By John Morreall
Comic reduction: A entire Philosophy of Humor develops an inclusive concept that integrates mental, aesthetic, and moral matters with regards to humor
- Offers an enlightening and obtainable foray into the intense enterprise of humor
- Reveals how usual theories of humor fail to provide an explanation for its real nature and truly aid conventional prejudices opposed to humor as being delinquent, irrational, and foolish
- Argues that humor’s merits overlap considerably with these of philosophy
- Includes a foreword by way of Robert Mankoff, comic strip Editor of The New Yorker
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Extra info for Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor
70 Freud’s account of his last laughter situation, “the comic,” faces problems, too. Here the saving of energy is supposed to be with energy normally used for thinking, that is, for understanding something we perceive or think about, such as the antics of a clown. We summon a large packet of psychic energy to understand the clown’s extravagant movements in, say, riding a bicycle across the circus ring. But as we are summoning it, we compare it with the small packet of energy required to understand our own simpler movements in doing the same thing.
My overall assessment of the Relief Theory in its simple and complex forms is that it is based on an outdated hydraulic theory of the mind. The Minority Opinion of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas: Humor as Playful Relaxation While the overwhelming number of Western thinkers who commented on humor before the twentieth century criticized it, there were a few who appreciated its value. The most important were Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, who treated humor as a virtue, under the right conditions. Aristotle discussed wittiness (eutrapelia, literally “turning well”) in the Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4, alongside truthfulness and friendliness: Since life includes relaxation as well as activity, and in relaxation there is leisure and amusement, there seems to be here too the possibility of good taste in our social relations, and propriety in what we say and how we say it.
When we’re angry with someone, we make small aggressive movements such as moving closer to them and clenching our fists. If our nervous energy reaches a certain level, we do attack them. The larger movements of full-scale fear, anger, and other emotions vent the excess pressure much as the safety valve on the steam boiler vents excess steam pressure. Laughter works in a similar way, only the muscular movements in laughter are not the early stages of any larger movements. Even if intense, laughter is not the beginning of fighting, fleeing, or any other action.
Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor by John Morreall