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Humor is a Philosophy - Essay Example

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Humor is a Philosophy

In this regard, the philosopher has, I think, a family resemblance with the comedian, who also asks us to look at the world askance, to imagine a topsy-turvy universe where horses and dogs talk and where lifeless objects become miraculously animated. Both the philosopher and the comedian ask you to view the world from a Martian perspective, to look at things as if you had just landed from another planet.
In its own way, a joke can reveal the pathos in laughter, grotesqueness in opulence and life's struggles' in the quiet that envelopes it. The power of humor in liberating the mind and enlightening it to see deeper also connects it to Zen. This is discussed in greater detail below.
Zen says that reality can be understood in a way that is not conceptual. Zen philosophy believes that unitive point of view is not attained by logical dissection of reality but by the intutive method, which transcends subject and object and all logical categories including affirmation and negation. As pointed by Ha Tai Kim 1955:
Zen transcends the logical bifurcation of subject and object, mind and matter, being and non-being, which always falls into the realm of relational knowledge. It is due to the thoroughgoing attitude of Zen that it pierces through relational knowledge, so as to acquire an absolute point of view. It attempts to see the world in its absolute wholeness (p. 21).
This is really the philosophical spirit and what connects it so beautifully with humor. Zen does not build any philosophical systems since it defies concept-making, much like comedy; for very often humor arises when a situation is viewed in its completeness with all its paradoxes and contradictions. Humor is related with people and situations, not concepts and objects.
Just as Zen points to facts as they are, so does the comedy of recognition. Zen says, when you are offered tea, sip it, and, when you happen to take wine, drink it and that there is nothing more than this. Humor as a philosophy, too offers a view of reality by making one view situations in wholeness. Comedy of recognition for example reinforces status quo and does not criticize established order, much like Zen, which points to facts, as they exist.
Paradox and Language
Let us examine paradox. Paradox is apparent whenever there is incongruity. Humor, very often works by way of a felt incongruity between what one expects to be the case and what actually takes place in a funny situation. For incongruity to be humorous, usually, there exists congruence between joke structure and socially accepted norms. For example: "Someone's hat falls on the coffin in a freshly dug grave, the funeral loses its meaning and laughter is born"(Kundera, 1983, p.232-33). The incongruity that thus results and pricks, what is socially accepted, gives rise to laughter.
Just like the incongruence in situations, there exists incongruence in what is being said, which can make statements comic. Language plays a crucial role here. Language is explained as "an approximation of thoughts through symbolic manipulation, and the gap between the expectations inherent in those symbols and the breaking of those expectations leads to laughter" (Wikepedia, 2005).
The language connection and especially the paradox that can be inherent in language, reminds one of Zen. Zen teaching ...Show more


Philosophy is explained as the general beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group. If one were to examine humor in this context, it would fall under the classification of philosophy, since it is more often than not, a reflection of the beliefs and attitudes that people hold…
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