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Volume 46 • Number 2

April 2009



Do Moral Flaws Enhance Amusement?

by Aaron Smuts

Can moral flaws make attempts at humor more amusing? defenders of comic immoralism think so. They argue that the putatively immoral violations of the norms of propriety and good taste add to the outrageousness of some jokes. Since the added outrageousness seems to make jokes funnier, they conclude that some moral flaws with jokes can make the latter more amusing. This all seems fairly intuitive. Consider the aristocrats joke: In the abstract the joke is about a family theater group that pitches a new routine to a promoter. The routine usually involves graphic acts of incest, violence, and general perversion. After the family members perform the routine, the promoter asks "What do you call it?" The father replies, "The Aristocrats." Since the punch line is not the slightest bit amusing, the humor of the joke is entirely dependent on the degree of salaciousness that the teller can achieve in describing the acts.

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American Philosophical Quarterly is published by the University of Illinois Press on behalf of North American Philosophical Publications.

ISSN: 2152-1123