Wit and Wounding (NE IV.8)

Howard J. Curzer

in Aristotle and the Virtues

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693726
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738890 | DOI:
Wit and Wounding (NE IV.8)

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Aristotle’s decision to list wit as a virtue does not reflect an outmoded, aristocratic view that morally good people have panache. What makes someone a witty person is not a good sense of humor, but rather it is an appropriate sensitivity to the danger of wounding others through humor. Witty people are not particularly good at specifying which jokes are funny; instead they are good at specify which jokes are hateful in which situations. They avoid telling and tolerating humorous, hurtful put-downs. The passion of wit is not joke-appreciation, but rather it is friendly feeling. Wit’s vices are not (a) boring and (b) clownish dispositions. Instead, they are dispositions (a) to being overly sensitive to the feeling of others with respect to humor, and (b) to being correspondingly insensitive.

Keywords: wit; wounding; jokes; put-downs; humor

Chapter.  10418 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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