Laughter is the Best Medicine

Truly Funny: Humor, Irony, and Satire as Moral Criticism

Hello everybody! My name is Leslie and I am going to be presenting
E.M. Dadlez’s article: Truly Funny: Humor, Irony, and Satire as moral criticism. So first we’ll take a look at what philosophy
has done with humor so far. First off we have the superiority theory of
humor. This type of humor incorporates an element
of ridicule with an enjoyment of one’s superiority while pinpointing the weakness of others. Next is the theory we have that is the incongruity
theory which depends on the defeat of expectations. A joke we’ve all heard of this kind is “Why
did the chicken cross the road?” And while we all know the answer, if someone
has never heard of the joke before, they are trying to think of all the logical reasons
as to why a chicken would cross the road. Only to be met with an expectation defeating
punchline “to get to the other side.” Another discussion among philosophers considering
humor is that of morality. Are all jokes okay to laugh at? Am I allowed to be amused by racist jokes
or sexist jokes? Is it the same thing as feeling racist or
feeling sexist? Dadlez will steer away from the morality inquisition
as morality is not the main focus of his article. Instead, Dadlez will be focusing on sarcasm,
irony, and satire, and what can be inferred from the use of these. Dadlez uses these terms a bit interchangeably
as one can understand from their dictionary definitions. Harsh or bitter derision or irony. The use of words to convey a meaning that
is the opposite of its literal meaning. The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the
like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. Can you distinguish which definition fits
to which word? Lucky for us, they fit together as one idea
pretty well, and will be used as such throughout the article. Like I previously mentioned, Dadlez goals
are NOT rooted in maintaining a standard of morality, but instead to detail that humor
reveals ethical insight and aims at the truth. He calls this moral criticism. To distinguish between morality and moral
criticism, he gives the example of Susan and her deserved tenure. If Susan deserves being granted tenure, of
may feel outrage on this account. Because Susan deserves the tenure, the emotion
of outrage is not fitting. However it is not wrong of them to be allowed
to feel the outrage. The fittingness coincides with the morality
and the freedom to feel outrage coincides with something being subjected to moral criticism. D’arms and Jacobson believed that funniness
does not have a moral shape. They believed that just cause amusement happened,
it does not mean that one’s amusement revealed some moral that they held. In agreeance, I, and I’m sure many of you
can relate, have laughed at something and not completely known the reason to my amusement. Dadlez combats this argument with his reminder
of incongruity. Though the morality of a joke may not be the
focus, there was still a defeat of expectations – where expectations stem from one’s personal
perspectives – that has occurred. One that could possibly fuel a new perspective
altogether. DeSousa and Moran disagree with D’arms and
Jacobson as well. They believe the listener must actually share
the morally problematic attitudes the joke appears to endorse. The very clear example that is used are jokes
about rape. Some may find it okay to laugh about rape
jokes because they morally do not find anything wrong with rape and believe that some people
deserve or even asked to be raped. Others find it incredibly immoral to laugh
about because they find rape to be against one’s will and something that can either ruin
someone’s life and their future. Either way, unless the listeners share the
same morals you do, it’s probably not a good idea to venture into jokes about things like
rape. The response from D’arms and Jacobson? The appropriateness of a joke will not change
the genuine incongruity of a joke. As to say, that even if you feel one way about
rape, you will still laugh at a joke told in the opposite manner. I, and Dadlez do not agree with this. Take this classic Chris Rock Joke. “You know what they say, there’s never a reason
to hit a woman… there’s a reason to hit everybody, just don’t do it.” Now must people would laugh, unknowingly sharing
their experiences with wanting to hit someone you shouldn’t by laughing and agreeing, and
it’s coming from a comedian. Now imagine this same joke from a respected
official like former president Bill Clinton? It’s just not the same. Not too many people would laugh for the same
reason they did when Chris Rock said the joke. Context matters. We’ll look at another instance where the moral
lens changed a situation. The illustrator of this specific New Yorker
cover was trying to convey a message: fear mongering is ridiculous, and anyone could
put out an image of the Obamas looking “Anti-American” -whatever that means- and instill fear. It was clear use of satire. However, much else was experienced. Some viewers of the image took it literal
and affirmed their negative feelings about President Obama with the illustration. Some viewers took exactly what it was trying
to accomplish and flipped it around. It may not have helped put fear mongering
to rest like the illustrator would have wanted, but it did reveal a truth about what one can
expect with different audiences. The conclusion that Dadlez has come to is
that though we cannot use humor as a way to distinguish moral from immoral, we can use
humor to disclose of something unexpected, and furthermore a new truth. The superiority theory can point out an unknown
ridicule to the person being ridiculed or to people unknowing in the audience, just
like The New Yorker cover did for those who did not understand satire. The incongruity theory can disclose some unknown
perspective, which is required if amusement follows. The same pattern for irony, satire, and sarcasm. Though we cannot change everyone’s perspectives
through a stand up routine or random jokes thrown in among friends, we can use humor
to aim to reveal a newfound truth and perspective. I hope this was helpful in understanding the
article. Thanks for listening.

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