Eminent philosopher Peter Kreeft spoke at the University of Dallas on Nov. 6 to an overflow crowd on the “philosophy of humor.”
Kreeft told the audience of students, faculty and alumni that he was planning to write a book on how to save Western civilization. The topic was an unpleasant one, however, so he thought instead about writing something that would make his audience happy. In this way, he turned to the topic of the philosophy of humor. Most books on the topic are humorless, he noted. This was in contrast to the talk, in which Kreeft shared a number of good jokes. He said at the outset that the audience’s reaction to his talk would determine whether he would write the book.
For Kreeft humor is healthy, happy and holy. Laughter is a signal of transcendence; it takes us out of ourselves and transcends our categories, expectations, boredom and desire for control. A laugh is a big smile, and a smile is a little laugh. Laughter is a case and effect of health, both physical and spiritual.
“If you never stopped laughing you’d never die. That’s not quite true, but at least you’d die laughing,” said Kreeft. Laughter can also be holy when we laugh at ourselves, and Kreeft said that being a comedian is a high and holy vocation.
After a spirited question-and-answer session with the audience, Kreeft announced that he had decided to write the book, and welcomed members of the audience to email him their favorite jokes.