How Persona 3 handles existential philosophy

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The Shin megami tensei games have never shied away from exploring complicated topics, and its Character spin-offs are no exception. However, while CMS is interested in order and chaos, philosophical hyperobjects and even political tensions in later games, Persona 3Writing revolves around more personal anxieties. Specifically, he explores the fear of death, the problem of apathy, and the struggle to find meaning in a fleeting and indifferent world.

The third Character The game may look like any other game about teenagers fighting monsters, but it uses this familiar setting to explore inherently existentialist ideas. This philosophical theory explains how people relate to their individual existence and how they take responsibility for their choices. Seen through this lens, the game goes from another great RPG Atlus to perhaps the most intellectually resonant entry in the series.


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Before discussing Persona 3‘s ideas, it is important to establish its framework. While the game’s vision for the early 21st century was not far from reality, the specter of death hangs heavily over it. Its opening streak explicitly tells players to remember that one day they will die. It takes on new meaning with the revelation that the world is threatened by the cosmic horror Nyx, who will descend to Earth and exterminate mankind in an apocalyptic event called “the Fall”.

Persona 3the world is absolutely saturated with death. Not only is Nyx a perpetual threat, but most of the characters in the game struggle with loss. Even the means by which they invoke the titular spirits of Persona have deadly imagery. Instead of just calling them like other games, the characters shoot themselves in the head with what is actually a magic gun. It constantly reminds us that death is always possible, connecting with its inevitability. This morbid aesthetic leads to Persona 3The biggest narrative question of: how can one find meaning in life when surrounded by so much death?

To answer this, the game seems to invoke the knight of faith and the knight of infinite resignation from Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Both have dreams, loves, and ideals that they seek to pursue, but the Knight of Infinite Resignation gives up hope that they can be fulfilled. They coolly take comfort in knowing that whatever they do, their efforts are doomed. In contrast, the knight of faith accepts the absurdity of pursuing these goals but does so anyway, trusting the idea that all things are possible with God.

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Persona 3 is not an explicitly Christian story, but its narrative is clearly inspired by religion. The protagonist of the game is a cowardly allegory of Jesus, being a semi-divine hero who paradoxically sacrifices himself to overcome death. Further emphasizing the point, his Ultimate Persona is literally named “Messiah”. This religious symbolism allows the hero to serve as a god in whom his friends have placed their faith. As a result of these connections, he can manifest the arcana of the universe at the end of the game, making the impossible possible by allowing him to seal Nyx.

If the hero is God and his fellow knights of faith, then the knight of infinite resignation would be Ryoji, a human manifestation of Nyx’s power. Although initially filled with life and zeal, Ryoji later remembers his purpose as the destroyer of humanity. Seeing no way out of this macabre fate, he simply resigns himself to it.

In what might be considered the scene of the protagonist’s “last temptation”, Ryoji offers the hero a chance to live in blissful ignorance until the Fall annihilates mankind; Sparing them the anguish of inevitably having to face death. In the good ending of the game, however, the hero refuses, rewarding the trust his followers have placed in him by resolving to defeat Nyx by their side, absurd as the task may be.

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With curiosity, Persona 3 also alludes to another existentialist philosopher. As the Fall approaches, people increasingly contract Apathy Syndrome, a condition that effectively causes victims to lose their will to live. One notable exception is the character of Takaya, whose failing body would seem to give him a perfect reason to give up life. Instead, he acknowledges that the Fall effectively denies his fear of being survived and thus spends his remaining days living to the fullest. In this regard, Takaya could be described as a particularly dark interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ubermensch.


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While a knight of faith puts his trust in God, an ubermensch rejects him. Although he wrote the infamous ‘God is dead’ quote, Nietzsche meant it more as a cry of despair than a triumph. In his Parable of the Fool, he describes the apathetic laziness of atheists who ignore God instead of panicking when they realize that without Him the culture and morals inspired by Christian teachings cannot be justified. In Nietzsche’s eyes, the only way for humanity to wipe the blood from their hands was to take the place of God, creating new values ​​to guide them through the void.

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Becoming such an ubermensch is exactly what Takaya tries and fails to do. While he is right to view the Fall as a great equalizer, his attempts to abandon the existing values ​​of humanity are symbolically defeated when the protagonist prevents the Fall. This asserts that the humanity abandoned by Takaya (and abandoned by Ryoji) is inherently powerful enough to transcend death itself.

It becomes literal when the hero’s friends decide to live the best they can to honor his sacrifice. The world can be fleeting and impermanent, but regardless, their connections are still important enough to define the rest of their lives. Although this is technically true for Portablethe female protagonist of, her lack of presence in The answer Unfortunately refuses him the same closure.

For all his death and despair, Persona 3 is a total rejection of apathy and nihilism. Her story is ultimately a claim that, as cliché as it sounds, it’s friendships that give meaning to their lives. By making the Universe win over to his hero by embracing his humanity, instead of leaving it or transcending it as his rivals have tried, his journey demonstrates that the bonds that we forge are important enough to be worth the trouble of die – but, more importantly, that they’re worth living for.

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