Getting It: On Jokes and Art

AE: Journal of the Canadian Society of Aesthetics 10 (2004)
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“What is appreciation?” is a basic question in the philosophy of art, and the analogy between appreciating a work of art and getting a joke can help us answer it. We first propose a subjective account of aesthetic appreciation (I). Then we consider jokes (II). The difference between getting a joke and not, or what it is to get it right, can often be objectively articulated. Such explanations cannot substitute for the joke itself, and indeed may undermine the very power of the joke to evoke an appropriate response. Sometimes the discourse of art critics can have a similar effect. We therefore explore the analogy between getting jokes and appreciating works of art (III), and find it unexpectedly strong. Finally (IV), we consider Wittgensteinian grounds for thinking as we do, considering the language game of joke-telling, the relevance of seeing aspects, and giving reasons.

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Alice MacLachlan
York University


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