Enlightenment vs Romanticism and the Philosophy of Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion has villainous examples from both sides of the [Romanticism versus Enlightenment] spectrum. The artificial evolution committee Seele is Enlightenment Utilitarianism to the extreme, with their TransHumanist ideology of using science to destroy the Angels, ascend the Evolutionary Levels, and assimilate humanity into The Singularity to abolish the physical/biological/existential selfishness that exists in every individual. Seele is obsessed with the Future of Humanity, and thus they believe in a philosophy of Utopia Justifies the Means. They don’t care about the present-day harm done to the people they manipulate, as long as Utopia arrives. On the other hand, Gendō is an extreme Romanticist Anti-Hero, who only cares about his dead wife and messiah Yui; he doesn’t care if the world is destroyed, as long as he can see Yui again. Gendō symbolizes an obsession with the Past, an obsession with Yui. He lives in the Past and makes monuments to the Past, the Reis. He doesn’t care about the Present, about living with his own son, Shinji. This obsession with the past reaches its logical extreme when Rei, his monument to the Past, turns everybody into primordial DNA soup that was life four billion years ago. Whatever their philosophies are, both of them don’t appreciate the Present, and thus their obsessions reach their selfish and villainous extremes when they start ruthlessly manipulating other people, and thus in the end they are both Not So Different.

Shinji, who used to be in the extreme Romantic end of the spectrum, develops an Existentialist philosophy in The End of Evangelion. In the end he appreciates his depressing individual life in the Present despite his full knowledge that it’s a Crapsack World and individuality is painful, culminating in him deciding to reject Instrumentality, a False Utopia made of the extreme combination of both Enlightenment (as a utopian Singularity) and Romanticism (as mankind reverted to primordial soup and forcefully assimilated back into the Mother of All Mankind).”

TV Tropes, “Romanticism Versus Enlightenment”

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