Freedom, Ethics, and the Empire of Corpses

2d4aad587e07cd65b78984f85fb028531417110767_fullWe have finally arrived at our final analysis of the Empire of Corpses, an anime that is rich in both fantasy and philosophy. It really is quite fascinating how, despite its action-packed sequences and outlandish plot, the film manages to provide the audience with an underlying message that can inspire thought and discussion. My previous posts on this topic reveal the secret dualism, metaphysics, existentialism, and sociological prompts that riddle the movie. Finally, I have decided to wrap up this trilogy with a look at ethics and a final question.

Ethics is the study of morals: what is right and what is wrong. The two main “antagonists” of the film, Sherlock Holmes and the One, wish to create a perfect society through any means necessary. As the ancient proverb goes, “The end justifies the means.” But what does that really mean in essence? Does this mean we can go around committing immoral acts as long as they are justified by the result? What makes an act immoral? Unfortunately for us as the analyzers, there is no answer. According to Richard Rorty, morality is a very loose and general concept. In fact, he claims morals are purely manmade. Everyone in their daily life makes decisions based on their conscience. I could feel a certain way about a certain topic, but that does not mean you by any means will feel the same way. There is no consensus about what is “socially acceptable.” Because the definition of morality cannot be confined, Rorty asserts that it is completely subjective—and it is. Controversy is inevitable as a result. The question of killing an equal then comes to debate. Why is it wrong? The general opinion is that you should not take someone else’s life; it is just the way it is. However, this answer does not seem to satisfy us. Knowing this, let us talk about the main protagonist of the movie, John Watson. Watson is a young, ambitious scientist who is desperate to give his dead friend Friday a soul. We find out in a flashback that Friday offered his body to Watson to be experimented on in order to find the secret to the soul. Sure, Friday did an honorable thing, but Watson’s actions must be called into question. Given this unrealistic scenario, would you consent to letting your closest friend die to accomplish the greatest feat in history? Even if it meant losing him permanently? Not only does he accept this, but Watson then goes on a wild goose chase to find Frankenstein’s notes to bring his friend back. During the course of his journey, his self-interests lead to the deaths of hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. John constantly covers for Friday, clearing him of all actions in the name of experimentation. What gives John Watson this right? Why must the people around him die just so that he can get what he wants? Selfish to say the least, John could save many people, but he only chooses Friday. And what of the antagonists, you ask. Sherlock Holmes wants to rid humanity of emotions, namely fear and hatred. In doing so, he predicts that Man will live pleasantly without the constant burden of feelings. The One, on the other hand, wants to create a society where the dead and living can live together in peace under a single mind. Neither of these solutions is half that bad, that is until you consult the notion of freedom. Whether you are religious or not, we all have this idea of free will. While some people believe we are in charge of the decisions we make, predestination and determinism state that everything we do has been planned for us. Isaiah Berlin thought of freedom as a magnet with a negative and positive influence. Negative freedom is the removal of constraints, whereas positive freedom is the ability to make choices. Berlin says that no matter what, they will always cancel each other out. We may choose to surrender our emotions in exchange for a civilization with no conflict, or we may give up or freedom to make choices to live under a single entity. No matter what outcome, we may or may not truly have freedom. There is no way of knowing for certainty. What goes on in Watson’s mind differs completely from that in Sherlock Holmes’. In Sherlock’s mind, he is doing the right thing; but the One also thinks he is doing the right thing; meanwhile, the audience is thinking that both of them are insane. Therefore, in conclusion, morality is not an objective truth in this situation. Morality is not reliable. Perhaps the villains are correct for once, and we are the ones who are keeping the world in conflict. Now that I have explained my reasoning, I will end this tertiary analysis with a question: Who is the antagonist? As far as we know, there may be no protagonist after all.


For further reading: Philosophy: An Illustrated History of Thought by Tom Jackson (2014)



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