why do we laugh?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by snowflake, Mar 15, 2003.

  1. snowflake Guest

    im curious as to why humans laugh? what is it in a joke that our mind translates to our physical self to make us laugh?
     
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  3. everneo Re-searcher Registered Senior Member

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    hhahahahhahhaaa.... did u ever notice that a buffallow looking up to the sun and showing it teeth..

    interesting question.. physiologist / psychologists may be able to give u good answer.
     
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  5. proteus42 Registered Senior Member

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    Henri Bergson wrote a whole book (not so thick, though) on laughing at the beginning of the last century. It's full of interesting observations about humour so if you're really interested this topic (and it's interesting, I agree with you) I suggest you should read it. Maybe you can find it somewhere on the internet.
     
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  7. Bebelina kospla.com Valued Senior Member

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    Maybe the philosophical question should be "why do we have a sense of humour?" ?
     
  8. Tyler Registered Senior Member

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    Actually, Beb, there is no philosophical question here. It's a physiological/neurological question. Would you ask - What are tears used for? - in a philosophy section. Sure hope not.
     
  9. Bebelina kospla.com Valued Senior Member

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    No Tyler, you are wrong. ( don't you just hate to hear that?)
    I was asking the question from a philosophical viewpoint , not a biological.
    What is the philosophical meaning of humour?
    Maybe, we have it to not view life so seriously?
     
  10. Tyler Registered Senior Member

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    That's like asking "What's the philosophical meaning of the liver". It's not a philosophy question, Beb, at all. You can't ask a biology question from a philosophical point.
     
  11. Bebelina kospla.com Valued Senior Member

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    Well, I don't see the sense of humour as a biological function, laughter may be, but not the ability to get amused by something.
    How do you make that biological?

     
  12. Tyler Registered Senior Member

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    Beb, if you're going to claim it's part of the 'spirit' then I'll graciously bow out of this conversation and wait for it to be moved to Human Science.
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Biological

    We laugh because our synapses are hard wired at birth to find humor in certain things we hear, see or experience. Other animals have it. Dogs wag their tails when they see other dogs playing or when they think you're going to trick them with a curve ball. Humor is dynamic and we can expand it as we get older. We can also override it to a certain extent by conditioning.

    But the basic reason that we laugh is that some things evoke a sense of pleasure or happiness that have nothing to do with the bottom steps on Maslow's Hierarchy. (Survival, enough food, etc.)
     
  14. Bebelina kospla.com Valued Senior Member

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    Well, I don't quite see it that way.
    I think everthing can be viewed from a philosphical viewpoint.
    Even the liver.
    But what I think humour is , is not just the bilogical effects it has or how the occurance of humour makes your body react.
    I mean, the mind can be viewed as just a biological product, which can produce philosophical thoughts, then that would also make philosophy a biological function. In what way would then that differ from a sense of humour?
    Because what we find funny are often very complex philosophically constructed ideas, not just the occurance of slaptick.

     
  15. TurismoMcSpeedy Registered Member

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    laughing at philosophical ideas

    I think there is a difference between the 'reflex' laugh you experience when you see funniest home videos and the laugh generated by thinking about a particular idea or situation.

    I have called it the 'reflex' laugh because it seems to me to have a physiological or (or biologiocal) cause. It is our body's response to a certain emotional stimulus. Just like screaming when we're scared or sighing when we're sad. I suppose the question is then what emotion causes this reaction and what causes that emotion. I have heard it said that the reflex laugh is often one of relief at the fact that the poor guy falling off a ladder isn't you. This makes sense to me but I'm sure there's more than one good answer! It seems clear however that this is a natural reaction that can often not be controlled (knee-jerk?!)

    The 'philisophical' laugh like when we see the irony in a sitution or hear the punch-line to an office joke seem to have more social, cultural and personal triggers. People have different senses of humour just like they have different ideas about politics, fashion and music. I think this laugh is more of a cultural and social expression and we are in a sense borrowing the 'reflex' expression of laughter triggered by relief and euphoria to express amusement at hearing why the chicken crossed the road.
     
  16. Neville Registered Senior Member

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    Stop writing so big and with such bright colours.

    I agree with Turismo's post.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2003
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    The collective unconscious: a biological source of philosophy and humor

    Good point, and it ties right in. There is certainly a biological vector to the mind. If not, if everything we think including the WAY we think had to be learned, it would take a lot longer than six years to be ready for the first grade.

    With both humor and philosophy (and I'm just using the words because they came up, not to imply that they don't overlap or cover a lot of the same ground) you get into the concept of the collective unconscious.

    With humor, it really is the question of why do we find it funny for somebody to fall off of a ladder? I know we're all kind-hearted, sophisticated people who would never laugh at the misfortune of another, but as children most of us did. It's programmed in there. Probably inherited from when our ancestors lived in the trees, for somebody to miss a jump and flail around and then grab the next vine and swing around wildly a few times before he could get solid footing -- that was probably fairly innocent entertainment without the clumsy ape actually hitting the ground and getting hurt.

    This is biology AND humor.

    With philosophy, let's face it, what we call ethics is just the code of brotherhood that we naturally applied to the fellow members of our little tribe when we were hunter-gatherers, being formalized and attempted to apply to a mega-tribe of six billion. All pack/tribe animals have a natural sense of right and wrong when dealing with each other. With sheep it can get a little violent, fighting to see which ram gets all the girls. With dogs the combat tends to be more ritual and less bloody, OK you've got me pinned to the ground with your teeth around my throat, I yield and from now on you get first crack at all the bones. With gorillas it's just a slap on the butt or a lot of jumping up and down and grimacing, hey that's my favorite spot in the sun, go find your own. But we all agree to watch out for each other's children and to function as a unit if we're under attack by outsiders. We don't steal from our tribe mates or hide the spare blankets on a cold night, and we don't envy the strongest hunter whose family lives under a really big mammoth hide tent.

    Over the millennia a few other more complicated ideas got hard wired. Whether it was by the hand of god or by random genetic survival of a particular set of synapses or because a particular instinct was a survival advantage because it allowed us to coexist more peacefully and prosperoulsy than the people who didn't have it, the entire human race has a set of images that show up in all our dreams and all our legends. The flood that covers the whole planet, the dead hero coming back to life, the human baby raised by wolves, the firebird reborn out of its own ashes. Read any religion's holy book or any culture's book of dreams and you'll find the same "archetypes." Pile enough of them together and invent a language and become good enough hunter-gatherers that you have a lot of spare time to sit around talking, and before you know it your tribe has a philosophy.

    This is biology AND philosophy.
     
  18. Neville Registered Senior Member

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    I don't think I need to reply to that. I think the historical post speaks for itself. However I have to reply to point this out so I'm sorry. But it deserves a lot of respect! :m:

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  19. orthogonal Registered Senior Member

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    There's a story about a man reading a book in a train compartment who was several times overtaken by fits of laughter. When he put the book on the seat to hold his place while he stepped out, a curious woman picked it up to find that it contained nothing but mathematical symbols. She hurriedly collected her things and moved into the next compartment.

    Laughter has something to do with suddenly discovering connections. When an insight suddenly comes to me I'll laugh at nearly anything: mathematics, philosophy, or even my own stupidity (I'm rarely as pleased with myself than I am when I laugh at myself). Life is, for the most part, so unfathomable that what little insight we do have is often accompanied by a reflexive expression of joy. As Richard Feynman reminded us, there is immense pleasure in "finding things out." We laugh when the patterns in this world appear a bit more explicitly and we curse when they confound us. Goethe wrote:

    "There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at."

    Michael
     
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    No argument

    Discussing laughter is in itself philosophy. And some might find it amusing!
     
  21. Bebelina kospla.com Valued Senior Member

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    Good quote Ortho.
    I think we now has sorted out that humour can be viewed from a philosophical viewpoint.
    About laughing at self, I couldn't help myself yesterday...
    I was lying in bed thinking about the silly imagined quarrel I had when I was brushing my teeth. Do any of you do that? Have imaginary discussions with people? The people are not imaginary though, they can be anybody, family, friend, famous person, whatever...
    What stroke me as so funny was that I don't only invent a cause to quarrel with someone, but I also can go back and forth in the discussion to enhance my witty lines. So there I am, brushing my teeth, and are carrying on several imagined alternative discussions and I am getting very agitated too...for nothing.
    I think the reason for doing this is purely a selfish and egoenhancing one. I want to be right, and admired because I'm right. So I invent imaginary situations where this can happen, since it so rarely happen in real life, or when it does I get too embarrased to enjoy the moment.
    Silly.

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  22. Neville Registered Senior Member

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    NO! Your obviously nuts!!

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  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Try not arguing with the imaginary person

    That could be right. You might be staging arguments in your internal universe in order to experience the pleasure of winning the argument, a pleasure you find rare in the external universe.

    However, there is another possible interpretation. It is very common when we think about another person (whether real or fictional, acquaintance or stranger), that we present them to ourselves in a way that emphasizes the characteristics or behaviors that person has that remind us of characteristic or behaviors in ourselves. Sometimes positive ones. But in this case, since the format of the encounter is an argument that you are going to win, you're more likely emphasizing the negative characteristics or behaviors of your own that you see in that person.

    These may be behaviors and characteristics that you're not quite aware of consciously. It could be that your unconscious is guiding you into presenting these images to yourself as a way of attempting to help you see parts of yourself that you don't like, that you're not proud of, that make you unpopular or unsuccessful, that keep you from achieving something important.

    The fact that you can so easily hold up both sides of the argument means that you are rather skillful at articulating the side of a debate that you would never support consciously. Even though that other "you" ultimately loses the argument, isn't it kind of spooky that "you" are able to do even a halfway decent job of upholding the "wrong" side? It gives credence to the suspicion that somewhere inside you lurks a little part of your spirit that is not quite in total harmony with your belief system, ethics, priorities, choices, relationships, etc.

    You would do well to establish a more durable contact with that part of yourself. Draw it out into a less judgmental milieu where it is not always on the defensive. Try to observe it, understand it, figure out why it's there at all.

    Instead of arguing with it next time, see if you can give it more freedom. Try to imagine it going through other kinds of experiences. A day at school, an evening at home, an afternoon with the people you think of as your friends. Perhaps this other person would even choose some activities that the real "you" never engages in. Some sport, a church service, watching a tv show you don't respect, hanging out with people you avoid, interacting with a different or larger or smarter set of "elders" than you normally encounter.

    Try to be a passive observer. Let the other "you" make a fool of itself, or get into trouble, or deliberately get involved in a situation or group or activity that the real "you" would never do.

    You might notice an occasional feeling of joy, self-fulfillment, pride, maturity, living up to social responsibility, etc., that the other "you" is looking for but the real "you" avoids because of the way you structure your life. If you can adopt a couple of the better parts of this other personality, ones that help you make more of your life, your unconscious will stop throwing that person in your (imaginary) face. And the benefit will be that you can separate that person's positive traits from the negative ones, and make sure that you aren't mimicking the negative ones in real life because you haven't been able to accomplish that separation up until now.

    Or you might find that this imaginary argument is just about somebody else and your disappointment at not being able to acquit yourself better in an argument. In that case, trying to get inside that person's head and knowing them better may help you improve your debating skill next time you run into them!

    Either way, imagining something other than an argument could very easily enrich your life. Give it a try!
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2003

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