Existentialism a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent. Here, I’m going to relate seven major concepts relating to the existential dilemmas. I’ll use their character quotes as the starting point of introspection. The seven major concepts are:
- “Existence precedes essence” – the most important consideration for individuals is their individuality rather than the preconceived categories the individuals fit.
- Absurd – the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in a meaningless life; no meaning in the world exist beyond what meaning we give it.
- Facticity – all of the concrete details against the background of which human freedom exists.
- Authenticity – the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.
- The Other – the experience of another free subject who inhabits the same world as a person does.
- Angst – negative feeling arising from the experience of human freedom and responsibility.
- Despair – a loss of hope.
“You don’t need a reason to help people” (Zidane)
- I don’t think we get a true sense of Zidane’s existential dilemma from this quote. Sure he’s virtuous, generally upbeat and friendly. But his crisis came in Pandemonium. Before that, he really wasn’t sure of his origins. So he recreated himself as the individual we all know. He realizes he’s different, so he tries to be inclusive while hiding this sense of loneliness. To Others, he seems like a pretty cheerful, easy going guy. But his personality doesn’t flow from Authenticity; he created an “everyman essence” to war of his looming existential depression. It isn’t until he enters Pandemonium that he experiences pandemonium. Zidane falls into a temporary sort of despair as a result. Thankfully, his friends were able to help him through it. Zidane now realizes he isn’t alone. He proceeds to create an existence according to who he is instead of his fear.
“Someday I will be queen, but I will always be myself” (Garnet)
- Garnet’s quest to recreate herself differs from Zidane’s, as she adopted hers due to societal pressure. Yet, she finds enough strength to break away and find what it means for her to be a princess. She desires to act authentically, but her relative naivety prevents this to some degree. This frustrates her into feeling Angst. Others like Steiner desires to force her into a certain role for their own motivations. She constantly feels guilt for not doing enough to prevent misfortune to others. Her despair comes in the form of powerlessness, voicelessness, and uselessness. Yet, through her journey with Zidane, she finally shows the amount of courage to break away from the past. She recreates what it means to live for oneself and make their own judgment, as shown by cutting her hair.
“How do you prove that you exist…? Maybe we don’t exist…” (Vivi)
- When people think of existentialism in Final Fantasy 9, they think of Vivi and this quote. Vivi’s question is about his true individuality. Does he exist in this sense? So far, his essence constitutes being a war machine and weapon of mass destruction. But is there an “I” underneath it all? The Others fear Vivi for what he does instead of who he is. This causes Vivi both anxiety and temporarily despair. Yet, he’s well aware of what he is. But Vivi ultimately chooses the hope to become more than what his facticity determined. He stays true to his feelings and decides (even at a young age) to embrace life despite fear of death.
“Having sworn fealty, must I spend my life in servitude?” (Steiner)
- Steiner’s crisis is a conflict between duty and being true to oneself. I think Steiner as a knight knows the right course of action in protecting the Princess. But his sense of honor, duty, and deference to the throne gets the better of his judgment. This, after all, is where he found his meaning in life; as a distinguished member of the Knights of Pluto, protecting the throne. But now the throne is actively acting against its best interest. Steiner’s raison d’etre (reason for being) is at stake. This inevitably causes Steiner Angst, which causes paranoia, suspicion or outright hate (i.e. Zidane), smoldering possessiveness i.e. Garnet), or living up to his essence of formal knighthood (i.e Vivi). His despair comes when he loses out to Zidane or goes against his code of honor.
“To be forgotten is worse than death” (Freya)
- The tragic part about Freya is that she has completely forgotten herself to his lost love Sir Fratley. Since her entire being rests upon Sir Fratley’s acknowledge of her, she cannot act Authentically. Her angst manifest for concern over Sir Fratley’s well being. She is essentially Sir Fratley’s lover. But she experiences despair when Sir Fratley forgets her. Everything she based herself on has collapsed. She acknowledged the absurdity of the situation: “Ahahah… What irony. To find the man about whom I have dreamt endlessly… only to discover that he cannot even remember who I am!” She tries to gain a sense of herself by starting over with Sir Fratley. But does she truly realize herself as an individual?
“I don’t wanna be alone anymore” (Eiko)
- When we meet Eiko, it’s clear she’s experienced a hard lonely life. She lives with Moogle buddies but no other human contact. She steals from dwarves for a living. To her knowledge, she’s the only summoner alive. Her best friend constantly abandons her, increasing her alienation (and her despair). However, when she does have a chance at human contact, she’s close to driving them away. Her essence stems from her promise to her grandfather. She wants to be an adult, so she tries to hold back her childish tears. She won’t leave Madain Sari until her 16th birthday, which keeps her in loneliness. But she realizes her actions where confusion over a desire for human contact.
“The only dependable thing about the future is uncertainty” (Amarant)
- Amarant has embraced the Absurd maladaptively; for him, life not only lacks meaning, but it also has very little predictability. Before, Amarant could only value life based on how many fights he could get into. Then he lost. Now he’s unable to find meaning in life, for fear of being on the wrong side. This pessimistic view of life put Amarant in despair very early in the game. By meeting Zidane, the man who caused him despair, he’s able to look back at his life as foolish. He realizes what it means to have true strength, as opposed to brute strength.
“I do what I want, you have problem!? (Quina)
Quina is the only one who fully realized their true purpose.
Maybe Quina just doesn’t bother to learn the language of the Gaians/Terrans. The Quins have found the meaning of life through constantly navigating through the absurd. Quan found the meaning of their life of nourishment without eating, and through his happiness starved to death. Quale and Quina follow the way of the Gourmand, tasting and eating everything they can to learn from it. Quina essence IS her existence, which means his/her authenticity flows from his/her facticity.
Quina’s freedom imprisons her. But Quina doesn’t experience despair, which means he/she has yet to experience an existential crisis.
Thanks for reading! 😀