Aristotle on Wittiness

In Pierre Destrée & Franco V. Trivigno (eds.), Laughter, Humor, and Comedy in Ancient Philosophy. Oxford, UK: pp. 103-121 (2019)

Authors
Matthew D. Walker
Yale-NUS College
Abstract
This chapter offers a complete account of Aristotle’s underexplored treatment of the virtue of wittiness (eutrapelia) in Nicomachean Ethics IV.8. It addresses the following questions: (1) What, according to Aristotle, is this virtue and what is its structure? (2) How do Aristotle’s moral psychological views inform Aristotle’s account, and how might Aristotle’s discussions of other, more familiar virtues, enable us to understand wittiness better? In particular, what passions does the virtue of wittiness concern, and how might the virtue (and its attendant vices) be related to the virtue of temperance (and its attendant vices)? (3) How does wittiness, as an ethical virtue, benefit its possessor? (4) How can Aristotle resolve some key tensions that his introducing a virtue of wittiness apparently generates for his ethics? In addition to exploring these questions, this chapter challenges some commonly accepted accounts of Aristotle’s views on the nature of the laughable.
Keywords Aristotle  Comedy  Humor  Wittiness
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