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Humor and Laughing at Oneself

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I tend to agree.

A related phenomenon: I've seen too many Objectivists (mostly the older ones) who seem to have schooled themselves to have no sense of humor whatsoever; it is as if they took the first of Ayn Rand's quotes you cited too far.

I don't think Ayn Rand ever really accounted for wordplay as humor either.

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Going off of what SteveD said about wordplay, to laugh at words which are arranged in such a way that they have no bearing in reality may very well belittle the idea. Take for instance the oxymoron 'jumbo shrimp'. It's funny because to even imagine such an image results in a contradiction which is completely out of touch with reality. I'd begin to differ and state that laughter is not always belittling, but it could also be appreciative of something, an expression of joy/happiness, or an achievement of personal value.

What comes to mind is the image of Salvatore in Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose as he laughed away while eating the remnants of Aristotle's poisoned Book on Comedy. In this example, his laughter is manifested in the achievement of a (albeit irrational) value of Salvatore to undermine his life, gain revenge on William/Adso, etc. I would say this is a clear example of 'malevolent humor'. I think the distinguishing factor is one similar to that of Ayn Rand's position on sex: it is a reflection of individual values.

Tell me what a man finds funny in a joke, and I can tell you his philosophy on life.

Edited by dmastt
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I'd begin to differ and state that laughter is not always belittling, but it could also be appreciative of something, an expression of joy/happiness, or an achievement of personal value.

Certainly; I would draw a distinction between humor and laughter. Laughter is simply an automatic response, and in addition to amusement, one can laugh because of joy or exaltation or any number of other things. My thoughts above pertain more specifically to humor.

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I remember reading Toohey saying that and having the intial reaction of: Well of course you have to be able to laugh at yourself

I think the main reason why it was evil on Toohey's part was that he was trying to say not only that you should be able to recognize when you make a mistake, but that you shouldn't take yourself seriously... ever. That man is so ridiculous and vainly selfish, he must never be completely confident in himself, and must always be ready to accept that he is ultimately a failure.

We can't have people with their silly little egos. It's just so trivial! So instead of trying to succeed in life and make a serious effort in our endeavours, just accept that we are all no better than anyone else, and laugh at ourselves. HARHARHAR.

*Shouldn't to should

Edited by CptnChan
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In the essay, Robert Mayhew distinguishes between benevolent and malicious humor.

I'm unsure if Mayhew here is suggesting those are the only types of humor. I would say there are far more types of humor, benevolent and malicious kinds are only two. Generally speaking, humor as I've observed is just anything that is seen as absurd. Animals do not have any sense of humor, which I think further supports that humor is primarily an identification of something as absurd. Such an identification requires understanding of what is actually realistic. To see something as absurd, you need to compare it to something that makes sense. Whether or not the "make sense" part is objectively true is another matter, but the absurdity of a claim that Jesus rose from the dead on easter just makes me laugh. I can't help but to point out that Jesus is basically a zombie. It's not that I'm pointing out that religion is destructive, but the sheer irrationality of such a claim. Seeing humor in an irrational claim consequentially belittles religion, however, the essential element in humor that I see is absurdity.

Laughing at yourself could easily refer to extreme cases of misspeaking, as was said before. More specifically, it's not necessarily belittling oneself to see the absurdity of missteps in comparison to what was intended. If one laughs at themselves to the extent that they see humor in calling themselves intelligent, that would mean seeing absurdity that they could ever be intelligent. Seeing that as absurd is what's belittling, not the humor as such. I'm not sure if I'd use the term malevolent humor. Belittling humor may be a better word, and Rand's quote would make perfect sense when talking about belittling humor. What I mentioned above about religion is an example of belittling humor, but since it is directed at something destructive, it is a good thing. Similarly, benevolent humor might be too vague. "Not malevolent humor" wouldn't be much of a definition; I think additional categories would make more sense.

Word play I think is one notable type of humor that isn't belittling. It is still identification of the absurd, though, particularly absurdity involving the rules of grammar or spelling. I may be off on this, but what I observe is that people who tend to see humor in word play are pretty intelligent overall, because it requires at least a rational approach to words and thinking in general. (Not to suggest that people who don't find word play very humorous are not intelligent, only suggesting that people who do see humor in word play are intelligent). Seeing word play as humor is more support that humor is really nothing more than identification of the absurd.

Silly might be another category of humor, primarily focusing on maturity. Seeing someone as being silly would be to see them as acting younger than their age, like how a parent may act around their newborn baby. Or between adults perhaps when in casual settings with an intent of relaxing. Meme pictures or lolcat pictures may fit in this category.

As far as satire, I'd say that's a type of belittling humor.

In a sense, I'm disagreeing with Dante, but only to the extent I think humor can be analyzed much more specifically.

I can't think of any other categories right now, but can anyone else come up with more?

Edited by Eiuol
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