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HUMOUR-RESEARCH  December 2008

HUMOUR-RESEARCH December 2008

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Subject:

Re: Re; Humor and not humor

From:

Jim Lyttle <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Humour-Research <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 2 Dec 2008 03:27:15 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (52 lines)

I really don't understand the tone of these discussions.

As far as I can tell, the essence of everything is complex. What is  
the essence of communication? trust? leadership? It is hard to think  
of any phenomenon rich enough to care about that is not essentially  
complex. It is beyond me why anyone would think that this was  
insightful on the one hand, or a subject of ridicule on the other.

It is also beyond me why folks think humor is too subjective to be  
defined. Humor is certainly not (just) in the eye of the beholder, any  
more than art or high quality food or communication or anything else  
human. If humor was just in the eye of the beholder, then about half  
of the people would find Bill Cosby funnier than Jim Lyttle, and half  
of the people would find the opposite. The fact is that most people  
agree about who is more funny, what food tastes best, and so forth.

It is entirely uninteresting to note that there are some borderline  
cases. Does the existence of a turban send us into a tailspin,  
doubting the validity of our definitions of scarves and hats? Absurd.  
Everything has borderline cases and grey areas. That is no reason to  
hide under the bed and say "It can't be done."

In general, it seems inappropriate to assert that humor is "just"  
anything. I thought we just agreed that it was complex??

And what is the meaning of being on one "side" or the other, when  
seeking the truth? The whole point of the kindergarten tale of the  
blind men and the elephant is to remind us how foolish it is to take  
up sides, to hold debates, and to care who wins. That is how we do  
politics, not science.

It seems to me that we have, as a starting point, vague agreement that  
humor consists of (at least) some cognitive event, somewhat like  
Raskin has described, and some emotion akin to mirth, joy or  
what-have-you. When these two things meet, we have humor ... maybe ...  
sort-of ... pending exceptions to be studied.

Admittedly this is a pretty vague and pathetic start. But can we agree  
roughly on this, or something like this, and move forward instead of  
backwards?

------------------
JIM LYTTLE, Ph.D.
139 E HIGH ST APT 9
POTTSTOWN, PA 19464
BB: (610) 850-5050
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