Stephen Colbert and Philosophy
I Am Philosophy (And So Can You!)
Edited by Aaron Allen Schiller
Vol. 41 in the Popular Culture and Philosophy® series
In Stephen Colbert's recent commencement address at Princeton University, he told the graduates not to change the world. And on the very first episode of The Colbert Report, he coined the term "truthiness," which means "not what is true, but rather what feels true." (The American Dialect Society subsequently voted "truthiness" 2005 Word of the Year, joining the august ranks of "plutoed," "red state," and "metrosexual.") Stephen Colbert, both the man and his body of work, represents a particularly rich set of philosophical issues. For one, the concept of truth is central to all branches of philosophy, and the very idea that someone is promoting (even if only satirically) the truthy over the truth raises a whole host of philosophical concerns: Has truthiness taken the place of truth? Is it all just truthiness, anyway? Colbert has coined other terms that scintillate philosophers as well, such as "Wikiality" (a reality determined by human agreement as opposed to something more objective) and "Freem" (freedom without the do).
No doubt about it, philosophers love Colbert, who majored in philosophy at Hampden-Sydney College, and not only because he plays with concepts that are central to philosophy in his comedy. In addition, he is a pop-culture phenomenon worthy of philosophical interest in his own right. For instance, what does it mean for the state of political and cultural discourse in America that Colbert, a faux-pundit openly mocking the Fox News and CNN pundits, is so popular? Does Colbert add anything positive to that discourse, or is he just a cynical force with no positive impact?
Stephen Colbert and Philosophy is crammed with thoughtful and amusing chapters, each more profound than all the others, all written by philosophers, and all focused unwaveringly on the topic of Stephen Colbert. Although most of the discussion is centered around his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, his best-selling book I Am America (And So Can You!) is not neglected, nor are his public performances. Indeed not! You’ll find at least a few choice paragraphs examining Colbert's incendiary 2006 White House Press Correspondents' Dinner, where he said of President Bush, "I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares."
In a similar manner, Stephen Colbert and Philosophy stands for things. Things you will want to know, or at least know of, generally speaking. Read it today, and you too will proudly proclaim: "I am Philosophy (And So Can You!)"