Comedy & Moral Philosophy

September 17, 2012 by

Discussion of ethics is not confined to academic, moral philosophy. This should go without saying since topics of moral import involve and are important for all people. We find answers to our moral questions proposed everywhere, from the news to television shows and movies, from the classroom to the recording studio.

We also find commentary on ethical issues in unexpected places. One of the most curious and interesting of these is comedy.

Comedians think deeply and critically about the world and human life. The stage provides a venue to address things people don’t typically feel comfortable talking about. And the result is a public discussion of important ethical issues. Or, if it’s not a discussion, at least it’s a kind of exercise in moral philosophy.

One of my favorite philosophical comedians is Louis CK, whose appearances on late night talk shows have been particularly morally charged. Appearing here in this first clip on the old Conan O’Brien Show, he gives an insightful critique of peoples’ attitude toward technology.

In a more recent appearance on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, he discusses his sense of the moral gravitas of being a comedian, and develops the theme of generational values a bit further.

And here in another appearance on Conan O’Brien he addresses social media.

Stand-up comedy, while it can seem an instance of purely amoral entertainment, includes a surprising amount of evaluative content.

For a more scholarly, but still enormously entertaining view on the topic of technology and modern culture, check out Kansas State University professor Michael Wesch's anthropological evaluation.