Humor, Contempt, and the Exemption from Sense

Philosophy Today 64 (1):205-220 (2020)
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Building on the theory of humor advanced by Yves Cusset in his recent book Rire: Tractatus philo-comicus, I argue that we can understand the phenomenon in terms of what Jean-Luc Nancy, following Roland Barthes, has called the exemption from sense. I attempt to show how the humorous sensibility, understood in this way, is entirely incompatible with the experience of others as contemptible. I conclude by developing some of the normative implications of this, focusing specifically on the question whether it is ever morally permissible to treat others with contempt.

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Bryan Lueck
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville


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