In this paper, I look behind the scary mask that humor can wear to consider humor’s brighter side. In doing so, I focus on mirth and its ethical implications. The discussion proceeds as follows: (1) I begin with a discussion of ‘humor’. In this part of the paper, I address common theories of humor including Incongruity Theory, Social Signaling Theory, and Amusement Theory and work toward a suggestion for how mirth fits with humor. (2) I continue the discussion to talk more specifically about the relation of mirth and humor to highlight certain features of mirth. This section sets the stage for my discussion of Marc Chagall’s work in Part (3). In Part (3), I consider some of Marc Chagall’s writings about his life and several of his paintings highlighting especially his use of color and representations of animals. Chagall’s comments about his general approach to life and painting come across as expressions prompted by a depth of wisdom and a generosity of attitude—of lively good cheer, good-humoredness, or mirth. In the course of my discussion, I suggest that he accepts a kind of ethics of mirth, and, then, consider the implication that mirth is good in an ethical sense.
- Daniel Dennett: “Reverse Engineering the Funny Bone”
- John Morreall: “It’s a Funny Thing, Humor”
- Thomas Brommage: “An Inferential Analysis of Offensive Humor”
- Martin Donougho: “Comedic System – Or why ‘the philosopher’ seems ridiculous”
- Christopher Gontar: “The Falsity of Hurley’s False-Belief Theory of Humor”