not somehow inherent to maleness. Anyone who thinks he might have been a closeted transwoman back in 2009 when transgender people had basically no popular acceptance at all is going to be disappointed by his current faculty page at Lakehead University. Another gem from that page verifies for us that his interest in Machiavelli isn’t because he’s one of those “literally every book Machiavelli wrote except for one was about how great republics are” people, but because he’s one of the edgelords who thinks the Prince should be taken seriously.

That quote isn’t the last time when Blahuta brings up gender issues despite their being completely unrelated to the subject of his essay. And I don’t mean that he goes into a random digression on gender issues in the way that, I dunno, male General Hein interacts with female Dr. Aki (this probably wouldn’t be much of a contrast anyway – good guy science team is made up of not only female Dr. Aki but also male Dr. Cid). He just randomly asserts that holistic views of the environment are more feminine or feminist or whatever. There is never any support for why this reinforcement of gender roles is in any way relevant.

Even from the paradigm that gender roles are valid, Blahuta hardly seems to be arguing for any set of gender roles other than the one we’re familiar with: Men as aggressive and enterprising, women as demure and compassionate. He’s flipping the script and saying that the female perspective is superior to the male, but so far as this essay reveals he stands by the traits associated to each gender. And yet, when discussing the last essay, I somehow managed to give a very aggressive defense of holism without bursting into flame:

[H]olism posits that people die when you remove their vital organs, even if their brain is completely unscathed, which is obviously true, and mechanism posits that this for some reason doesn’t apply to any complex systems except human bodies (and also anything else that obviously works holistically).

Blahuta’s incapacity for clear reasoning is evidenced elsewhere in the essay:

The Gaia hypothesis maintains that humans (and not only lawyers and politicians) have no more moral worth than does any other member of the biotic community, maggots included.

No it doesn’t. Nothing about thinking of the Earth as a giant super-organism requires valuing maggots the same as humans. Gaia hypothesis is a hypothesis, not a moral philosophy. It doesn’t state anything about the value of human life. It does implicitly push an environmental morality in which being capricious with nature is unwise because we need it to live, but only because the presumed audience is human and therefore cares about humanity’s survival.

Really, the consistency with which Blahuta likes to paint demographics he is personally a member of as less worthy or having less moral worth than is typically assumed is coming across as resulting from either self-loathing or fetishism.

Particularly noteworthy how he actually calls attention to non-human threats to Gaia that humans are able and naturally incentivized to thwart:

[I]n the long run Gaia is doomed anyway. Gaia and all of life that she makes possible will die in about five billion years when the sun dies, and that’s assuming her ability to self – regulate is not destroyed first by a gamma ray burst from a nearby star going supernova or maimed by a massive meteor impact.

And yet a few paragraphs later, this is his concluding statement:

[H]umanity is little more than a cancerous tumor inside Gaia, and the fate of the species depends on whether we choose to be a benign or a malignant tumor.

This puts me in the weird position of having already delivered an impassioned rebuttal to this essay in my last post, which leaves me with not much to do except to point out that this conclusion has not only overlooked the fact that we are Gaia’s only hope of surviving major cosmic extinction events like gamma ray bursts or the expansion of the sun, Blahuta actually explicitly brought up exactly those threats and somehow it never even occurred to him that humanity is not only theoretically capable of defending against them, but actively working towards doing so. So I again bring up how relentlessly Blahuta hates on demographics that he is specifically a part of, and how this colors his perspective on the world far past the point of reason.

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