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Philosophy Today

Volume 64, Issue 1, Winter 2020

Marxism and New Materialism

Bryan Lueck
Pages 205-220

Humor, Contempt, and the Exemption from Sense

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 as to whether it is ever morally permissible to treat others with contempt.

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