Dark humour in dark times

2018 Simone Weill Lecture on Human Value – Dark humour in dark times: The sustaining virtue of laughter

The Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry’s Mark Alfano will explore the moral significance and value of humour and laughter during the 18th Simone Weill lecture which will be held in Brisbane and Melbourne in July.


Where Melbourne – Christ Lecture Theatre ACU Melbourne Campus, 115 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy

When Monday 16 July, 2018

Time 6pm for 6.30pm


Where Brisbane – ACU Leadership Centre, Level 3, Cathedral House, 229 Elizabeth St Brisbane

When Thursday 19 July, 2018

Time 6pm for 6.30pm


Lecture overview

In this talk, Professor Alfano explores the moral significance and value of humour and laughter, including – and perhaps especially – during dark and difficult circumstances. A sense of humour, he argues, governs both contempt and hope. Laughter is thus a way of rising above the object of one’s contempt, whether that object is a medical condition, a tyrant, or unworthy aspects of oneself. While maintaining a sense of humour enables people to deal psychologically with their troubles and sorrows, there is also a deeper moral significance to humour that points the way to a future in which our contemporary troubles are regarded from “above” and “at a distance”. Surveying ourselves from this perspective, even if we recognise that it’s a perspective that we will never occupy, can lend us hope and the resolve to work towards that future. Alfano concludes by connecting these themes with Simone Weil’s idea that ethics is grounded in basic human needs. He argues that, among our other needs, we require a sense of our innermost selves as both immune to the most dire assaults and capable of accomplishing something valuable on this earth. The contempt expressed and the hope afforded by a sense of humour answer, respectively, to these needs.

The lecture is offered free of charge.

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