Philosophy | Special Topics in Philosophy
P470 | 10038 | Spade


Topic: Philosophy of Humor

A philosophical study of humor, comedy, jokes, and laughter. What
sorts of things make us laugh? Is there anything that unifies all
these diverse things? To what extent is it culture-dependent? What
roles do laughter and humor play in society, in interpersonal
relations, in life overall? What are the moral implications of all
this (think of jeering, ridicule, ethnic jokes, "practical jokes")?
What, if anything, can we learn from "animal laughter" (hyenas,
chimpanzees)? Why is it that, while a good sense of humor is a virtue
we prize very much in humans, it is the one virtue that we do not
traditionally attribute to God?

Required readings will include:

* Robert R. Provine, LAUGHTER: A SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION.
(Penguin.)

* Wylie Sypher, ed., COMEDY. (Johns Hopkins.) (Includes
George
Meredith, “An Essay on Comedy” and Henri
Bergson, “Laughter.”)

* Sigmund Freud, JOKES AND THEIR RELATION TO THE UNCONSCIOUS.
(Norton.)

* Ted Cohen, JOKES: PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHTS ON JOKING MATTERS.
(Chicago.)

plus a variety of readings to be made available online.

Students will write three medium-sized papers throughout the
semester, a mid-term and an optional final examination.