Religion and Humor as Emancipating Provinces of Meaning

  • Michael Barber

Part of the Contributions To Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 91)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Pragmatic Mastery and Its Nemeses: A Dialectic

  3. The Finite Province of Religious Meaning

  4. The Finite Province of Meaning of Humor

  5. Conclusion

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 215-215
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 225-231

About this book


This book illustrates how non-pragmatic finite provinces of meaning emancipate one from pragmatic everyday pressures. Barber portrays everyday life originally, as including the interplay between intrinsic and imposed relevances, the unavoidable pursuit of pragmatic mastery, and the resulting tensions non-pragmatic provinces can relieve. But individuals and groups also inevitably resort to meta-level strategies of hyper-mastery to protect set ways of satisfying lower-level relevances—strategies that easily augment individual anxiety and social pathologies.  

After creatively interpreting the Schutzian dialectic between the world of working and non-pragmatic provinces, Barber describes the experience of reality in the finite provinces of religion and humor. Schutz, who only mentioned these provinces, laid out the six features of the cognitive style that characterize any finite province of meaning. This book is the first to follow up on these suggestions and depict two new finite provinces of meaning beyond those in “On Multiple Realities.” While entrance into these provinces reduces everyday life tensions, it does not suffice since pragmatic relevances infiltrate the provinces, as when one uses humor to belittle competing cultural groups or one deploys religion only as an instrument to ensure crop productivity. Instead, liberation from anxieties and pathologies is brought to completion when the ego agens, the 0-point of all its coordinates, discovers its value in relation to the transcendent, even if it fails to realize its pragmatic purposes, or when one becomes comical to oneself through the eyes of another different from oneself.  

This book, aimed at advanced undergraduate, graduate, or scholarly audiences, presents stimulating analyses of the religious “appresentative mindset” or of the healing potential of interracial humor. Drawing heavily on interdisciplinary resources, the book also illustrates the relevance of phenomenological methods and concepts for concrete human experience. Barber offers a fresh understanding of pragmatic everyday life, original descriptions of the religious and humorous provinces of meaning, and a picture of how the overarching intentional stances of meaning-provinces, along with exposure to another perspective, can diminish the pressures everyday life engenders.


Appresentation Epoché Finite Provinces of Meaning Imposed, Intrinsic Relevances Interracial Humor Phenomenology of Humor Phenomenology of Religious Experience Phenomenology of the Body Pragmatic Everyday Life Tension of Consciousness

Authors and affiliations

  • Michael Barber
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySaint Louis UniversitySaint LouisUSA

Bibliographic information