"The Morality of Laughter" by F.H. Buckley [Book Review]

Tim Crane
Central European University
Why is humour so hard to understand? Rather like attempts to explain how music can move us, attempts to explain why things are funny seem doomed from the outset. Discussions of humour typically distinguish three kinds of theory: the incongruity theory (we are amused by the incongruous), the relief theory (humour is an expression of relief in difficult situations) and the superiority theory (we laugh to express our sense of superiority over others). In the face of genuine humour, theories like these can seem pedestrian and unconvincing. F.H. Buckley’s book is, unfortunately, no exception to this rule. Coming from the superiority camp, the book defends two theses about humour. (Professor Buckley’s own word is ‘laughter’, but it is clear that he is really interested in why we laugh rather than laughter itself.) The first is what he calls the ‘Positive’ thesis: that all humour is the expression of a sense of superiority over someone else, whom he names ‘the butt’. The second he calls the ‘Normative’ thesis: that those who laugh really are superior to the butt.
Keywords laughter  humour
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Belief and the Basis of Humor.Niall Shanks & Hugh LaFollette - 1993 - American Philosophical Quarterly 30 (4):329-39.
Notation and Expression of Emotion in Operatic Laughter.Robert R. Provine - 2008 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):591-592.
Nietzsche’s Joy.Jason M. Wirth - 2005 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 10 (1):117-139.
Laughter, Freshness, and Titillation.Karl Pfeifer - 1997 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 40 (3):307 – 322.
The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor.John Morreall (ed.) - 1986 - State University of New York Press.
The laughter of the Thracian handmaid. About the unworldliness of philosophy.Christina Schues - 2008 - Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch Fur Antike Und Mittelalter 13 (1):15-31.


Added to PP index

Total views
114 ( #77,160 of 2,309,542 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
39 ( #19,886 of 2,309,542 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature