Face-off: it is what it is

A semi-answer to an age-old question.

Eolith Chala / It is what it is

As it is, it is what it is. It is what it is, isn’t it? It is not what it’s not, nor what it was, nor what it will be. It is, rather, as it is, what it is, is it not?

For example, as it is, A is what it is, which is A. A is not B. A is not C. A is not D. A is not what is it not. A is therefore not B, because B is what it is not. A is therefore not C, because C is what it is not. A is therefore not D, because D is what it is not. A is what it is, what it is A.

But what about when it is what it is not?  It could be the case that A is B. A is still what it is, it just is not what it is not. When A is not B, it is because B is not what it is. When B is what A is, then A is, as it is, B. Therefore, when A is what it is—which is B—then A is what it is—which is A. A is not what it is not—which is not A—but rather A is what it is—which is B.

“But,” you object, “B is not A! What B is is what it is, which is B! And what A is is what it is, which is A! Therefore A is not B!”

What narrow mindedness! To say A is what it is—which is B—is not to say that A is what it is not.  B is A named B. B remains A regardless of the fact of its being named B.  What A is is A, and what A is is B. It (A) is what it is (A) which is what it is (B).

Therefore it is what it is.

Herein lies the proof of Frege’s Sense and Reference.

Dominic Bui Viet / It is not what it is

When we say that it is what it is, we really mean that it is what it is known that it is. This does not mean that it is necessarily what it is, for what if what we know is incomplete? I thus contend to you that it is not what it is. If it is, as it were, what it is, ‘A is therefore not A’ would sound preposterous. But I propose to reframe that: ‘It is known it is A, but therefore not A’, as a valid consequence of what it means to know. It’s not that it is not what it seems, it’s just that it simply is not what it is.

To know is to experience. To experience is a sensory endeavor and is therefore limited by human physiology. Senses can be tricked, senses deceive and, most of all, senses are incomplete. Dreams, drugs, hallucinations and simulations all provide a subjective view of the world around us; Descartes concluded that our senses were not to be trusted. To Kant, the “world as it is” is a world that can never be known by humans. In this way, it is most certainly not what it is. We model and we simplify what we think that it is, unable to ever experience what it truly is.

To say that it is what it is, or to say with any conviction that it is what it is not, is to know what it is. But this is to say that the knowledge we possess is perfect, and that a human could ever know what it is. Thus to believe the alternative is to accept without a doubt that it most certainly is not what it is.

Elijah Fink / It is what it is not

It isn’t, no? Yes. Isn’t it not? But what exactly isn’t it? Can it not be simply: “not?” Or is it not something more — something less? It’s not what it is not, because it is what it is, which is what it isn’t. So what is it?

Let’s think of an example; an anti-example. How about this (what you’re (not) reading right now?) This isn’t what it is: it’s about what it isn’t, which is what it is. How can something be what it is not? “It” raises questions. How can anything be anything? If this is what it isn’t, then you are what you aren’t, and the world simply isn’t. “Not” to kick up a fuss. How can you write about what you are not? You can’t. So, obviously, it isn’t what it is. Which is what it isn’t. Isn’t it? N’t not , but not.

So it is what it isn’t. It can’t be the case that it is what it isn’t; therefore, it is what it isn’t. Isn’t it No? Yes? B ut what exactly, is it not? It isn’t: Isn’t it? sn’t not, (snot knot,) big knot. So itn’s, and yuo aretn’t: this isn’t, uni isn’t, nothing is, stduent p arer isn’t not, lol.

Anyway. A lot of people think it isn’t what it’s not, but it is. That’s just the way it is. So you think you are what you are, but it doesn’t really matter what you think, after all. Just wait until you’re alone and unwound. But there’s (always) an upside. If we are what we aren’t, then thank God we at least have the opportunity to become what we are.

Aidan Molins / It is both what it is and what it is not

I’d like to draw your attention to the wise words of a brave child, whose wise words once healed a bitterly divided nation.

Exhausted from the neverending civil unrest spawning from a fundamental disagreement about taco preferences, she asked her fellow citizens: “Por qué no los dos?”

This brave young girl didn’t expect to change any minds, but indeed, the nation listened and ended their hostilities.

And to this day, Mexico is a peaceful country where no violence ever occurs.


Let’s talk quantum physics. This is a topic about which I know a fair amount, which is to say I once watched a documentary on the topic, which is to say, I saw post which used a screenshot of that documentary on the Facebook page “I fucking love science”, which is to say, someone described this post to me and I forgot it.

This post revealed to me that at a sub-atomic level, electrons don’t occupy space in the way we would think. They exist in clouds of space where they both are and are not.

“So?” You frustratedly ask aloud as you read this. “Atoms don’t matter. What do they make up? Nothing right?”

“Actually,” I wisely reply, emerging from the shadows, to your surprise. “They make up everything.”

What does this mean? Does it mean that the very machinations of matter at the smallest scale operate in a way that proves my point? You might say so, yes.


Let’s cut back to that brave young Mexican girl. What did she actually say? No one knows for sure, but it is believed her famous maxim translates to: “Why don’t we have both?”

You’d think we would have heeded her wisdom until this very day. But unfortunately some continue to believe things are only what they are or, conversely, what they aren’t. It’s time to finally end this.

Christine Wei / It is neither what it is nor what it is not

Can it be that it is what it is and not what it is not, but also not what it is and not what it is not? If it can indeed be this, then it cannot be what it is, nor can it be what it is not. So it must be neither what it is nor what it is not. But these things make no sense! Do they not?

Well, think of nothing.

Nothing is nothing, and nothing is not something, but nothing can also be something. Something is something, and something is not nothing. Some things can be nothing but most things are something. No thing can be nothing but no thing cannot not be something. What about this thing that cannot be some things?

This thing cannot be nothing. But this thing is also not something. It cannot be nothing because nothing is nothing but in being nothing it is also something, and this thing is not something. This thing is not something because some things can be nothing, but some things can also be not something, and this is a thing that is that sort of thing. Still, what is this thing?

This thing is not nothing, this thing is not something. This thing is no thing that you can find and this thing is not some thing that can be found. But this thing sounds like nothing! How can something that is some thing that is not nothing not also be something?

Well, close your eyes.

There, there is nothing. Yet, there is no thing. There, there is not something but there is some thing. But how can there be nothing? You cannot see nothing but you are indeed seeing no thing. Then, it must be that it is not nothing, though it is nothing, nor is it something, and indeed neither is it nothing, nor is it not something.

I guess real eyes really realise real lies.

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