David Poplar

Philosophy of Humor resources (not funny, just academic)

(an ongoing list, as of 2019.07.30)


1. Humor theories
a. Overview

b. Superiority theories (Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes)

  • Possible excerpts from: Plato, Philebus; Aristotle, Poetics and Nicomachean Ethics; Hobbes, Leviathan.
  • McDonald, Paul, The Philosophy of Humour. (2012): Chapter 4 (Superiority Theories), pp. 21-32.

c. Incongruity theories (Kant, Schopenhauer, Aristotle) 

  • Possible excerpts from: Aristotle, Rhetoric; Kant, Critique of Judgment; Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation.
  • Shanks and LaFollette, “Belief and the Basis of Humor” (re: “Flickering” – a species of incongruity theory).
  • McDonald, Paul, The Philosophy of Humour. (2012): Chapter 5 (Incongruity Theory), pp. 49-63.

d. Relief theories (Freud) 

  • Possible excerpts from: Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious.
  • McDonald, Paul, The Philosophy of Humour. (2012): Chapter 6 (Relief Theories), pp. 64-76.

e. Play theories (Aristotle, Aquinas) 

f. Mechanization theory (Bergson)

g. Humor as evolutionary “cognitive debugging” (Hurley, Dennett, Adams)

h. N + V theory (Veatch)

i. Benign violation theory (McGraw and Warren)

2. Ethics of Humor 

3. Aesthetics of Humor 

  • Morreall, John, Comic Relief: Chapter 4 (Aesthetics of Humor) pp. 69-89.

4. General resources 

  • Nilsen, Don L. F., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. 2018. The Language of Humor: An Introduction. Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Morreall, John. 1989. “The Rejection of Humor in Western Thought.” Philosophy East and West 39 (3): 243–65.
  • Morreall, John. 2009. Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor. 1st edition. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Morreall, John, ed. 1986. The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. Albany: SUNY Press.
  • Morreall, John, 2016. “Philosophy of Humor.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Winter 2016. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  • Roberts, Alan. 2019. A Philosophy of Humour. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
  • Carroll, Noel. 2014. Humour: A Very Short Introduction. 1st ed. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.


5. Generally

6. Politics & social change

7. Social/group dynamics 

8. Satire

9. Religion

10. Other applications / miscellaneous