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Can Humor exist in Objectivism?

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KevinDW78
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But that's precisely what we've said humor is - to say that x is absurd and to laugh at it. To say that humor is destructive is only to say that is necessarily declares something to be absurd. It's the same thing. Does that make sense?

When declaring something or someone to be absurd, you're indulging in ridicule. It may or may not be humorous, but it requires a serious idea or a concrete to be the object of ridicule. Coming up with an absurd idea is not the same as ridiculing that idea. What would be the point? It would be like gilding a gold coin.

Of course, an absrud idea can be used for ridicule. For example, when anyone proposes the Mexican state-owned oil monopoly should allow private investment, millions scream about foreigners stealing "our" oil. In such a case I might say "Yes. And next they'll come and steal our warmth to heat up Alaska." See the difference?

Also, you might convey a truly absurd idea with a straight face and see what other people think about it. A TV show here used to do that. One time they went out in the streets with hidden cameras, asking passers by to sign a petition to move an upcoming total solar eclipse to a more convenient time. Lots of poeple signed and commented what a marvelous idea it was. that is hilarious.

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Also, you might convey a truly absurd idea with a straight face and see what other people think about it. A TV show here used to do that. One time they went out in the streets with hidden cameras, asking passers by to sign a petition to move an upcoming total solar eclipse to a more convenient time. Lots of poeple signed and commented what a marvelous idea it was. that is hilarious.

LOL now that IS hilarious!

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LOL now that IS hilarious!

Naturally. The eclipse was to take place nearing noon, which is the best time for it. Asking for a different time is plain lunacy, no pun intended.

That's irony, for those keeping track.

Actually, though it was at a very convenient time, it took place in the rainy season in Mexico City. Meaning we might miss the better parts of the show (the corona and the reversed constellations), and get only a darker gloom and a chill. As it truned out, the Great 1991 Total Eclipse took place through a break in the clouds. The puddles created by the rain reflected the heavenly spectacle, so one got to see multiple images, albeit of lower quality, of the Moon slowly blocking the Sun. I even got to see Mercury near noon.

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When declaring something or someone to be absurd, you're indulging in ridicule. It may or may not be humorous, but it requires a serious idea or a concrete to be the object of ridicule.

Right - not all ridicule is the kind of humor you mean, but all humor is a statement that its object is absurd. Even if it's just a clever absurdity of language (i.e. a pun) that you came up with out of the blue.

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I think the only "destructive" humor is that which downplays something really important. That is, the humor which makes injustices like the Patriot Act or the Iraq War seem like "no big deal" and that anyone who speaks out against it is "taking things way too seriously."

I love humor, though. From witty wordplays to outright vulgar outbursts, I laugh at everything. It has been scientifically proven that laughter is good for the body, so I think in the end NOT laughing at things that are funny is more destructive.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On the other hand, joy is joy at existing - so anything that affirms your existence can be a source of laughter. I suppose that if the baby or kitten are in some way an existence-affirming thing for you, then laughing as an expression of joy makes sense.

Very well stated.

In my own personal experience, I have come across one person in particular who has a very odd sense of humor; she often laughs at things that aren't intended to be amusing or aren't funny to me. For instance, a couple years ago when I decided I wanted to get my hair cut after growing it out for fourteen years, rather than simply throwing the hair in the garbage, I donated it to Locks of Love. When I told her I donated my hair, she laughed at me and I couldn't understand for the life of me what was so funny about what I had done and what would prompt someone to laugh while discussing childhood cancer? That's just one example of her odd sense of humor. Does anyone else know someone like that?

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what would prompt someone to laugh while discussing childhood cancer? That's just one example of her odd sense of humor. Does anyone else know someone like that?

Well - me. Ok not CHILDHOOD cancer, but...

Seriously, when I learned about Ted Kennedy's diagnosis, my first thought was, "well he's a politician, he doesn't NEED his brain".

Someone else wondered whether they found the cancer via a colonoscopy.

If there were a hell, I'd so be going to it for that...

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Humor is my favorite part of communication. I cannot imagine life with out it.

I have found several humurous things in Ayn Rand's writings. She just has a nice dry sense of humor. And yes - during the Phil Donahue show I watched, she was down right funny at times - serious when appropriate, but she had a very warm personality during the interview I viewed, and a great sense of humor.

Actually - some of my best Objectivist friends are very witty - and have pretty dry humor.

Humor is one of the greatest assets I think many people have to help get them through some very difficult situations. I have a hard time spending any amount of time with a person that lacks a sense of humor - whether they are Objectivists or not.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Guys i'm i've just joined this forum, and would like to say that i'm really enjoing reading all the interesting posts. I enjoy humor very much and as my first post i thought i'd share my opinion in that topic.

I'm new to the whole philosophy of Ayn Rand as i have just started reading on it, but i do find it very interesting and it makes a lot of sense so far from the basic points of view. From the humor side i think comedy is very important, especially if it not only can make you laugh by pointing out the flaws of human behaviour whether it's good or bad but also at the same time make you think and use your own common sense and logic objectively about the reality we live in.

Reading so far i think a great example of good humor and comedy that provides such combination is one of my favourite comedians George Carlin. In my opinion from what i understand about objectivity i think he shows a fair amount objectivism in a lot of his material. I could be wrong as i have not gone in too deep about the Ayn Rand philosophy just yet, but i'm planning to explore my way of thinking from a whole new angle.

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All right, but what about slapstick? I'm thinking along the lines of <i>The Three Stooges</i> and their ilk. Is it wrong to laugh at a man getting poked in the eye, or being struck by a heavy object? Are viewers just reacting to the absurdity of something that should cause grievous bodily harm merely causing annoyance? Would that make it okay?

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Laughter does not equate that someone is "humoured". I remember when i was younger and i did something wrong and my parents were "lecturing" me, that i started laughing, as that was the worst thing that could happen. That didnt mean i was amused, or i was enjoying their lecture. I was ashamed when they lectured me(for right reasons), still i started laughing, or more exaclty, smiling.

Its the same reaction if you hear someone speaking in a weird high-pitched voice. Your laughter is just a "reflex", and im not at all amused in those situations.

Real humour is more of a thing of the mind, when you get enjoyment from something that humours you. I actually dont even really laugh when im really humoured, but that doesnt mean i aint. I laugh at uncomfortable situations, and at those times i am not at all humoured.

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I think slapstick is great humor, but my definition may be somewhat different. I like Mel Brooks slapstick. To me that means making a joke that is outside the context of the situation. Perfect example, when characters in the movie Space Balls refer to the fact that they themselves are in a movie - but they're still their characters. A great line being Mel Brooks running to the bridge of the ship saying "This ship is too big. If I walked, the movie would be over." Another example of what I call slapstick is the Airplane! movies. Again this is because there are jokes and actions that take place outside the realm of the context. Family Guy was also very pioneering in this aspect with their frequent flashbacks and cutaways. That's the kind of humor I love.

Edited by KevinDW78
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I do find that Ayn Rand is indeed very funny to read specially in her non-fiction.

Not in the hysterical laughter manner that poor comedy induces in some, but as a long frown and smile which's punchline comes, indeed with loud laughter, at the comprehension of a point.

Laughing by understanding is greatly pleasurable, and Ayn Rand makes it that I'm conscious of my own thinking while I read her.

I was very concerned with this topic and was ellaborating this before I found the thread:

We are all exposed to irrationality, it comes from our animal past and instinct (as opposed to volition), and we deviced ways to deal with it.

Magic was the first one, it was proven repeatedly that it didnt work its intended results: BUT, its byproduct brought up other results: power through coertion by fraud. This was and still is used to organize men through religion. (not just force!)

I can asume that drama and comedy were the first rational approaches to irrationality.

Philosphy debunks irrationality straight by holding up reason. Humor, cleans up the mess in the least bloody way possible.

In Freudian terms I'd say that humor is the sublimation of fear.

But humor proved to be enjoyable in itself, it's definitely a value.

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Family Guy was also very pioneering in this aspect with their frequent flashbacks and cutaways. That's the kind of humor I love.

Man i hate that show.....Just when it seems like there is some story developing in the episode, they insert a totally arbitrary "flashback", and it drives me crazy. And more often than not, the flashbacks arent even too relevant to the overall storyline. Its like the writers are thinking: "i have all these arbitrary funny ideas, lets try and insert some sort of storyline that is even remotely relevant to those random cutaways". Its the best "ADD-simulator" :P ever created, and i feel dizzy after watching an episode, and in the end i have really no idea what i just watched.

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I am completely lost in this thread. I read the essays, AS, Fountainhead nearly 45 years ago. I learned so much from Rand on personal ethics and morals. I had given up religion at the age of 9 and wondered how any rational person could follow mysticism. I was fascinated by how people reacted to Rand's writing and how many incorporated her words into a personal philosophy.

I come from a very funny family. We learned to laugh at drunks from birth because everyone did. We all learned to locate the funny bone in others to help cover the disust we felt for the drunks at home who seemed to be everywhere. My first years away from the comedy act known as home, came when I was sent to an all girl's boarding school. Out of the hundreds of girls I found only 4 or 5 who could laugh. This was before television and Jack Benny gave us the laughs for the whole week.

Individual personalities do not have to have a history of humor but when they blend together, it is a change from our daily lives.

It is possible that over the years I have ignored the base of Objectivism but I still remember what I learned from reading and hearing Rand lecture in person. I waste no time thinking about any afterlife and have no desire to communicate with mystics. I am an addicted reader as television plays little in my world of entertainment. To me Objectivism means living off my own accomplishments and have been a Libertarian since the inception of the political movement.

I do not understand why an individual's funny bone has to be analyzed by any philosophical analysis. To me the source of insults comes from one God trying to downgrade others. But I have a simple mind.

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I am completely lost in this thread. I read the essays, AS, Fountainhead nearly 45 years ago. I learned so much from Rand on personal ethics and morals. I had given up religion at the age of 9 and wondered how any rational person could follow mysticism. I was fascinated by how people reacted to Rand's writing and how many incorporated her words into a personal philosophy.

I come from a very funny family. We learned to laugh at drunks from birth because everyone did. We all learned to locate the funny bone in others to help cover the disust we felt for the drunks at home who seemed to be everywhere. My first years away from the comedy act known as home, came when I was sent to an all girl's boarding school. Out of the hundreds of girls I found only 4 or 5 who could laugh. This was before television and Jack Benny gave us the laughs for the whole week.

Individual personalities do not have to have a history of humor but when they blend together, it is a change from our daily lives.

It is possible that over the years I have ignored the base of Objectivism but I still remember what I learned from reading and hearing Rand lecture in person. I waste no time thinking about any afterlife and have no desire to communicate with mystics. I am an addicted reader as television plays little in my world of entertainment. To me Objectivism means living off my own accomplishments and have been a Libertarian since the inception of the political movement.

I do not understand why an individual's funny bone has to be analyzed by any philosophical analysis. To me the source of insults comes from one God trying to downgrade others. But I have a simple mind.

Ok this is very much off topic and I just beg no one begins to confront you about your Libertarianism:

so you've read Ayn Rand when you were 9 about 45 years ago ? that would be interesting

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Was the subject humor in Objectivism? Apparently I was wrong in assuming so. I was 9 when I declared by Individualism. I was in my mid thirties when I read Rand and felt I had found a home in her words.

I guess no one is allowed to ask questions about the thread? Oh well, easy come, easy go!

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It's pretty obvious when reading The Fountainhead that Ayn Rand views humor as a negative thing. Is she refering to all forms or humor or just certain forms of humor such as self-effacing humor? What about sarcasm? I really love humor and love to laugh but I don't feel this is in conflict with my objectivism. Especially since my form of humor is more to laugh at the "silly stuff" in the world around me, i.e. the altruistic nonsense I encounter on a daily basis. Is this petty of me or in any way something that should be "beneath" me? Ayn Rand didn't often use humor, but she does sometimes - and it indeed makes me laugh. For example, "Gordon L. Prescott looked very masculine dressed as a grain elevator." or "Some say, 'consistency is the hobgoblin of a small mind.' They got it from a small mind, Emerson."

What say you?

Rand used sarcastic humor in -Atlas Shrugged-. For example at Cheryl's wedding, Cheryl says to Dagny -I am the woman of the family now- (or some such to which Dagny replies -I am the man of the family- (or some such). Francisco uses sarcastic/humorous quips. So Rand used one kind of humor, at least.

I don't think Rand went in for puns. If she had here is how Dagny's arrival in the Valley might have gone:

Galt: What are you doing here?

Dagny: I just thought I would drop in .

(rim shot).

ruveyn

Edited by ruveyn ben yosef
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Overall i think many objectivists are spending too much time reading up on what Ayn Rand thought about every single topic in the world. It seems like many people here are constantly making questions like "what did Ayn Rand say about this? what did Ayn Rand say about that?", as if they cant think for themselves, and decide that they are going to let Ayn Rand decide what they are going to think.

The value in objectivism lies in its foundation, not in Ayn Rands own conclusions or thoughts about every imaginable topic. Even if you understand the foundation, you can still make bad conclusions that are not compatible with that said foundation. Im not going to list whether Rand was wrong in her conclusions, but its really worrysome that there are so many people on this forum that pretty much state: "Im confused....lets ask the forum what Ayn Rand said about this subject, and then i dont have to think about this anymore....."

If Ayn Rand had lived and wrote her work in a much earlier time, she would most likely had supported the view that the Earth was flat, or slightly later, that our solar system was the only one. That would not have changed the validity of her philosophy, not one bit. Sometimes i think that there would be people on this board that would support the "Flat Earth" theory just because Ayn Rand happened to make a short irrelevant reference in one of journals about the earth being flat.

Edited by JJJJ
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How many times in The Fountainhead is the phrase "Howard Roark laughed" used? Many, many times. Was it all a result of humor in the normally accepted sense? No... but neither is most of Objectivism.

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