In A Philosopher Looks at the Sense of Humor, Richard C. Richards discusses how one's appreciation of and ability to create incongruities is a necessary condition for developing a sense of humor. One's sense of humor, according to Richards, can be a component of happiness. In this paper, I will build on Richards's concept of the sense of humor. I will argue that Richards account is consistent with an Aristotelian picture of happiness as holistic well-being. Specifically, I will suggest that the attitude underlying the aesthetic and/or the humorous is a kind of pro-attitude that must be cultivated (i.e., one is not simply born with a developed sense of humor). I argue that a sense of humor, as an Aristotelian virtue, is consistent with Richards’s developmental account of a sense of humor. However, I am making a stronger claim than Richards; I will argue that the sense of humor is necessary for happiness. In this way, I am filling out Richards’s account of the role one's sense of humor plays in one's long-term happiness. Since a good Aristotelian will offer examples to elucidate the intermediate position between the extremes, I offer an analysis of Richards own writings and behavior as exemplifying an excellent sense of humor, one that has served as a model for others to emulate the kind of play necessary to "transform a simple incongruity into the stuff of humor". [excerpt]
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Victor, Elizabeth. "Aesthetics, Humor, and Virtue: Reflections on Richards and the Good Life." Praxis, Poems, and Punchlines: Essays in Honor of Richard C. Richards, edited by Steven Gimbel, 2020, pp. 54-70.