Friday, January 8, 2010


Laughter is the physiological reaction to occasions of humor or the 'comic': an outward expression of amusement. Aristotle noted that "only the human animal laughs". No satisfactory theory of laughter that explains why we laugh has yet gained wide acceptance. A number of competing theories have been written. For Aristotle, we laugh at inferior or ugly individuals, because we feel a joy at being superior to them. Socrates was reported by Plato as saying that the ridiculous was characterized by a display of self-ignorance. Schopenhauer wrote that it results from an incongruity between a concept and the real object it represents. Hegel shared almost exactly the same view, but saw the concept as an "appearance" and believed that laughter then totally negates that appearance. For Freud, laughter is an economical phenomenon whose function is to release psychic energy that had been wrongly mobilized by incorrect or false expectations.