Dedicated to Maxtacy!
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (/ˈniːtʃə, –tʃi/; German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈniːtʃə] ( listen); 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and a Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. He resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life, and he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889, at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterwards, a complete loss of his mental faculties. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Nietzsche died in 1900.
I don’t know if the developers had this in mind, but we can recognize elements of Nietzsche’s philosophy in Kefka Palazzo himself. Let’s look at Kefka’s personality:
Although initially Kefka seems lighthearted, his true nature is maniacal, short-tempered, flamboyant, destructive, and cruel.
This follows Nietzschean ideas of the Apollonian and Dionysian:
Apollo is the god of rational thinking and order, appealing to prudence and purity. On the other hand, Dionysus is the god of the irrationality and chaos, appealing to emotions and instincts.
Nietzsche’s aesthetic usage of the concepts, which was later developed philosophically, first appeared in his book The Birth of Tragedy, which was published in 1872. His major premise here was that the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian “Kunsttriebe” (“artistic impulses”) form dramatic arts, or tragedies.
Later on in his philosophy, Nietzsche eschewed the Apollonian in favour for the Dionysian. And the character of Dionysus was:
the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy.
This is closer to who Kefka is. Take note of “winemaking” and how the theatrical Kefka poisons the water supply of Doma](/spoiler).
“Hee-hee… Nothing beats the sweet music of hundreds of voices screaming in unison! Uwee-hee-hee!”
Kefka’s general worldview is nihilistic, in which there’s a “lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life” and that “life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value”. Have you ever wondered where the Void in Final Fantasy VI is? It’s Kefka. Kefka’s worldview he imposes on the world is the Void. The Returners fight to return meaning to the world.
Kefka favours perspectivism, which states “all ideations take place from particular perspectives, whereas many possible conceptual schemes exist, or perspectives in which judgment of truth or value can be made”.
This is often taken to imply that no way of seeing the world can be taken as definitively “true”, but does not necessarily entail that all perspectives are equally valid.
This is important. This type of relativism is simply the Trojan Horse in which Nietzsche and Kefka both use to defend their worldview. Yet it’s disingenuous since we can’t know if it’s impossible to see the world as it is. Plus, one must have a perspective on something, and that something could very well be objective reality.
Due to this worldview, Kefka substitutes his own value system: power. Kefka loves the destruction that comes with power:
He cracks dark jokes, breaks out into hysterical laughter upon causing mayhem, and his only joy is causing senseless destruction, death, and chaos. Kefka doesn’t even consider destruction fun unless lives are lost in the process.
Kefka stays around and takes orders from Gestahl because he loves power and expressions of power. Like Nietzsche, Kefka admires powerful men. Kefka believes his life to be most valuable to him. He can disembowel General Leo, but he hates seeing his own blood. And when fighting against Gestahl for power, Kefka decides it’s his will that should win. The Will to Power “will to power describes what Nietzsche may have believed to be the main driving force in humans – achievement, ambition, and the striving to reach the highest possible position in life”.
“Out of life’s school of war: what does not kill me makes me stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Isn’t it true that, with every battle you don’t defeat Kefka, he comes back stronger?
Kefka accumulates magic through sheer force of will. He transforms from weak lackey to the supreme magical knight. When the opportunity strikes, Kefka will move the Warring Triad to become powerful like a god, being beyond both Good and Evil. He will, like Nietzsche, present his theories with persuasive force. He will become a type of Übermensch, unconcerned with others:
He is a psychopath with no regard for human life nor remorse for the atrocities he commits, and revels in the suffering of others.
Even the suffering of others ceases to give him pleasure. How can it, when he finds it meaningless?
What begins as a disregard to human life develops into nihilism, and at the end of Final Fantasy VI Kefka declares the lives of mortals insignificant finding no meaning in things like love and hope, and seeks to destroy the bonds of existence itself.
TvTropes talks about how Kefka sees:
destruction as the only permanent, all-encompassing force in the universe and, following his logic, the only thing that had any meaning. His words about creating a monument to non-existence seem to confirm that.
Kefka becomes a paradoxical sacrilegious god, which supports his mistaken worldview. The concept of God is truly dead. Kefka as god imposes no morality. His becoming god was completely by accident, with no divine plan. Kefka is an inversion and mockery of traditional Christianity. Even worst, he makes it hard for others to find meaning in their life. In fact, Kefka doesn’t believe it exists.
Weirdly enough, Kefka has transcended humanity. He could create a new, constructive value system. But he won’t because he can’t. Without any frame of reference, and by rejecting all traditional values, how does, or even can, one overcome social, cultural, and moral contexts in pursuit of new values and aesthetic health? This is why Kefka decides to make a monument to nonexistent. To him, meaninglessness is the only thing that has meaning. He only knows the Void and has become the Void.
In a sense, Kefka acts as the symbol of God, Nietzsche, and all of modern Western culture as it impinges on the Void.
This is who the Returners are up against, not just Kefka but what he represents. And their values, which is a perspective on something that exists outside of themselves, have meaning despite being subjective. These matter to them, and that matters.
Kefka: And have you found your “joy” in this nearly dead world of ours?
Terra: I know what love is…!
Locke: And I have learned to celebrate life… and the living.
Cyan: My family lives on inside of me.
Shadow: I know what friendship is… and family…
Edgar: It is my dream to build a kingdom in which I can guarantee freedom and dignity.
Sabin: I have come to experience anew the love of my brother…
Celes: I’ve met someone who can accept me for what I am.
Strago: I have a special little Granddaughter!
Setzer: My friend’s airship… and her love!
Mog: I have my friends here!
Kefka: This is sickening…You sound like chapters from a self-help booklet!
And just like Nietzsche, even though he believes objective meaning is meaningless, appeals to it makes Kefka disgusted.
“Joy to me! Come hither! Give me thy hand—ha! let be! aha!—Disgust, disgust, disgust—alas to me!…All too small, even the greatest man!—that was my disgust at man! And the eternal return also of the smallest man!—that was my disgust at all existence!…Ah, Disgust! Disgust! Disgust!—Thus spake Zarathustra, and sighed and shuddered; for he remembered his sickness.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
From Kylie Prymus’ Kefka, Nietzsche, Foucault: Madness and Nihilism in Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy and Philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough: The moral history Nietzsche traces in the Genealogy documents the fate of two separate notions of “good”: good in the sense of superior (good/bad) and moral good (good/evil). Long ago when the world was neatly divided between the noble, knightly, aristocratic class and the hardworking lower class, “good” was a term the nobility used to refer to themselves. They alone were fortunate enough to be endowed with intelligence, strength, and wealth. They looked down with pity, not hatred, on the lower class. The lower members of society were “bad” only in the sense that they were not “good.” Their badness was relative, in much the same way that most weapons might be considered to the Masamune – inferior, but not morally evil. Kefka’s relationship with the rest of humanity and Moogledom can be described this way…