Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Tyler Doggett

Second Advisor

Todd McGowan


humor, incongruity theory, jokes, comedy, amusement, absurdity


This thesis presents a popular and fairly successful account of humor most commonly referred to as incongruity theory. It examines the strengths of this account according to a modern formulation of incongruity theory as well as formulations set forth by Kant and Schopenhauer in the 18th and 19th centuries. This thesis argues that incongruity theory provides a relatively reliable framework for analyzing humor in spite of several important criticisms leveled against it. Finally, it examines the relationship between humor as described by incongruity theory, reason, and the brand of philosophical absurdity identified by Thomas Nagel (1972). By applying incongruity theory to foundational yet persistently unanswerable metaphysical questions about existence, death, God, etc., this thesis attempts to show that humor not only bears a close relationship to these issues but that humor also serves as a means by which we can engage and cope with the unsolvable nature of these problems.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.