Humor & Philosophy:
Selected Bibliography

Compiled by Ralph Dumain

Philosophy will be ridiculous or it will not be at all.

Aquila, Richard. Rhyme or Reason: A Limerick History of Philosophy. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981.

Buckley, F. H. The Morality of Laughter. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. Superior bibliography.

Cameron, Keith, ed. Humour and History. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 1993.

Capps, John & Donald. You've Got to Be Kidding! : How Jokes Can Help You Think. Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

Carroll, Noël. Humour: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Carrell, Amy. Historical Views of Humour. 2000. Note also bibliography.

Cathcart, Thomas; Klein, Daniel. Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington: Understanding Political Doublespeak Through Philosophy and Jokes. New York: Abrams Image, 2008. Publisher description. Official web site.

Cathcart, Thomas; Klein, Daniel. Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explain Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between. New York: Viking, 2009. As audiobook: New York: Penguin Audio, 2009. Authors' web site.

Cathcart, Thomas; Klein, Daniel. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. New York: Abrams Image, 2006. Contents. Official web site.

Charney, Maurice, ed. Comedy: A Geographic and Historical Guide. Westport, CT: Praeger , 2005. 2 v. Table of contents.

Cohen, Ted. Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999.

"The Comic Imagination," Roundtable discussion with Lewis Black, Jim Holt, Bruce McCall, Tami Sagher, and Cody Walker. The Philoctetes Center, 25 March 2009.

Critchley, Simon. On Humour. New York: Routledge, 2002. (Thinking in Action) See also Critchley's "Did you hear the one about the philosopher writing a book on humour?", Think, issue 2, Autumn 2002.

Davis, Murray S. What's So Funny?: The Comic Conception of Culture and Society. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,1993.

Dennett, Daniel. The Philosophical Lexicon. 7th ed. American Philosophical Association, 1978.

Feibleman, James K. In Praise of Comedy: A Study in Its Theory and Practice. New York: Horizon Press, 1970.

Flaubert, Gustave. Bouvard and Pécuchet, in a new translation from the French & with an introduction by Mark Polizzotti, preface by Raymond Queneau. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press, 2005. With the “Dictionary of Accepted Ideas” and the “Catalogue of Fashionable Ideas.” See chapter 8, e.g. Bouvard and P´┐Żcuchet study logic & Hegel. See also Nadeau, below.

Freud, Sigmund. Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, translated and edited by James Strachey, with a biographical introduction by Peter Gay. New York: Norton, 1989. (Translation originally published 1960.)

Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, authorized English edition, translated with introduction, by A.A. Brill. New York: Moffat, Yard and Co., 1916. Reprint: New York: Dover, 1993.

Freydberg, Bernard. Philosophy & Comedy: Aristophanes, Logos, and Erōs. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Fry, William F. Sweet Madness: A Study of Humor. Palo Alto, CA: Pacific Books, 1963.

Gessen, Keith. "Simpsons at the Gates: Intimations of the Coming Barbarism," Hermenaut, 04.26.00.

Gittlitz, A. M. I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs, and Apocalypse Communism. London: Pluto Press, 2020. See chapter 18. On the Function of the Joke and Irony in History, pp. 189-200. See also Posadism: A Guide.

Glasgow, R. D. V. Madness, Masks, and Laughter: An Essay on Comedy. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; London; Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1995.

Gruner, Charles R. The Game of Humor: A Comprehensive Theory of Why We Laugh. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1997.

Gruner, Charles R. Understanding Laughter : The Workings Of Wit & Humor. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1978.

Heller, Agnes. Immortal Comedy: The Comic Phenomenon in Art, Literature, and Life. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005.

Hokenson, Jan Walsh. The Idea of Comedy: History, Theory, Critique. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2006. Table of contents.

Holt, Jim. Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.

Hurley, Matthew M.; Dennett, Daniel C.; Adams, Reginald B. Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. New York; London: Methuen, 1985.

Irwin, William, ed. Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing. Chicago; La Salle, IL: Open Court, 2000.

Irwin, William; Conard, Mark T.; Skoble, Aeon J.; eds. The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 2001. (Popular Culture and Philosophy; v. 2) See also article "The Simpsons, Hyper-Irony, and the Meaning of Life" by Carl Matheson.

Judge, Anthony. Humour and Play-Fullness: Essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity. Draft, 2 July 2005.

Epistemological significance: There is a marked tendency to consider humour in terms of its importance to the relief of tension, to sustaining (challenging) relationships, to maintaining a sense of perspective, to offering a contrast to pessimism, to demonstrating one's humanity, and the like—or to its positive (or negative) effect on those involved. Such appreciation obscures the existential and epistemological significance of humour celebrated by the Caribbean surrealist philosopher Rene Menil (Refusal of the Shadow: Surrealism and the Caribbean, 1996) in an essay on Humour: Introduction to 1945—of which Ralph Dumain states [cites For Rene Menil, Caribbean Surrealist-Philosopher] . . . .

Kaufman, Will. The Comedian as Confidence Man: Studies in Irony Fatigue. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997. (Humor in Life and Letters)

Keough, William. Punchlines: the Violence of American Humor. New York: Paragon House, 1990.

Kincaid, James R. Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971.

Kosík, Karel. The Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Observations from the 1968 Era, edited by James H. Satterwhite. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1995. See:

"On Laughter" (1969), pp. 183-198.
"Hašek and Kafka, or, the World of the Grotesque" (1969), pp. 77-86.
"Švejk and Bulguma, or, the World of Great Humor" (1969), pp. 87-99.

Lauter, Paul, ed. Theories of Comedy. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1964.

Limon, John. Stand-up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Lyons, Alena E.; Malakaj Ervin; eds. Slapstick: An Interdisciplinary Companion. Boston: De Gruyter, 2021.

Marmysz, John. Laughing at Nothing: Humor as a Response to Nihilism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Marteinson, Peter. On the Problem of the Comic: A Philosophical Study on the Origins of Laughter. Ottawa: Legas Press, 2006.

Matheson, Richard. “The Splendid Source” [short story] originally in Playboy, May 1956. Anthologized in Shock! (1961) and Steel, and Other Stories (New York: Tor, 2011, pp. 201-231).

The Splendid Source” was also adapted as an episode of the television series Family Guy: season 8, episode 19 (7ACX17), May 16, 2010. See also Wikipedia article. Snippets of this episode can be found on YouTube.

McFadden, George. Discovering the Comic. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Menil, Rene. "Humour: Introduction to 1945", in: Refusal of the Shadow: Surrealism and the Caribbean, edited by Michael Richardson, translated by Krzysztof Fijalkowski & Michael Richardson, (London: Verso, 1996), pp. 162-175. See my review: For Rene Menil, Caribbean Surrealist-Philosopher.

Morreall, John, ed. The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987. (SUNY Series in Philosophy)

Morreall, John. Taking Laughter Seriously. Albany: State University of New York, 1983.

Nadeau, Maurice. The Greatness of Flaubert, translated by Barbara Bray (New York, Library Press, 1972), chapter 17: Bouvard and Pécuchet, pp. 261-279. See also Flaubert, above.

Nefsky, Julia. "A Logical Vacation," Philosophy Now, Issue 51, June/July 2005.

Otto, Beatrice K. Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester around the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Contents. Book excerpt.

An interview with Beatrice K. Otto

Palmer, Jerry. Taking Humour Seriously. London; New York: Routledge, 1994.

Paulos, John Allen. I Think, Therefore I Laugh: An Alternative Approach to Philosophy. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. See also Paulos web site:

John Allen Paulos

Paulos, John Allen. Mathematics and Humor. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

1 Mathematics and Humor 1
2 Axioms, Levels, and Iteration 19
3 Self-Reference and Paradox 41
4 Humor, Grammar, and Philosophy 57
5 A Catastrophe Theory Model of Jokes and Humor 75
6 Odds and the End 101
References 109
Index 113

Peifer, Jason T. "Can We Be Funny? The Social Responsibility of Political Humor," Journal of Mass Media Ethics: Exploring Questions of Media Morality, volume 27, issue 4, 2012, pp. 263-276.

Peterson, Russell L. Strange Bedfellows: How Late-Night Comedy Turns Democracy into a Joke. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008. Contents.

Mustich, Emma. “Is Stephen Colbert just kidding?” [interview with Russell Peterson],, Jan 20, 2012.

Philosophy Now, #25, Winter 1999/2000: Humor issue.
Click here to read Dumain's critique.

Pitol, Sergio. “Švejk” (December 1991), in The Art of Flight, translated from the Spanish by George Henson; introduction by Enrique Vila-Matas (Dallas: Deep Vellum Publishing, 2015), pp. 224-236.

Plessner, Helmuth. Laughing and Crying: A Study of the Limits of Human Behavior, translated by James Spencer Churchill and Marjorie Grene; with a foreword by Marjorie Grene. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970.

Powell, Chris; Paton, George E.C.; eds. Humour in Society: Resistance and Control. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Rappoport, Leon. Punchlines: the Case for Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Humor. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2005.

Rose, Margaret A. Parody: Ancient, Modern, and Post-Modern. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. (Literature, Culture, Theory; 5)

Rose, Margaret A. Parody//Meta-Fiction: An Analysis of Parody as a Critical Mirror to the Writing and Reception of Fiction. London: Croom Helm, 1979.

Schwob, Marcel. “Laughter,” translated by Ross Chambers, in Evergreen Review Reader 1957-1967: A Ten-Year Anthology (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1968), pp. 299-300.

Shandean Humour in English and German Literature and Philosophy, edited by Klaus Vieweg, James Vigus, and Kathleen M. Wheeler. London: Legenda, Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Publishing, 2013.

Shershow, Scott Cutler. Laughing Matters: The Paradox of Comedy. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986.

Shibles, Warren A. Humor Reference Guide: A Comprehensive Classification and Analysis. 1998. Book online. Note also bibliography.

Simon, Richard Keller. The Labyrinth of the Comic: Theory and Practice from Fielding to Freud. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, Florida State University Press, 1985.

Speier, Hans. “Wit and Politics: An Essay on Power and Laughter” [orig. German, 1975], translated and edited by Robert Jackall, The American Journal of Sociology, vol. 103, no. 5, March 1998, pp. 1352-1401.

Stott, Andrew. Comedy. New York: Routledge, 2005. Table of contents.

Swiderski, Edward M. The Philosophical Foundations of Soviet Aesthetics: Theories and Controversies in the Post-War Years (Dordrecht, Holland; Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1979), Chapter IV: The Societalists and Naturists, pp. 112-113. [Sovietica; v. 42]

Trahair, Lisa. The Comedy of Philosophy: Sense and Nonsense in Early Cinematic Slapstick. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007. Table of contents.

Watson, Richard A. The Philosopher's Joke: Essays in Form and Content. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1990. (Frontiers of Philosophy)

For content irrespective of humor, the most important essay is "The Seducer and the Seduced," about Kierkegaard. Original publication: The Georgia Review, 39 (1985): 353-366.

Weeks, Mark. "Beyond a Joke: Nietzsche and the Birth of 'Super-Laughter'," Journal of Nietzsche Studies, no. 27, 2004, pp. 1-17. See also commentary by R. Dumain.

Why So Serious (Philosophy and Comedy), Angelaki, Volume 21, Issue 3 (2016).

Also in book form: Why So Serious: On Philosophy and Comedy, edited by Russell Ford. London: Routledge, 2018.

Willett, Cynthia. Irony in the Age of Empire: Comic Perspectives on Democracy and Freedom. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Wohlfart, Günter ; Moeller, Hans-Georg; eds. Freiburg im Breisgau: Verlag Karl Alber, 2010. Laughter in Eastern and Western Philosophies: Proceedings of the Académie du Midi (Welten der Philosophie; 3 )

Laughter in Mohist writings / Anna Ghiglione — Can Zhuangzi make Confucians laugh? : emotion, propriety, and the role of laughter / Robin R. Wang — From foolish laughter to foolish laughter : Zhuangzi's perspectivism leads to laughter / Paul D'Ambrosio — The modern Chinese word for humour (huaji) and its antecedents in the Zhuangzi and other early texts / Richard John Lynn — The ridiculousness of attachment in the Journey to the west / Franklin Perkins —"Why do birds shit on Buddha's head" : Zen and laughter / Robert E. Carter — What is there to laugh about in Buddhism? / Karl-Heinz Pohl — Comic verse in the classical Japanese literary tradition / Robert Borgen — Ludicrous professionals : physicians and priests in Japanese Senryû / William R. LaFleur — Irony, ambiguity, and laughter in Greek and Latin texts / Haijo Jan Westra — "Great laughter was in heaven" : roots and repercussions of a literary motif / Manfred Malzahn — Nietzsche's nascent laughter / Lorraine Markotic — Foolish wisdom in Benjamin's Kafka / Brendan Moran — Laughter as truth procedure : the evolution of comic form in Newfoundland / Stephen Crocker — Siddhartha, Socrates, and Zhuangzi : laughter across ancient civilizations / Alfredo P. Co — Transcendental laughter beyond enlightenment / Günter Wohlfart.

Zupančič, Alenka. The Odd One In: On Comedy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. (Short Circuits)


Brecht, Bertolt. "On Hegelian Dialectics", excerpt from Flüchtlingsgespräche [Refugee Conversations], end of Chapter 11, Denmark or Humor / On Hegelian Dialectics, pp. 1459-1463. Probably written 1940-41. Translated by Charles Senger.

Desmond, William. Beyond Hegel and Dialectic: Speculation, Cult, and Comedy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. (SUNY series in Hegelian Studies)

Roche, Mark William. Tragedy and Comedy: A Systematic Study and a Critique of Hegel. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. (SUNY series in Hegelian Studies)

Trahair, Lisa. "The Comedy of Philosophy: Bataille, Hegel, and Derrida", Angelaki, vol. 6, no. 3, December 2001, pp. 155-169. Expanded or reprinted in Trahair's The Comedy of Philosophy (see above).


Burgess, Andrew J. “A Word-Experiment on the Category of the Comic,” in International Kierkegaard Commentary: The Corsair Affair, ed. Robert L. Perkins (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), pp. 85-121.

Kierkegaard, Søren. The Humor of Kierkegaard: An Anthology; edited and introduced by Thomas C. Oden. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Lippitt, John. Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard's Thought. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Williams, Will. The Legitimacy of the Comic: Kierkegaard and the Importance of the Comic for His Ethics and Theology. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Religion, Baylor University, 2011.

See also Kierkegaard entries in Irony In Philosophy, Romanticism, And Criticism: Selected Bibliography.


Association for Psychological Science. "People Think Immoral Behavior Is Funny — But Only If It Also Seems Benign," ScienceDaily, 9 August 2010.

SPSP Psychology of Humor Pre-Conference, January 27, 2011

What Laughs at What? Mary Douglas on Humour by John C. Brady, Epoché Magazine, Oct. 2, 2018. Anthropological perspective.


The International Association for the Philosophy of Humor (IAPH)

The Philosophy of Humor Yearbook

Sense of the Comic by Edward G. Ballard, in Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Philosophical Humor (David Chalmers)

The Ring of Irony (web ring)

Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression

The Aristocrats (film released August 2005)

Poe's Law (RationalWiki)

Emily Levine's theory of everything (video talk), TED, Feb. 2002

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Tom Cathcart and Daniel Klein - Official Site

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between

Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington: Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington - Tom Cathcart and Daniel Klein - Official Site

(15 June 2000, rev. 21 July 2000, 8 March 2001, 9 July 2001, 15 May 2002, 22 July 2002, 5 September 2002, 16 November 2002, 21 July 2004, 23 July 2004, 1 August 2004, 24 August 2004, 20 August 2005, 9 September 2005, 24 February 2006, 11 July 2006, 5 December 2007, 28 December 2007, 16 February 2008, 11 August 2008, 30 December 2008, 29-30 January 2010, 9 February 2010, 18 May 2010, 5 July 2010, 13 August 2010, 6/8 September 2010, 18 Jan 2011, 29 May 2011, 21 Jan 2012, 24 Jan 2012, 23 March 2013, 12 November 2014, 28 Aug 2015, 28 July 2016, 29 March 2017, 12 May 2019, 8 June 2019, 1 September 2019, 19 September 2019, 30 November 2019, 7 December 2019, 28 December 2019, 10 September 2020, 25 September 2020, 23 June 3021, 23 Jan 2022, 23 & 30 Aug 2022, 28 May 2023, 20 October 2023, 12 November 2023,  23 January 2024)

Toward A Theory of Humor (Fragment)
by Macedonio Fernández

Definition of ’Pataphysics by Alfred Jarry

Formal Logic of Pataphysics by René Daumal

Friedrich Ludwig Lindner, The Absolute Boot
reviewed by R. Dumain

Humor, Irony, & Catastrophe Theory: Notes

Irony, Paradox, & Reductio ad Absurdum: Selected Online Sources

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide
(includes the following links & more:)

The Philosophy of Humor and the Humor of Philosophy

Irony In Philosophy, Romanticism, And Criticism: Selected Bibliography

Hegel's Aesthetics: Selected Bibliography

Philosophical Style: Selected Bibliography

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