The Kool Aid Man: is he the glass pitcher or the Kool Aid itself?


One of my favorite things about philosophy is that despite its reputation as a highly academic, practically useless discipline focusing on questions whose answers will never be found, it is actually a deeply grounded field of study, and one whose practices can be applied to nearly any area of inquiry under the sun. This area includes quite practical issues as well, such as this one: is the Kool-Aid Man the glass or the Kool-Aid?

The question is metaphysical — meaning it concerns the very nature of existence and its relation to, or lack thereof, matter — as well as ontological, concerning the practice of individuating particular objects. 

Let us explore each option, starting with the claim that the Kool Aid Man is the glass vessel containing the eponymous fluid. Immediately, we are faced with the issue of mobility: how does a glass jug dude bend his knees to walk? Furthermore, the Kool Aid Man’s signature move is busting through a wall, shouting “OH YEAH;” this means either that those commercials were all heinous lies, or that the particular glass or glass-like material of which the Kool Aid man is composed is strong enough to resist shattering upon being slammed into walls, at least some of which have been brick. 

The former possibility is unsurprising; the advertising industry is not exactly known for its candor. The latter possibility, on the other hand, is downright terrifying. A transparent anthropomorphic vessel whose identity lies solely in his ability to hold sugary, cherry-flavored water and yell, despite his theoretically immense capacity to pulverize human bone with minimal effort and at no apparent harm to himself, should not be dismissed as harmless solely because he has been reasonably peaceful thus far. Come to think of it, why has he not yet been arrested for all that property damage he has committed, and on tape at that? I digress. 

Another issue with the theory that he is the glass is that it fails to provide an account for the purpose of the Kool-Aid at all. I mean, he is the Kool-Aid Man, after all — it seems a thorough understanding of this being would require that we address at least that much. Is Kool-Aid perhaps the Kool-Aid Man’s blood? This is clearly a disturbing answer, given that this is a beverage one can obtain at any given grocery store, for an extremely low price at that, and we humans don’t usually jive with drinking blood unwittingly. 

It may be argued that because he is a special sort of organism, we do not necessarily need to be concerned about slurping up his life sauce for funsies. That granted, there are still issues of replacement: will just any old liquid suffice to sustain the Kool-Aid Man’s life, or must he live forever constrained by dependence on the original cherry-flavored Kool-Aid? If I take a sip of his fluid, will a part of him die?

If the Kool Aid serves no vital, physiological purpose, then maybe it is just the man’s drink of choice; he is the Kool-Aid Man because he chose to fill himself with Kool-Aid. Personally, I hate this answer, so I will now discuss the possibility that the Kool-Aid Man is the Kool-Aid itself. 

This opens an utter can of worms, one squirming creature of implication being the aforementioned replacement issues. Is he cherry Kool-Aid in general, or is he a particular body of Kool-Aid? The latter seems unrealistic, since it would be hard to contain the same amount of Kool-Aid since the Kool-Aid Man’s birth. The former seems no more tenable, however, for how are we to accept that the Kool Aid Man has a cohesive or differentiable consciousness if he can be recreated at any time, with ingredients costing mere cents, by any old roustabout who can dig an age-glazed plastic pitcher out of the dark recesses of their least frequently opened kitchen cabinet? 

Though many more logical difficulties persist in both of the theories I have mentioned above, I think I have sufficiently established reason to suggest that any monist position is likely to prove untenable. It is possible, of course, that the Kool-Aid Man is both pitcher and drink, and that humans are simply incapable of comprehending the nature of his biology. Alternatively, he may be neither, for both are ultimately only material substance, the existence of which is also questionable, and so the question posed naturally misleads us down this self-generated path of horrors and delusion. Perhaps the objects we perceive as real are merely props for some spritely fourth-dimension jester whose entire sense of purpose is derived from schadenfreude, best attained through deceiving us little people. Perhaps the Kool-Aid man exists only in the human psyche for some deep-seated reason we as a species are simply too cowardly to confront.