published on April 11, 2014
How Do You Know If You Haven’t Tried It?
Aristotelian Reflections on Hateful Humor
Howard Curzer argues that Aristotle’s virtue of wit is a social virtue, a form of philia: conversation with a witty person is pleasing rather than offensive or hateful. On the basis of an analogy between wit and temperance, Curzer holds that the witty person is good at detecting (and avoiding) hateful humor but is not necessarily an expert in judging the funniness of jokes. Curzer thus defends a moderate position in contemporary philosophy of humor—a Detraction Account of hateful humor—arguing that the humorousness of a joke is an aggregate pleasure resulting from several factors in addition to funniness. While sympathetic to Curzer’s overall approach to wit, this essay criticizes the Detraction Account as inconsistent with Aristotle’s text and implausible in its own right, and suggests a friendly amendment based on those criticisms.