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A distance theory of humour1


Brian Ribeiro offers a sketch of a new theory of humour, pitched at roughly the same level of detail, and intended to have roughly the same level of inclusiveness, as the other available philosophical ‘theories’ of humour.

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2 Hobbes Thomas, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Molesworth William (Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1966). See III: 46; IV: 4547, 454455.

3 Kant Immanuel, Critique of Judgement, trans. Meredith J. C. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952). See §54: 196203.

4 Freud Sigmund, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, trans. Strachey James (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989).

5 This idea comes from Critchley Simon's On Humour (New York: Routledge, 2002): Chapter 3. This, along with various other scattered remarks in the book, helped me to begin to see the outlines of the distance theory as a theory of humour capable of explaining a diverse range of phenomena, from crass bodily humour to observational comedy.

1 I would like to express my gratitude to Hannah Rutledge with whom many of the ideas in this paper were tested and refined, and to Ronnie Littlejohn for being easily persuaded to let me teach a course on ‘Seinfeld and Philosophy’ (while I was a visiting lecturer at Belmont University) that I will always remember with unmitigated delight.#

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  • ISSN: 1477-1756
  • EISSN: 1755-1196
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