Psycho Pass references a slew of literature ranging from the bible to poststructuralism. Its characters, similarly, embody a variety of philosophies as well.

SIBYL represents transhumanism and utilitarianism. They believe technology will transcend humanity to greater beings, and that the net aggregate happiness of the population is more important than protecting rights of every individual.

Masaoka represents a Rousseauian view of human nature. As referenced by his life choices and his reference to Rousseau, he is skeptical of the Enlightenment project to better humanity through reason and science. He is skeptical of the absolutism with which SIBYL judges its dissidents. He believes it is wrong for a machine to make such decisions with no human insight. Accordingly, he often relies on intuition rather than the deductive powers of machines. He is wary of technology’s corrosive nature, yet he sees value in his son’s desire to fit into this system. He guides him through the series to not make the mistakes he made, and he sacrifices his life for his son. He was a complicated romantic who could not let go of his communitarian values, such as the ties and obligations to his son.

Makishima, like Masaoka, also rejects the Enlightenment project. Yet, instead of merely criticizing the system like Masaoka, Makishima wishes to deconstruct it. He lays bare the inconsistencies and flaws inherent within the system, similar to Derrida’s project of deconstructing logocentrism. He shows how the system’s own method of discerning unstable indivudals produces monsters like him. However, unlike Deconstructionists, Makishima practices an affirmative type of philosophy: he wants you to become authentic. Analogous to Sartre’s view of authenticity and freedom, he wants to see the “splendor of people’s souls” when they are making decisions for their lives themselves. This sounds very Kantian, but Makishima isn’t interested in Kant’s maxims, as demonstrated by his willingness to murder and slaughter for this goal. To Makishima, ethical standards that tell what one ought to do contradict such radical freedom.

The most interesting philosophy amongst the characters from Psycho Pass is Akane Tsunemori’s. She seems to firmly believe in the Kantian notion of intrinsic human dignity and the values of democracy: she prevents Kogami from murdering Makishima and she boldly tells the SIBYL system that humanity will create a better society based on democratic values. Nonetheless, she accepts the utilitarian argument that the SIBYL system is generally doing good by keeping most of the population happy and satisfied. Despite its flaws that directly contradict her democratic and kantian values, she decides to let the SIBYL system continue until she and the rest of humanity can find a better system. She sees value in working within the system.

How can this be so? Well, that’s because Akane is human. Human beings do not make ethical judgments based on a single ethical theory. Akane cannot bring herself to let Kogami disrespect another rational being, even if that person is Makishima. She cannot let those who benefit from the SIBYL system suffer; she cannot let her life’s story become one that abandons her friends and millions of people. She believes that the telos of a society bids its citizens to come together and decide on what is right. The same can be said about us. We are sometimes Kantian, sometimes Utilitarian, and sometimes Aristotelian. We like to be respected, we like to be happy, and we care about our characters and how the story of our lives will unfold. We are byzantine creatures, and perhaps this is why Akane resonates with us so much.


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