Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: Philosophical Perspectives on Humor and Laughter

Philosophical Perspectives on Humor and Laughter by John Andrew Lippitt, is a dissertation, from Department of Philosophy, University of Durham. The book begins by rating sense of humor very high on the list of desirable attributes of current society. An exhaustive list of thinkers who have considered these subjects worthy of discussion, which include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche,  Bergson and Freud, effectively support this.
Author the goes on with one early theory: "Laughter is  an  affection  arising  from  a  strained  expectation  being suddenly reduced to  nothing". Here, the notions of incongruity, superiority and the release  of energy are discussed, with the aim to show, how illfitting those are. Which more or less results in the failure of both incongruity- and superiority-based theories. 
What follows is a fresh discussion on the most interesting and important of which concerns the functions of humour and laughter. This chapter sheds further light on this by contrasting two diametrically opposed views  of laughter's function. The first  of these, the proponent of which being Henri Bergson, and the second, that of Friedrich  Nietzsche, is covered briefly. The function of laughter as a social corrective, as well as  Nietzsche's idea that laughter is the appropriate response to an individual's ultimate liberation adds value to the discussion.  
This book attempts to treat humor much more than analyzing jokes, and showing us the wider role laughter can play in human life. Though it talks of 'the potential to take what might genuinely be called a 'humorous attitude' to life', the book is silent about the actual details. 

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