Comic Immoralism and Relatively Funny Jokes

Journal of Applied Philosophy 32 (2):203-216 (2015)
Scott Woodcock
University of Victoria
A widely accepted view in the philosophy of humour is that immoral jokes, like racist, sexist or homophobic jokes, can nevertheless be funny. What remains controversial is whether the moral flaws in these jokes can sometimes increase their humour. Moderate comic immoralism claims that it is possible, in at least some cases, for moral flaws to increase the humour of jokes. Critics of moderate comic immoralism deny that this ever occurs. They recognise that some jokes are both funny and immoral, yet they claim that it is always something other than the moral flaws of jokes that contribute to their humour. In a series of recent papers, Aaron Smuts has pressed this objection to moderate comic immoralism. I argue that Smuts' attempt to narrow the range of cases in which humour can be attributed to immoral features is not sufficient to demonstrate that moderate comic immoralism is false. Specifically, I claim that Smuts cannot rule out a case for moderate comic immoralism grounded in the possibility that humour is normatively relative while the ethical status of jokes is not
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DOI 10.1111/japp.12084
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