Humor theories

Topics: Theories of humor, Psychology, Arthur Schopenhauer Pages: 3 (989 words) Published: March 19, 2014
Humor Theories

There are three leading theories of humor that serve as the intellectual foundation for what is considered funny. These three theories are the superiority, relief, and incongruity theories. The superiority theory focuses on the dark side of comedy, asserting that we laugh in response to our perceived supremacy over other’s unfortunate situations or social rank. The relief theory claims that humor is a form of releasing excessive energy. Lastly the incongruity theory says that something is amusing when it joins incompatible ideas in a surprising outcome that one does not expect.

The superiority theory has a strong claim that holds that all humor involves a feeling of superiority such as when a person is presented with a situation in which they feel that they are intellectually or physically above a person. A couple of philosophers who speak of this theory are Hobbes, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Descartes. Plato’s view on superiority theory is that peoples “ vice, particularly self ignorance, in people who are relatively powerless” (Morreall 10). In result of this theory Plato suggest we be cautious with laughter towards people and the pleasure of amusement. Aristotle on the other hand believed that a person’s faults must be inconsequential for some one to laugh at them. Cicero recognizes both Plato’s and Aristotle’s view on superiority theory, but Cicero found out that there is a distinction within humor between what is being said and how it is said. Hobbes believes that people are on a constant watch for a chance of feeling superior and resulting in laughter. Hobbes calls this experience “Sudden glory, the passion which makes those grimaces called laughter” (Hobbes 19). Descartes studied the physiological aspects of laughter. Descartes claims that there are six basic emotions love, wonder, hatred, desire, sadness, and joy. Only three of the emotions are involved in laughter according to Descartes: hatred, wonder, and joy. Descartes...
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