The PURPOSE of this thread is two-fold:
- To ANALYZE the world view of Hiromu Arakawa's seminal manga: Fullmetal Alchemist
- To RELATE this world view to: morality within FMA, the origin of alchemy and truth, and the meaning of specific plot points.
DISCLAIMER: I have participated in many such world-view/spirituality/religion topics online. Because of the wide variety of personal opinions which can potentially clash in such threads, there is a tendency for them to degrade into bitter argumentation. I sincerely hope this will not be the case here, nor is that my intent in starting this thread. Rather, I am a firm believer that discussions of this nature are beneficial to all involved, providing valuable insights into the workings of not only your own mind but also the minds of fellow board members.
Additionally, due to an unusually complex back story, rich character development, and plot bursting with truth claims and metaphysical narrative, the Fullmetal Alchemist manga provides a fertile foundation for such discussion.
ASSUMPTIONS: for the sake of harmonious discussion, this discourse assumes the following...
- Ideas have consequences (thoughts produce actions) - in other words, "As a man thinketh, so he is."
- We can and should know both WHAT we believe and WHY we believe it
TERMINOLOGY: [ as presented in Glenn Martin's "Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society"]
I. World-view:"A world view is a full-orbed, rationally considered, and articulated view of God, man and the cosmos, which answers both the COSMOLOGICAL and the ANTHROPOLOGICAL questions (addressing to that end the four subsidiary questions: ONTOLOGY, EPISTEMOLOGY, AXIOLOGY, and TELEOLOGY) and applies those answers to all of life generally and to every area of life specifically in terms of the institutional structure and procedure flowing from those answers."
"Additionally, to be a world view, a view must address the larger questions of life, must be universally applicable across the entire spectrum of life, and must have demonstrated that it has sufficient durability to provide lasting answers."
II. Cosmological question: In essence, "What is the origin, nature, and destiny of the cosmos?" where cosmos refers, simply, to everthing.
III. Anthropological question: In essence, "What is the origin, nature, role, and destiny of man?"
- Is man basically free or determined?
- Is man basically good or evil?
- Is man rational, intuitive, or neither?
IV. Ontological question: In essence, "Who am I? How do I exist?"
V. Epistemological question: In essence, "How do we know?"
VI. Axiological question: In essence, "What, if anything, is the ultimate value?"
- Theistic axiology (God)
- Humanistic axiology (Man)
- Materialistic axiology (Matter)
VII. Teleological question: In essence, "Where are we going?"
Just to get the ball rolling, some cursory observations:
I. Ontological question: FMA seems to be coming from a naturalistic perspective regarding the origin of the world, humans, homunculi, alchemy, etc. I believe Arakawa herself has stated that there is no god in FMA. Indeed, throughout the series, we are given references to an evolutionary (that is, naturalistic) worldivew.
- First, there are the images within the black hands at the doors of truth. When Edward and Alphonse initiate a transmutation in their attempt to resurrect Trisha and are sucked into the rebound, we catch glimpses of an ape-like creature transforming into a man and tiny amoebas becoming more complex drawn into the background of several panels.
- Introduced during the Yock Island interlude, we have the idea of the grand flow of the universe. Matter being composed, decomposed and recomposed as it moves through an unending cycle of life.
- More obvious is Lust's reference to homunculi as the next step in the evolutionary chain.
- Finally, the entire atmosphere of Briggs radiates the concept of survival of the fittest, long established to be the purposeless, direction-less force behind the evolutionary process.
I find this all fascinating in light of the Ishabal equation. Their religious beliefs and the language employed in some of Scar's monologues give off a distinct Judeo-Christian vibe. Scar's character is much more in-depth than, say, the shallow (largely Catholic) religious stereotypes present in Edward's escapades in Liore - and his arc deals with some very relevant issues such as justice, revenge, and forgiveness (or endurance, as it is described in the manga). This would seem to present and enormous contradiction, for while the Ishbalans are painted largely in a sympathetic light, if there is no god, then they are really just worshiping, living, and dying for empty rhetoric...
II. Epistomological question: The answer to this question seems to be that man knows through reason. Repeated emphasis is placed on hard work and the importance of scientific knowledge throughout the manga. An early conversation between Edward and Rose in the town of Liore paints the picture that those striving for truth through scientific means (in this series, represented by alchemical knowledge) are the closest things to gods there are. In contrast, certain religious individuals are portrayed as weak-minded, bumbling, and corrupt. The opening episode concludes with Edward 'liberating' Rose from her naive religious superstitions.
III. Axiological question: More difficult to classify than the ontological or epistemological questions. However, upon initial inspection, I would place the axiological mentality of FMA as revolving squarely around humans. One of the biggest questions of the manga, which Edward wrestles with constantly, is the proper definition of a human. Theological terminology such as the soul, the mind, and the spirit are referenced frequently, and it would appear that humans have intrinsic value, although this idea is often cast aside by the characters, who refer to themselves as monsters, dogs, pawns, etc. As with the ontological question, there are some very interesting contradictions that bear further exploration.
- Edward - "the closest things to gods" (To Rose; Volume 1)
- Izumi - "all is one, one is all" (Elric brother's training; Volume 6)
- Homunculi - "next evolution" (Lust to Roy; Volume 10)
- Briggs - "survival of the fittest" (Armstrong - Volume 17?)
Much, much, much more to come!!! I hope this thread develops into an interesting and enlightening conversation ^^!