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FMA Essay

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1FMA Essay  Empty FMA Essay on Wed Feb 01, 2012 1:56 am


Not Kawaii Enough
Here is my final essay for my Intro to Philosphy couse in college. It deals with the Login in FullMetal Alchemist and Cartesian Dualism.


“Full Metal Alchemist”

I would like to propose a thought experiment that first requires you to alter your way of seeing things. Imagine you are in a world where the normal ideas about science and chemistry are nonexistent. In its place is a form of Alchemy that is done with the use of circles arranged with symbols and lines that produce different effects, these circles are called transmutation circles and are used by the Alchemists in this world. The knowledge of how to break down substances molecularly and build them back up on the same molecular level is needed to produce any sort of good result is needed. Also in this world the laws of conservation of mass take on a more literal role than just a physic view, it is called “Equivalent Exchange”. One more thing to consider about this world is that the soul and body are two different substances and can be ‘manipulated’ in various ways (either by use of a magic circle or other means). If it does not sound familiar already this is the type of world seen in the anime “Full Metal Alchemist” (or “Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood”).

A main part of the storyline involves one brother, Alphonse, who was used against his will in an Alchemic reaction that was started by his brother, Edward. The after effects of this reaction ‘took’ Alphonse’s body away from him taking his soul along with him still connected to the body. Being the faithful older-brother Edward was he (albeit painfully) used a transmutation circle to take his brother’s soul from his body and fuse it into an inanimate object, which happened to be a full suit of armor with joints in all of the right places to sustain normal human movement if worn. Then according to the logic/rules/laws of this world, by attaching a soul to this inanimate object gave it the ability to move, see, and think like a normal human would. This process is also very strenuous on the soul itself and can render it weak and fragile.
With all of this information in mind I would like to explain the purpose of knowing it. In this thought experiment I would like to use this world to disprove the idea/philosophy of Cartesian Dualism. Cartesian Dualism states that while the body and soul are two different substances they can casually work together as one. Even though, at first glance, this may seem like the perfect idea behind the process of soul fusing; it really isn’t a good way at all. With this essay I hope to show you by use of explanations, examples, and contradictions that Cartesian Dualism is not the perfect way to think about how a soul can be fused.
According to the rules of this world, when a soul is attached to the object of choice, pending the object can support it, the soul can move the object without the need of tendons or other things a normal body requires to move. Wait a second! The soul according to Cartesian Dualism states that it is a different substance than the body. So if Cartesian Dualism was true in this world, how could that happen? No, magic is not the answer, but this does point out a serious flaw in the Cartesian Dualism way of thinking. One counterpoint is that maybe in this case the armor just happened to have the necessary equipment to sustain movement (the inside of Al’s body was never fully seen if my memory serves me). This would be a valid point if it wasn’t for the fact that near the end of the series a character shows up that underwent the same process and can move just as well. This proves that either there are two sets of armor in this world that has mechanical workings that can sustain movement or that the soul can do physical things with the latter being the serious answer. When the soul was attached to the armor, the headpiece gained the ability to see. Once again the soul is given the ability to use physical properties in contradiction to the ideas of Cartesian Dualism. The way of thinking states that it cannot do that due to being something of no physical makeup.
The next flaw I would like to address is the process of attaching the soul to the suit of armor. Let’s pretend that this is actually a possibly process and it is very difficult to accomplish. By the nature of alchemy you would need at least a basic understanding of the soul in order to fuse it to the armor. In this world you can fuse a soul into an inanimate object by use of alchemy, by doing this you have once again given a physical property to the soul. Once again it is in contradiction to Cartesian Dualism because of the same reason as above, it was given a physical property. One very strong argument to this idea is the simple question of “If it is able to be fused, what is it made of?”. Truthfully, what it is made of is irrelevant to the main idea of this thought experiment. All we are concerned with is the fact that the soul can be fused to an object, which by alchemic definition gives it physical properties. If a soul’s physical makeup is closer to cotton candy or slime does not matter at all, just the fact that the soul can be broken down is the part that matters.
Going with the common theme of flaws, another one in Cartesian Dualism is the fact that the soul retains memories and emotions after being fused. Cartesian Dualism would say that the soul could not do that because memory and emotions are functions of the brain, which would be in the physical realm. In this world however, the soul is given the same physical property as a brain would and it transfers over its memories to whatever the soul was fused into. One might argue that memories and emotions would be transferred over with the soul because memories and emotions themselves are not physical. The problem with this is that when you think of the soul you are drawn to one of two places, the heart or the brain. So it isn’t a stretch to say that along with the fusion process, the soul is removed along with the emotions and feelings from either of the two places. Though, not literally, we often associate memories and emotions with the heart.
The final flaw I would like to discuss happens to be the final part about the effects of fusing a soul to an inanimate object. This is because the human soul becomes weak and fragile because of the molecular deconstruction and reconstruction. When you give something the qualities of decay you give it physical properties (even if the only property is that the soul decays at some rate). This is, hopefully by now, an obvious contradiction to the fact that Cartesian Dualism does not allow the soul to have any sort of physical property whatsoever. A counterpoint to this flaw could be that the decay of the soul is irrelevant because it may take a long time for the decay to show on a soul. This is not the case, after just three times of this ‘soul fusion’ the soul became so fragile that it could be broken apart. I suggest you ignore the shear absurdity of the idea of breaking off pieces of your soul. This proves that the strain of the ‘soul fusion’ is great enough not to be ignored.
In this anime world, many things are allowed to happen and many things we use today are forgotten or renamed. Chemistry has been preplaced with alchemy and along with alchemy a whole differs set of rules and regulations. The one process we focused on was the process of removing a soul and placing the soul into an inanimate object. When this happens, if the object is able to, the object can move around as if it was alive, see as if it had eyes, and have memories and emotions as if it had a brain. While at first glance it does seem like a rip-off of “The Wizard of Oz” these are the rules this world goes by. Cartesian Dualism is the philosophy that states the soul and body are two different substances that live within each other and coexist and work with one another. We repeatedly explained that Cartesian Dualism does not account for (or accept the idea) that the soul may have physical properties in this world. The most obvious of the examples being the fact that the soul can move the inanimate, if the inanimate object has the equipment needed to move such as a human does. Other examples include giving the inanimate object the ability to see and hear. Also, the transfer of memories and feelings fall into this category due to this would giving them physical properties linked within the soul.
In conclusion, with all of the evidence against Cartesian Dualism, it is very hard to believe that this philosophy could be accepted in this world. The biggest problem being that this world tends to give the soul physical properties and tendencies. Most of the counterexamples were disproved because of the reason mentioned above. The only one that was not disproved by the physical state given to the soul was basically thrown out due to the fact that the argument proposed was over a subject that did not have much to do with the original idea at all. With these arguments and logical thoughts it is clear that this would causes many problems for the concept and philosophy of Cartesian Dualism.

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