I was going to write an in-depth analysis of the entire Adventure Time series. It’s something I wanted to write for a few months now, but with the show ending soon I’ll wait until it concludes to write about the show as a whole. But I’ll just quickly give a piece of love for the show: it’s the smartest kid’s show, bar none. It subtly introduces ideas to children the way a work of art should.
Elements was a great mini-series and its saddening that it will be the last one and likely the last major plot thread before the show’s conclusion. The major element of the story that I find interesting is the Borg/Invasion of the Body Snatchers element of the, well, Candy Element. It’s a great analysis of the question, “would we want a problem free existence if it meant giving up our individuality” and being a broader thought-experiment for one’s preferences in ethics which give descriptive intuitions but provide nothing conclusively normative.
A youtuber who reviews and analyzes Adventure Time episodes seems to highlight the confusion many people have and the bias towards classical Utilitarianism. He states, “maybe they are truly happy in this state.” Assuming, or rather implying, that the deciding factor of what ought to be is clearly what makes people happy. Sam Harris makes the same confusion of ethics and the is-ought distinction with health. Confusing skepticism of what will make us healthy with confusion that we know that we ought to be healthy when the only thing we can point to is the descriptive fact that pain and lack of health is unpleasant while pleasure and vitality desirable. But this in itself does not conclude that what ought to be is the satisfaction or infinite increase of all pleasure.
A virtue ethicist and deontologist would argue that the “Borg” Utopia is morally wrong. Not only is it lacking in certain virtues but it also is forced on Jake and Finn. A Utilitarian would be fine with this because although philosophers like John Stuart Mill give a broad interpretation of liberty and autonomy he does so only because he believe these are essential for human happiness. But if humans could be changed into candy-creatures this would no longer be the case. A Deontologist could still make the argument that it’s wrong but a Utilitarian would have to somehow show it would cause creatures more pain than pleasure.
The story is great in having us ask what type of life we would truly wish to live and world we wish to live in. Many times people think they want something but regardless of whether or not what they want should be they often times find the satisfaction of their desires not as satisfying as originally conceived. Schopenhauer is the greatest writer on this subject.
The show also examines being stuck in the past and not having problems accepting loss and change. Seen in Betty not being able to accept Ice King and Finn momentarily clinging to the past of being with young Princess Bubblegum but ultimately accepting his current state of being a friend of hers. Desiring the past can only be destructive.