Not much has been written on wit as a virtue. This is surprising given the revival of virtue ethics and Aristotle's giving it as much discussion space as some other virtues. What has been written denies that it is a virtue (often without much argumentation) or that it is an important one.1 Our aim is to offer arguments for and against the claim that wit is a virtue, thus paving the way for a more sustained discussion. Tough we are more convinced by the arguments that wit is not a virtue than by those that it is, we conclude by explaining which of Aristotle's insights regarding wit might be preserved.
THE FIRST CASE FOR WIT'S BEING A VIRTUE: A DESCRIPTION OF ITS STRUCTURE
Our first argument that wit is a virtue relies on a description of its structure, including how wit differs from continent, incontinent and vicious forms of humour. Its structural resemblance to other virtues makes it a good candidate for being a virtue.
Wit has an essential connection to the humorous, which admits of a large variety: telling and listening to jokes, practical jokes, mimicry, punning and slapstick. However, wit is not mere joke-telling. One doesn't need to be witty to tell jokes, even to deliver them properly. Wit often involves saying or doing something funny that is fitting for the occasion, say, at a party, at a meeting or in a piece of writing.