The chemistry of laughter :
on the vital wisdom
IV - 12.1
L'argumant du Ris est si haut et profond, que peu de philosophes y ont attaind, et nul ha gagné le pris de l'avoir su bien manier.
Traité du Ris,
contenant son essance, ses causes, et mervelheus effais,
curieusement recerchés, raisonnés & observés.
The current chapter aims to comment on the empirical knowledge illustrated by expressions that associate laughter with vital wisdom (A cheerful heart is good medecin, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones ; A heart at peace gives life to the body ; Proverbs, XVII, 22; XIV, 30; Ecclesiastes) and insensitivity : It is better to laugh about it than to cry about it.
- It is based on the argument that when using such an expression in reality we are describing a process which not only responds to a state of mind but also to an emotional reflex mechanism of adapting to reality which ironically has on principal the refusal of reality.
- It subscribes to the hypotheses that laughter can be understood as one of the means which the body uses to confront danger when the danger is immediately recognised as posing no real threat (some ugliness or fault, causing neither pain nor fear, Aristotle says, citing as an example the Comedy mask.) specifically as shown by this reference, when it is a question of confronting a distortion or deformity of the human form and when the effectiveness of this denial has anaesthesia as its principle, in accordance with neuropsychological means.
- It assumes that this recreative reflex denial, by covering a neural formation associated with the economy of contact and gregariousness (laughter provoked by tickling) has the ability to reveal the unity of diverse forms of laughter in their function of adhering (which is both an expertise and a sign of connivance) proximity circles such as a duo, a gang, a party, and ethnic group... humanity. Laughter is treated here as a shifter allowing one to recognize his fellow man and to be at one with. Although, in an evolutive perspective, laughter does not appear as particular to man, whereas semantic laughter (which constitutes the primary subject of this study) which expresses a culturally stated truth, is indeed itself particular to man, since it is man who recognizes man.
- He argues that the effect and object of this endocrine and exocrine, individual and public denegation which is for both internal and external use, is to keep what's real (the contradiction) at a distance and to reaffirm the allegiance of the one who laughs to the world he is sure of and to his social circle : to that which he believes and to his social group. Although, as Darwin observes, laughter is innate and universal this cohesive reflex is not exactly ecumenical. What is particular to man shows man most often to be a singularly exclusive being...
The headings in this chapter thus attempt to answer the following questions:
- How does laughter work?
- What is the point of laughter?
and to link how and what.
Plan du chapitre :
IV - 12.11 Introduction
IV 12.21 Laughter and the recognition of the human form
IV - 12.31 Laughter compared to emotional states caused by a surprise
IV - 12.41 A semantic "banana skin"
IV - 12.51 Giambattista Vicos Theory of Laughter
IV - 12.61 We are tinkering with the incurable. (Emil Cioran)
IV - 12.7 Laughter and recognition of the human form (part 2)
IV - 12.81 To say, when we speak, it uncovers our teeth (Francis Ponge)
(Repris et développé dune thèse de doctorat dÉtat soutenue en 1989 à la Sorbonne - op. cit.)