As the series develops, it seems that Ergo Proxy has a growing number of philosophical references:

  • The concept of Anamnesis in episode 11.

  • The Council/Collective figures.

  • All the events in episode 20.

  • Every discussion Vincent has with Ergo about the 'self' (especially episode 11)

  • And numerous others that I don't recall at the moment...

Which philosophical concepts/authors are referenced or portrayed in the series?

  • I haven't seen the show, but from your question, I can't tell what the philosophical references are. Is it clear if you've seen the show?
    – kuwaly
    Jan 28 '13 at 22:39
  • @kuwaly: These are the only ones that are evident to me. But I hope someone more 'well-positioned' in the philosophical field may be of some help. Especially because I do not grasp a lot of subtle references.
    – JNat
    Jan 28 '13 at 22:42
  • 1
    Re-L Mayer's Citizen No., 124C41, is likely to be a reference to Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+
    – кяαzєя
    Jan 9 '14 at 22:15
  • 1
    The domes are a certain Platonic allegory.
    – кяαzєя
    Jan 9 '14 at 22:22

It's been a long time since I have watched the anime, but here's a quick rundown of some of the concepts I think the anime portrayed:


The resulting conflict, called the "Absurd," to find meaning and not being able to find any, at least, not in a humanely possible way. In other words, meaning can be logically found, but not be achieved. This concept is shown in Raul's mental breakdown as he slowly loses any possible source of meaning in his life. His adopted child, for example, could have been a source of meaning, but as he loses that and Pino, he began to create the Absurd and the way he resolves this is through suicide. The are other examples of the Absurd, more noticeable when they're talking about their Raison d'Etre. Others can handle the Absurd in a different way, particularly the Proxies because they're not (normal) humans, although those like Re-L was able to handle it as well in the end. The way Ergo Proxy portrayed Vincent's journey can also classify this work as an Absurdist Fiction.

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism

Mind-Body Problem

This is more broad and can be divided into two subcategories: dualism and monism or physicalism (also called Identity Theory). Dualism is where the mind is separate from the body and the latter is when the mind is the body. This issue is addressed when the robots begins to acquire sentience on their own. The Cogito virus, which seems to be immaterial, is what gives the robots in the series their free will, their "mind," similar to how dualism says that the mind is immaterial and separate from the body. Yet, the experiences each robot has is what makes them act different, which also depends on the body. The state of mind of an intimidating military robot is going to be different than that of Pino, where people are more likely to treat her like a child. This issue is also more notable between Ergo and Vincent.

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind%E2%80%93body_problem

Social Contract

The anime briefly touched on this, but it's there. The legitimacy of Romedau's government is questioned. Cities can be created and destroyed easily by the Proxies, so it seems that the council is very powerless. More than that, no one voluntarily enters these cities. Rather, people are forced to exist inside them, either through artificial birth or through emigration (they were either to die in the harsh outside environment or live inside). In contrast, the commune outside of Romedeau works the opposite, in a way. Thus the problem: would you be willing to give up some of your freedom for comfort or would you rather have complete freedom?

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract


Very similar to absurdism. This problem is the question of where meaning comes from, if there is at all. It also deals with the issue of where existence came from, whether we existed without our bodies and how does it relate to our meaning. Existentialism on its own is too broad, however, but it seems to me that the anime touched on this as well.

For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism

There's a lot of references on the other hand, so I'll only list a few:

Utilitarianism - Society should be guided so that everyone is equally happy. Thus everyone in Romedau is given meaning.

Transhumanism - There was a scene where a city is run completely by robots. This seems to be more of a jab on transhumanism rather than a support for it, as it shows there's no need for humans if everything is mechanized.

Divine Command Theory - Whatever the council says, it has to be good. Why? Because they said so.

Übermensch - Nietzsche's idea of a perfect human and how human propagation gives meaning. The proxies aren't perfect, but it somewhat alludes to it considering how obscenely powerful they seem to be and that their mission is to perpetuate human society, if I recall correctly.


Actually funny enough some of the robots in the anime are named after philosophers...

The Ergo Proxy Wiki states in the Production section http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergo_Proxy

It is set in the future. A group of robots become infected with something called the Kojiro [sic] virus, and become aware of their own existence. So these robots, which had been tools of humans, decide to go on an adventure to search for themselves. They have to decide whether the virus that infected them created their identity, or whether they gained their identity through their travels. This question is meant to represent our own debate over whether we become who we are because of our environment, or because of things that are inherent in us. The robots are all named after philosophers: Derrida and Lacan and Husserl.

So pretty much the whole anime is about self discovery and coming to terms with their existence. One such philosophical / socialogical debate we take from the above mentioned quote is that of Nature vs Nurture. Are we who we are because of "what" we are, or is our "self" formed by our actions or the things around us. There's quite a few different philosophical undertones, the most prominent I think is the one I quoted above.


big spoilers. go away.

Cogito refers to - Cogito Ergo Sum - I think, therefore I am. also the word is similar to 'Cognito' or 'Cognition', which all derive from the root for 'know'. there's the whole daedalus/ikaros thing... oh i can't remember any more ;p the whole series itself seems sort of highlander/the one-like. asura/ashura is commonly used in anime, based on indian beliefs. let's not forget 'The Rapture' lol ;p

more? decided to move stuff from other thread lol

pino = piano, the playing card soldiers of karos (karos = diamonds), the russian miniatures. how everything works like 'clockwork'? - the wombs, vincent's plan - gods trying to kill humans, while humans are trying to kill the gods (at least raul).

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