God Exists: Therefore I Laugh -- By: Dan Mielke
MBTJ 4:2 (Fall 2014) p. 169
Therefore I Laugh
The subject of humor and the analysis behind what makes things funny has been an underdeveloped field of study. “Despite the number of thinkers who have participated in the debate, the topic of humor is currently understudied in the discipline of philosophy.”2 Humor and its connection to theology has received even less study. The goal of this article is to introduce the reader to the theological implications of humor. As the theories behind humor are not readily studied, this paper shall include a brief summary of the major theories of humor, before looking at the theological ramifications of humor and the doxological and practical purposes of humor.
Theories Of Humor
The study and definition of humor is difficult as philosophers and researchers are rarely in agreement regarding the classification of humor. Humor is the Platypus of thinkers as it defies classification and borrows from fields as vast and varied as linguistics and neuro-science. “When looking at theories of laughter, on the other hand, one finds no such agreement on the basics. Some have classified laughter as an emotion while others have insisted that
MBTJ 4:2 (Fall 2014) p. 170
laughter is incompatible with emotion.”3 Humor in a way is much like the Pre-Newtonian era of science where gravity was understood to exist, but a working definition and explanation remained elusive. As E. B. White famously remarked, “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies.”4 This first section of the paper will not focus so much on a definition or classification of humor, but it will give the four major theories of humor with an emphasis on the author’s preference.
The oldest and first recorded theory of humor is the Superiority theory. This theory was postulated by Plato. “The oldest, and probably still most widespread theory of laughter is that laughter is an expression of a person’s feeling of superiority over other people. This theory goes back at least as far as Plato, for whom the proper object of laughter is human evil and folly.”5 What makes a person laughable, according to Plato, is self-ignorance. Because of Plato’s influence many thinkers adopted the idea of laughter as a sign of ignorance.
The famed philosopher and inspiration for Calvin’s stuffed sidekick in the comic series Calvin and Hobbes, Thomas Hobbes, developed...
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