Teaching philosophy with humor: Not a mere laughter-thought

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Swanson, Carolyn
By reputation, philosophy is serious and erudite. It notoriously asks the heavy questions in life: whether an almighty God exists or moral facts or all our furniture when we leave the room. However, despite its lofty persona, philosophy can easily converge with the funny – especially within a college or university classroom. As a discipline, it naturally sits on a goldmine of inventive thought experiments just waiting to be punched out with a little comedic spice. Moreover, the humor in shows and movies can play on a twist that’s useful for applying philosophical theories or concepts. And in any philosophy class, but especially an informal logic one, we need to examine reasoning. Not uncommonly, jokes play on reasoning that goes astray, and can be effective power tools for explaining logic fallacies. Perhaps most importantly, humor invites creative and independent thinking — an important starting point for university students, and especially budding philosophers.
This is an author-provided, manuscript version of a book chapter which was originally published as: Swanson, C. (2021). Teaching philosophy with humor: Not a mere laughter-thought. In K. Vaidya (Ed.), Teach philosophy with a sense of humor: Why (and how to) be a funnier and more effective philosophy teacher and laugh all the way to your classroom. The Curious Academic Publishing. For more information about this title, see: https://bit.ly/philosophy-humor
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