No Hugging, No Learning: The Limitations of Humour

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    I claim that the significance of comic works to influence our attitudes is limited by the conditions under which we find things funny. I argue that we can only find something funny if we regard it as norm-violating in a way that doesn't make certain cognitive or pragmatic demands upon us (to defend the norm, or to abandon our norm-commitment). It is compatible with these conditions that humour reinforces our attitude that something is norm-violating. However, it is not compatible with these conditions that, on the basis of finding it funny, we come to reject some existing attitude. Such a rejection would require that we recognize our attitude as norm-violating in a way that has pragmatic force. Thus if a humorous work reveals the absurdity of something, we can either find it funny and not have our attitudes significantly influenced, or else be significantly influenced but not find it funny.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-66
    Number of pages16
    JournalBritish Journal of Aesthetics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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