A philosophical approach to satire and humour in social context

Abrahams, Daniel (2020) A philosophical approach to satire and humour in social context. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The topic of my dissertation is satire. This seems to excite many people, and over the past four years I have heard many variations of a similar refrain: “Oh, wow. You’re studying satire? That’s very topical. You must have a lot of material to work with.” There is a way in which this is true, though I suspect in a way that diverges from the way that most of my interlocutors believed. I suspect that the material they imagined me to be working with was the output of Donald Trump, first a candidate for and now holder of the office of President of the United States. That is not the material I find interesting. More interesting to me is their statement. It evinces a number of beliefs that I find interesting, chief among them that Trump makes the current period particularly apt for satire, as if a doddery and incompetent ruling class is somehow a recent phenomenon. And I suspect that underneath this belief in the aptness of satire is a belief in the power of satire. Satire is somehow how people are going to strike back at the vice-governed fools who rule us. Those beliefs are the material I want to work with.
This is my interest in satire, then: not so much what it is about satire that makes it powerful, but what is it about satire that makes people think it is powerful? And what is it about satire that makes people think it is powerful when there is pretty powerful evidence that it is not? Unfortunately, here is where I run into the problem that in a very important way I do not have a lot of material to work with. There is not an awful lot on satire within the analytic tradition: outside of a few references to satire, analytic discussions of satire are limited to two short articles. Accordingly, I have taken the task of my dissertation to be to create an account of satire that helps to bring forward why satire is a thing that people can imagine to be powerful, that they can imagine to be politically effective.
My dissertation will effectively have two halves, one where I build my account and one where I begin to apply it. The purpose of applying my account, which will comprise the final two chapters, will not be to show its implications so much as how it can be used. My goal will not so much be to give definitive answers about the nature of satire, but rather to give a demonstration of how my account facilitates engaging questions about the role of satire in social and political context.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philosophy, humour, satire, philosophy of art, philosophy of language, trust, social epistemology, ethics, ethics of humour, misrepresentation.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Supervisor's Name: Kemp, Dr. Gary
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Daniel Alexander Abrahams
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-79011
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2020 16:04
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2020 12:16
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.79011
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/79011

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