Thanks to Aruu for the inspiration!
A weekly discussion post challenged /r/FinalFantasy to discuss magic:
Or more specifically, the way magic is presented in characters throughout the Final Fantasy series. Simply enough, a character is either born with magic, or without, and that type and level of magic is dependant on their species or their class, depending on the game.
In it, she asks which one is better and lays out the definitions for each:
Natural means that the character was born with their gifts. Examples of characters like this include Terra, Aerith, Garnet, Yuna (I’m seeing a pattern here), Lulu, Vivi, etc. They are able to use magic without having to use anything else.
Artificial means that the character was either infused with the power of magic after their birth, or uses an item in order to use magic. Items can include Magicite, Materia and Guardian Forces. Some characters can learn magic permanently from these items, even when they’re not equipped.
These are great definitions. But they raise a question (for me at least). What is magic? Magic is a term referring to a stat, element, and command as the counterpart of physical attacks. But words like terms, stats, elements, and commands are simply abstract groupings. Then, is magic a real object? Or is it simply some type of relationship that necessarily exists in all structures of the world?
Classical elements typically refer to the pre-scientific concepts in Ancient Greece of earth, water, air, and fire. Supposedly they explained the nature and complexity of all matter in terms of simpler substances. But does this explain what magic is?
Take Firaga for instance. Firaga is a high-level Fire spell of the Fire element. Fire is a thing the magic is based on. But what is it about a magic spell that makes fire act as Firaga. Can we see the spell?
“Sleep” is status magic that causes you to go to sleep. But we can’t see sleep or the makings of one going to sleep. How does the magic of sleep make one sleepy? Is it a physical or a mental trick similar to hypnosis?
Time Magic causes changes from one state to another. But time is also an abstract based on the perceiver. How does time magic accomplish its desired effects?
How can magic be in an item? If there’s a science to combining magic, is it still magic?
Strangely enough, one can have more magic power, but is the idea of quantifying magic an illusion? How does Squall draw 5 magic from a monster?
Is magic all in the mind? Does magic make the caster Believe he is affecting the target? If so, does white magic really heal?
Does a target’s resistance to magic involve their disbelief in it? Their belief nothing will happen to them?
What is magic in Final Fantasy world?