What Does Your Humor Say About You? Philosopher Noël Carroll Speaks

April 8, 2013


“Humor and Morality,” Friday, April 26, at 5 p.m.

TACOMA, Wash. – Is it okay to tell an Irish joke if you are Irish? Is it morally right to laugh at an Irish joke, even if you are not part of the clan? For that matter, is it possible you found the joke funny because it overstepped the line?

We all have been in that uncomfortable space where we laugh, then wonder, and then move on. Philosophers, famously, do not move on. They ask questions, examine unexpected points of view, explore the logic, and make their argument.

Noël Carroll, distinguished professor of philosophy at City University of New York and author of the upcoming book Humour: A Very Short Introduction, will address this question of humor and how it relates to our moral values in a free lecture at University of Puget Sound. His talk, Humor and Morality, will be held on Friday, April 26 in Trimble Forum, Trimble Hall, on campus and will run from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Audience members have an opportunity to ask questions and comment.

The free public lecture will be the keynote address at Puget Sound’s Undergraduate Philosophy Conference, running April 26–27. More details about the conference are available on the conference website.

Noël Carroll, the author of numerous books and articles, is a leading voice in the contemporary philosophy of film, art, and history. He has tackled his exploration of humor with the same appetite and objectivity that made him an influence in the arenas of art and film.

In his upcoming talk, Carroll will consider the question of whether humor is actually amoral—that is, not to be judged by the criteria of morality—and no one should take offence at something said in jest. As the Rationally Speaking blog explained this question: Could it be that “jokes have no moral content of their own, and that applying ethical reasoning to humor is … something akin to asking about the typical smell of triangles?”

Carroll will cover the morality of self-effacing jokes and what laughter may say about those who share in a joke. He’ll also examine whether the fact that a joke may be offensive is one of the very elements that makes it funny. These are interesting questions. Expect an interesting lecture.

The philosopher’s most recent book, to be released this fall, is Humour: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, September 2013). Other important works include The Philosophy of Motion Pictures (2008), The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart (1990), and Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction (1999).

Carroll, who holds doctoral degrees in both cinema studies and philosophy, had an earlier career as a journalist. He has authored five documentaries and has research interests in areas including aesthetics, ethics, social and cultural history, the philosophy of literature, and the philosophy of emotions. He is a former president of the American Society for Aesthetics.

For more about the Undergraduate Philosophy Conference visit: http://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/departments-and-programs/undergraduate/philosophy/philosophyconference/

For directions and a map of the campus: www.pugetsound.edu/directions.
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3236.

Press photos of Noël Carroll are available upon request.
Photos on page: Top right: George Carlin, irreverent American comedian in New Jersey 2008; Above left: Noël Carrol; Above right: Humour, A Very Short Introduction, out September 2013.

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