Living Ironically: The Upshot

With a few comments on my last post to spur me on, here are some hopefully final thoughts on the ironic life for the moment. Irony is one of the characteristic social modes for Americans of at least the Generation X (that would be mine, i.e. 40ish) and younger. I can’t speak for how pervasive […]

Humor as Epoché: Irony and Hypothesis

Near the end of our humor episode, I threw out the truism that humor tends to deal with something we’re uncomfortable with, like death, sex, or embarrassment itself. The example I gave was of someone like Ed Conard making jokes about being rich. Now, I’ve since seen Conard on the Daily Show, and while he […]

Behold our Web Redesign

As you may have noticed, we’ve got a nifty new web redesign here that we’ve just deployed. Behold our new features: -New art from Genevieve Arnold (thanks!), a fan/volunteer who took Ken Gerber’s original PEL guy icon and 3-man-caricature to create our new header, a cool philosophy vending machine picture, and a recolored caricature with […]

In Memoriam: Alan Saunders

Alan Saunders of Radio National on Australian Broadcast Corporation

 It was with great sadness this weekend that I heard via Facebook and on the Australian Broadcast Corporation website of the untimely passing of Alan Saunders.  Saunders was the host of the ABC Radio National program The Philosopher’s Zone, a weekly broadcast covering a broad range of topics, both in philosophy and outside of philosophy in a […]

Moore on Theodicy

In the episode, I brought up Moore’s use of the non-mathematical character of the good (in that one good plus another good doesn’t necessarily make a whole with the good equal to the sum of the parts) by bringing up theodicy, i.e. the defense of the existence of evil in a perfectly good world by […]

The Good as Simple Idea

At some point during the episode, Dylan and Wes were arguing about Moore and referred to the good as a ‘term’.  I corrected them that Moore actually calls it a ‘concept’ as if something hung on that distinction.  I guess it is incumbent upon me to explain. First off, Moore never uses the word “concept” […]

Topic for #60: Aristotle’s Politics

Aristotle’s Politics (from around 350 B.C.E.) is presented as a follow-up to his Nichomachean Ethics (which we discussed in a previous episode). Actually, we’re not sure in what order these were composed, and the Politics is internally repetitious enough that it is probably itself mashed together from different original sources; those that are into that […]

Episode 58: What Grounds Ethical Claims? (Moore, Stevenson, MacIntyre)


On G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica, ch. 1 (1903); Charles Leslie Stevenson’s “The Emotive Meaning of Ethical Terms” (1937), and Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, ch. 1-2. Is there such a thing as moral intuition? Is “good” a simple property that we all recognize but can’t explain like yellow? Or are moral terms just tools we use to convince other people to like things that we like? Learn more.

End song: “When I Was Yours,” by Mark Lint, 1997.

Dave Chappelle

Black Americas have historically used comedy to cope with the sad realities of racism. Living in what Cornel West called “a perpetual state of emergency” has heightened Black American’s sensitivity to sometimes-subtle social truths. The best of the Black-American comedians cast a fresh light on every day social interactions in sometimes painful but often hilarious […]

In Defense of the Expectation Thesis

[Editor’s note: We’re happy here to get a contribution on humor from Philosophy Bro who was on our recent Wittgenstein episodes. Give him a nice round of applause.] I think that “funny” is one of those words that you’re going to have a real bad time trying to delimit or explain entirely. But, uh… fuck […]

When Things are Not Funny

While discussing (through Bergson’s book) how humor works in us, we had a couple of forays into related off-topics. The first was the question of laughter and delight. My contention was that the laughter of delight may be related, but is not the same thing as a reaction to something being funny. The second was […]

Deeply Funny?

(Image: Tom Motley when he’s all spiffed up.) It is a little known fact, even among our philosophically sophisticated readers, that Heidegger argued for the supremacy of German humor. Because German jokes have the most precise underlying structure, he argued, German humor would rule the earth for a thousand years. (Sorry if you’ve already heard […]

Humor Case Study 2: Henny Youngman

So Mark took on the comedy stylings of Louis CK in the first case study, someone who establishes a core insight and then plays it out through both content and performance.  I’d like to take a look at two other (multi-generational!) comedians who rely on establishing a premise quickly using audience assumptions and then make […]

Humor Case Study: Louie CK

We mentioned Louie CK on the episode in the context of his body image bits, but since he’s not a paradigm case of that (meaning it’s not his only shtick), we didn’t pursue it. So here’s a piece from I chose semi-randomly for us to discuss, having to do with kid naming and in general […]

Borat on Display

In the episode we spent some time discussing Sacha Baron Cohen’s humor of duping people (I don’t know whether he does this in his current movie, which sounds like it has more scripted elements), which I generally think is great, while Dylan and Seth found it hard to sit through given the duping of the […]

Science Determines Beauty

This Reuters video (and I’m sorry about the 30 second commercial that you have to sit through to get to it) depicts “Britain’s Most Natural Beauty,” where the contest “wasn’t just a matter of subjective beauty, but settled with science. Researchers said that the distance between facial features, and the width and length of the […]

Humor and Imagination (and Humor vs. Good Humor)

One point I had intended to make during the episode was about the role of the imagination in aesthetic appreciation, including appreciation of humor. One distinction that Bergson glossed over and which we weren’t very consistent about making is the difference between “falling within the category of humor” and “actually being funny.” This came through […]