On Enlightenment Humor

For the Earl of Shaftesbury, to practice the comic spirit is to be easy, natural, flexible, and tolerant rather than stiff-necked and fanatical. Humor is a splendid palliative for ‘superstition and melancholy delusion.’ Satire, with its coarse belligerence, is a cultural residue of a more abrasive, agonistic world, and is now to be tempered by good humor and an irenic spirit, which spring from the genteel classes’ belief in their own inexhaustible benevolence. Men and women are to be seduced rather than censured into virtue, humored rather than harangued. As the historian Keith Thomas remarks, the early eighteenth century is a period when ‘humor grows kindly and...bizarre quirks of personality are not aberrations calling for satiric attack but amiable eccentricities to be savored and enjoyed.’ Hegel notes in his Philosophy of Fine Art that in modern comedy, imperfections and irregularities are objects of entertainment rather than disdain

Terry Eagleton, “The Politics of Humor,” - commonwealmagazine.org/whose-laughter-which-comedy