Friday, June 1, 2012

A Philosophy Behind Laughing


As a philosophy major, much of my studies have been weighted toward reflection and away from spontaneity. As such, it's often times difficult to conceive of a philosophy of laughter, notwithstanding the philosophical schools of thought on the matter. 


While I was familiar with various theories of humor or at least with the philosopher's who conceived of them, I did not give aesthetics much consideration until reading Plato and a Platypus. For the first time, philosophy made me laugh aloud! 

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein's philogagging made me roar with laughter at their humorous romp through philosophy... a particular favorite from their book is one that questions whether divine revelation trumps reason as a source of human knowledge or visa versa: 



A man stumbles down a deep well and plummets a hundred feet before grasping a spindly root, stopping his fall. His grip grows weaker and weaker, and in his desperation he cries out, "Is there anybody up there?" 

He looks up, and all he can see is a circle of sky. Suddenly, the clouds part and a beam of bright light shines down on him. 

A deep voice thunders, "I, the Lord, am here. Let go of the root, and I will save you." 

The man thinks for a moment and then yells, "Is there anybody else up there?" 


It was in that moment that I firmly believed that all the years of devotion, time, and attention to acquiring knowledge on the subject of philosophy was worth it.  My fascination with the history of human thought, professionally expressed in my preservation of human ingenuity, had given way to a new fascination, humor. 



Life is far more interesting because of its inherent funniness. While humor during times of great sorrow is inappropriate and requires sensibility to avoid offending others, it is possible to keep it at one's disposal in the event the opportunity arises to utter something funny. 



  
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