Re: Humor and Intelligence

Robert Owen (
Mon, 18 Oct 1999 03:40:48 -0400

Sasha Chislenko wrote:

> It suggests that humor is a reaction to semantic exceptions.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> Sasha Chislenko <>

An analysis by Kierkegaard yielded a similar result. If we assume that the ultimate basis for "rationality" as WE understand it is the "Law of Contradiction", then any violation of this law that has a wierd appearance of reasonability which is immediately followed by a detection of the contradiction will provoke that peculiar "ambivalent" response we call "laughter". It is as if for a moment we were in Wonderland and then, to our relief, we find we are on the right side of the mirror. Irony, satire, burlesque and caricature may be seen as subsets.

For example, "A German joke is no laughing matter" as in the "Witz" in which a wife stabs her husband for spilling the sugar, who later tells the doctor: "It only hurts when I laugh."

Or [no disrespect intended] "An Old Maid is someone who every night looks under her bed to make sure the thing she wants most isn't there."

Or the man who is fooled by his companion into believing that he can walk on water as long as the latter shines his flashlight on the water where the former is walking; but, inspired by logic the fool says: "Don't take me for an idiot. I'll get halfway across and you'll turn out the light!"

Well, in every case what is initially and speciously rational provokes an anxious search to find some error, and when discovered, the relief is expressed as a strange spastic sort of exhalation. You see, Occidentals rest their sense of ego-integrity on the belief that the World is, beneath all appearances to the contrary, really logical -- things DO make sense after all.


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA