The Paradox of Horror

Join us for a SpOoKy edition of the Strange Philosophy Thing tomorrow, Halloween (10/31), at 4:30 p.m. for refreshments and some fun, informal philosophy talk. Grab a treat from our candy stash and get ready to discuss:

Topic: The Paradox of Horror

Consider the following three claims:
1. Horror stories and movies cause negative emotions in the audience (e.g., fear, disgust).
2. We want to avoid things that cause negative emotions.
3. We do not want to avoid horror stories and movies.

Though each of these claims seems intuitively plausible, they cannot all be true. For example, if claim 1 is true and horror causes negative emotions, and if claim 2 is true and we want to avoid things that cause negative emotions, then it seems to follow that we would want to avoid horror. But that’s inconsistent with claim 3. On the other hand, if, as claim 2 has it, we want to avoid things that cause negative emotions, and if, as claim 3 has it, we do not want to avoid horror, then, presumably, horror doesn’t cause negative emotions. But that’s inconsistent with claim 1. So, it seems that, in order to avoid inconsistency, we must reject (or modify) one of these claims. Which should we reject?

You need not prepare in anyway in order to attend the Strange Thing discussion. However, if you’re interested, there’s a wealth of info on the paradox of horror available from across the web. Here’s a short video on the topic by, perhaps, the premier philosopher of horror, Noël Carroll. We discussed this topic back in 2017 and Professor Armstrong provided a great write-up here. And, finally, for a look at the neuroscience of horror, check out this recent audio interview with Nina Nesseth, author of the book, Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films.

See you tomorrow! And, why not bring a friend, to kick off All Hallows’ Eve in style, with philosophy!