Volume 46, Issue 2, Summer 2016
The Phenomenological Function of Humor
In this paper, I seek to explore the increasing popular claim that the performance of philosophy and the performance of humor share similar features. I argue that the explanation lies in the function of humor—a function which can be a catalyst for philosophy. Following Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms and utilizing insights from various philosophical and scientific perspectives on the nature and origins of humor, I argue that the function of humor is to reveal faulty belief or error in judgment. Once such errors are revealed the mind demands resolution, and this is the work of philosophy. But philosophy cannot solve a problem unless it recognizes that there is a problem to solve. That is, the move from ignorance to philosophy requires a mediating step. Humor can act as that step, and, as such, humor can serve as a catalyst for philosophy while being necessarily distinct from it.