Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor develops an inclusive theory that integrates psychological, aesthetic, and ethical issues relating to humor Offers an enlightening and accessible foray into the serious business of humor Reveals how standard theories of humor fail to explain its true nature and actually support traditional prejudices against humor as being antisocial, irrational, and foolish Argues that humor’s benefits overlap significantly with those of philosophy Includes a foreword by Robert Mankoff, Cartoon Editor of The New Yorker.
This book assesses the adequacy of the traditional theories of laughter and humor, suggests revised theories, and explores such areas as the aesthetics and ethics of humor, and the relation of amusement to other mental states. Theories of laughter and humor originated in ancient times with the view that laughter is an expression of feelings of superiority over another person. This superiority theory was held by Plato, Aristotle, and Hobbes. Another aspect of laughter, noted by Aristotle and Cicero and neglected (...) until Kant and Schopenhauer developed it into the incongruity theory, is that laughter is often a reaction to the perception of some incongruity. According to the third and latest traditional theory, the relief theory of Herbert Spencer and Freud, laughter is the venting of superfluous nervous energy. Historical examples of all these theories are presented along with hybrid theories such as those of Descartes and Bergson. The book also features traditional explorations of the place of humor in aesthetics, drama, and literature. This is the first work in the last fifty years to include the classic sources in the philosophy of humor and the first to present theories by contemporary philosophers. (shrink)
Tragedy has traditionally been ranked higher than comedy, and critics often valorize the ‘tragic vision of life’. Using twenty contrasts between tragedy and comedy, I argue that there is a ‘comic vision of life’ which is superior to the tragic vision, especially in the post-heroic era in which we live.
I examine three main objections to humor in western thought--That humor is hostile, That it is irrational, And that it is irresponsible. None of these, I show, Is a valid general objection to humor. I then explore some of the values of humor overlooked in western thought, Especially the way it gets us to see things in new ways and liberates us from practical concern. I contrast the western rejection of humor with the embracing of humor in zen, Showing the (...) connection between the nonattachment emphasized in zen and the "distancing" in humor. (shrink)
Although not a great deal has been said about heaven in the Christian tradition, it is part of the traditional notion of heaven that the blessed are in a condition of perfect happiness. In this life we can be happy to a certain degree, but mixed with earthly happiness is disappointment, frustration, and even sorrow. In heaven, by contrast, there is no sadness, nothing is lacking, happiness is complete. The usual way of explaining this perfect happiness is in terms of (...) the ‘beatific vision’ – the face to face relationship of knowing and loving God which the blessed enjoy. On earth we experience only finite objects; nothing that we come to know ever completely satisfies our desire to know, and nothing that we love ever completely satisfies our will. But in the beatific vision we shall be in a direct relationship with the infinite God, who in his boundless perfection will completely ‘fill up’ our capacities to know and love. As the completely adequate object of these capacities, God will make us perfectly happy. As Aquinas puts it, ‘…But if God alone were seen, who is the fount and source of all being and of all truth, he would so fill the natural desire for knowledge that nothing else would be desired, and the seer would be completely happy.’. (shrink)
Any reflective account of theological language acknowledges very early that words drawn from our experience with creatures have special meanings when applied to God. Because God transcends the created world, we cannot take predicates which apply to creatures and apply them to God without modification. And the more transcendent God is understood to be, the more modified will our language taken from creatures have to be when it is used in theology. A primitive theism which thinks of God simply as (...) a very powerful person will view the difference between God and creatures as merely a matter of degree and not of kind. In such a view God transcends things in the world only in that he has a greater degree of the properties we find in creatures, so that predicates taken from creatures, ‘wise’ and ‘strong’, for example, can be applied to God in almost a straightforward way. The only change in meaning is that God is more knowing and strong er . In a more sophisticated theism such as Judaism or Christianity, on the other hand, God' transcendence is seen not simply as a difference in degrees of properties, but as a difference in kind. The being God is is radically other than the kinds of beings we find in the created world. Indeed, it is sometimes claimed that God is not even ‘a being’, a thing which exists; rather God is ‘being itself’, ‘pure existence’. Aquinas, for instance, held that God does not have properties. God is absolutely simple, and so if we can talk about properties at all in talking about God, we have to say that God is identical to God' properties. God, too, differs radically from creatures in that he is not in time and space, nor is he dependent on anything else. But our language used with creatures is full of explicit or implicit references to time and space and to dependence, so that we cannot take our ordinary terms derived from our experience with spatio-temporal, dependent creatures and apply them straightforwardly to God. (shrink)