Is Laughing at Morally Oppressive Jokes Like Being Disgusted by Phony Dog Feces? An Analysis of Belief and Alief in the Context of Questionable Humor

The Philosophy of Humor Yearbook 3 (1):179-207 (2022)
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Abstract

In two very influential papers from 2008, Tamar Gendler introduced the concept of “alief” to describe the mental state one is in when acting in ways contrary to their consciously professed beliefs. For example, if asked to eat what they know is fudge, but shaped into the form of dog feces, they will hesitate, and behave in a manner that would be consistent with the belief that the fudge is really poop. They alieve that it is disgusting, while they believe it is not. This paper investigates laughter from self-proclaimed egalitarian, tolerant folk, in response to oppressive jokes that might fit the alief-model. If I merely alieve the content of a joke at which I laugh, will that constitute morally exculpating reasons for such laughter? And what else might it imply? This paper will provide insights at the intersections of humor studies, ethics, epistemology, phenomenology, and the philosophy of mind, all while being moderately and appropriately amusing.

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Chris A. Kramer
Santa Barbara City College

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