Humor as an Optics: Bergson and the Ethics of Humor


  • Martin Shuster


Although the ethics of humor is a relatively new field, it already seems to have achieved a consensus about ethics in general. In this paper, I implicitly (1) question the view of ethics that stands behind many discussions in the ethics of humor; I do this by explicitly (2) focusing on what has been a chief preoccupation in the ethics of humor: the evaluation of humor. Does the immoral content of a joke make it more or less humorous? Specifically, I analyze whether a sexist joke is more humorous because of its sexism. Contra recent trends in the ethics of humor, I answer this question affirmatively. To this end, the paper presents a detailed and novel reading of Bergson's philosophy of humor, which I argue connects most easily and significantly to the alternate view of ethics I have in mind.