The End of Philosophy
Celebrating the Terminal Meme in the Age of Clickbait Mediocrity
I can imagine anyone reading this, and who hopes or believes that I will make good on the promise of the title of this article, wants me, the author, to cut the crap and just say what it is. Right here in the first paragraph, delivery of the meme to end all memes, the glorious completion of all that philosophers have tried to achieve for millennia. But I won’t.
I’m sorry. You’re being lazy and spoiled. And I’m being a dick. It is what it is. Just wait till the body of the article and the conclusion and try not to float back into the other tabs you have open in your browser, your YouTube, your Facebook, your Instagram, until the axe has fallen.
There is an end. And it is coming.
Relax, we’re already in the body of the article, so we’re close. But let me set up my argument first before dropping the Big Bomb; it’ll seem more spectacular that way. Do you trust me?
You really shouldn’t. After all, this is the age of clickbait, of post-truth and post-facts, a garble of cultural garbage that is advancing our civilization like no garbage before. I’m just saying; if archeologists can judge the state of a society by its left over trash, then we truly are at our peak. And up here at the peak there just isn’t enough room for the truth, let alone its philosophical investigation. So when I or anyone else ask you to trust me, you say “bite me.”
There isn’t enough room for the truth, and there isn’t enough time for it either. Thank the gods of technology (including Prometheus, Hephaestus, Thoth, and others if you’re looking for Someone special to worship) for introducing us to technologies like language, frowns, middle fingers, and Twitter to save us time in communicating our thoughts accurately. Each age brings a speeding up of the messages we send and receive from the world. Writing, the Pony Express, telephones, pagers, teledildonics; we’re at the point of instant messaging, worldwide. But this gift of increased speed has not given us more time. It has transformed our lives, brought us vast treasures of information and methods of sharing, but it has also fed and deepened our addiction to the cheapest of information, to the new, the outrageous, the soundbite. The quickest transferal of information, without detail or nuance, so that we can continue clicking our way through the online world without delay.
This, of course, is just anthropology and sociology. The way we might currently see ourselves as a species. Why on earth would philosophy stoop so low as to become tweetable? Clickbaitable? TL:DR?
Because, my Facebook friends (are we friends yet on Facebook? We should be, I’ll be a good Facebook friend, I promise), philosophy may be an investigation of timeless truths, values, and assumptions, but its tools, methods, and audience are always dictated by the times, not to mention the people who actually do the philosophizing. So, apologize to anthropology and sociology, and really mean it, because they will tell you why and how we have reached the end of philosophy.
The people, you, me, and Jimmy Joe and Bobby Sue, have followed the technological trends and kept pace with its instantaneous speed by popularizing a philosophical phrase, a memetic unit so banal, so short, so instantly gratifying that it brilliantly reflects the society from which it arose. It’s quite wonderful when you think about it, because it has the power to shut anyone up, to end – or even prevent – any discussion. The terminal meme of our age. What can I say about it? It is what it is.
“It is what it is.” That’s it? Yes, that’s it! I know, right? So vapid, so gorgeous, so philosophy 3.0. Final like divine judgment, it proclaims what the Biblical creator probably will say when we all cry out on the eve of Armageddon, “Why? Oh, why?” – “Meh,” he/she/it’ll proclaim before pulling our collective plug, “It is what it is. Time’s up.”
Think of the last time you said “It is what it is.” Or, if you’re too cultured to let it slip from your own lips, the last time you heard some fool in your vicinity say it. An instant reaction, summation, and completion of any sentiment. A utilities bill that ended up being higher than you’d hoped? It is what it is. A grade that was lower than you’d expected? It is what it is. A smudge on your new skirt? The election of a tyrant man-child in spite of your best social media efforts? It is what it is.
Now think about the truth value of this phrase. Is it true? Is it what it is? Well, questioning that seems a bit pointless. Like wondering if 2+2 really is 4. Because it has mathematical certainty:
“It” = “It” , like x = x
I’ll say a little thing about whether or not we can know what something really is in the conclusion (spoiler alert!), but there’s also the issue of value in a semantic sense. Does this arguably true statement reveal anything new? Teach anything? After all, it’s a tautology; circular logic, a self-referential abstraction that contains meaning only in relation to itself. Which makes it pretty fuckin’ meaningless. So no, it doesn’t have much philosophical value.
In fact, is it even philosophical, this philosophical go-to-mantra of our age? Well, it’s metaphysical, and metaphysics is a branch of philosophy. Strangely though, “It is what it is” is a judgment that doesn’t judge. It’s philosophy without truth. Without fact. Just neutral sentiment and naïve acceptance of an objective reality. It’s a mentality more than an idea.
I’d even go so far as to say that it’s the complete corruption of philosophy. It is philosophy’s death spasm, where all the life has been squeezed out of intelligent inquiry once and for all, and all we’re left with is titties, kitties, and inspirational quotes taken way out of context. Internet memes, y’all.
And can I tell you a little secret? I, a philosopher, I fucking love it. Why, you ask? Because where philosophy ends, life. Moves. On. No more overthinking, no more overanalyzing every little bitty thing just to have an intelligent opinion about it, but a blissful surrender to metaphysical bullshit. When life moves on from critical thinking, there’s more room, more time for that saving grace of humanity; creative thinking. And the humorous acceptance of our inability to move on without giving the reigns to our imagination.
“It is what it is.”
-“Yes, now how shall we proceed?”
“With intelligence, discipline, and an attention span of at least 90 seconds, you human fruit fly.”
All arguments effectively cease when the terminator of critical thought passes through your town. The utterly meaningless phrase, “it is what it is,” beautifully sums up the soundbite status of pop philosophy, and I for one hope it props us up ever higher as a civilization. “Yes, it is what it is. Thank you for enlightening me. Let’s never talk about this again because the issue has been completely settled to everyone’s satisfaction, fuck it, even Plato and Nietzsche are smiling in their graves, and” –
“Oh, hey, I’m not listening to you anymore because I’m looking at my smart phone. I’m sorry, were you saying something?”
-“Let’s go get some Chinese food.”
Alright, admittedly, if you were to philosophically investigate the validity of the verb “to be,” and the questionable assumption that one can know or say what something really is, let alone reinforce the “fact” that it “is” what it “is,” you could shoot a whole bunch of holes in this argument. Because language is limited, and certainty is subjective. But don’t be a dick, okay? Don’t be like me and ruin a good thing right at the start, because “it is what it is” is the beginning of the end of philosophy, and it’s been a long time coming. We’ve figured it out. Now park this article all the way in the back of your mind, and don’t even bother to bookmark it; close the tab or the window and move on. Check out the sports news. That’s what I’m doing anyway. Your favorite team lost? Again? Fuck it. It is what it is.
Next time you catch yourself saying it, and you should say it, you’ll know. It’s the end of philosophy, the meme to end all memes, what philosophers have tried to achieve for millennia. To shut themselves up. And by god, you’ve done it.