Just Kidding? Two Roles for the Concept of Joking in Political Speech

Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In this paper, I discuss two roles for the concept of joking in political speech. First, I discuss how claiming to have been joking can provide speakers with a powerful form of deniability. I argue that the aesthetic dimension of jokes makes such a denial especially well placed to undermine both a hearer's evidence for an utterance having been sincere, and, separately, their belief that it was sincere—I call the latter ‘aesthetic gaslighting’. Second, I discuss the use of jokes to influence hearers’ thinking and behaviour under the radar. I show that not only does the fact that an utterance was a joke fail to prevent it from influencing hearers, but in some cases, the fact that it was a joke actually makes it more influential than a sincere utterance would have been.

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Zoe Walker
University of Oxford

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