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Subject:

Off-the-cuff

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Date:

30 Nov 1999 08:22:57 -0800

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Robert,

I will wait eagerly for your refined arguments on the lamp picture.

If I understand the off-the-cuff arguments, they go something like this:

>> There is congruity in the picture.

This is true.  In a trivial sense, there is enough congruity to enable us to identify the figures in the picture.  In a more important sense, the seeds of resolving the incongruity are "in the picture."  However, we don't see them yet.  For the moment, elements of the picture are incongruous to us.

(It is true that we are speaking of our perceptions in all cases.  However, the fact that something must be perceived before we can become aware of it does not imply anything about its existence, in my view.)

>> There is not really any incongruity here since, by definition, a humorous situation is expected to have incongruous elements.  Therefore, incongruity is fully congruous in the context of humor.

This seems like some sort of semantic game.  In fact, we are often unaware of a humorous context UNTIL we notice an incongruity.  Even then, we don't whether it is humor (or simply an error) until we decode a surprising resolution.

>> It is not real incongruity in any case because, although the lamps in the park may at first seem incongruous, they later turn out to be congruous. On first glancing at the photograph, a subject might ... respond "That's incongruous!" ... he's simply made a false start.  In general, nothing resolvable is truly incongruous.

It seems like a gross distortion of our use of language to claim that nothing is incongruous unless it has always been incongruous and always will be incongruous.  I think that the term allows for degrees.

>> A subject who puzzles and comprehends experiences humor whether his initial response is to register incongruity or not

I disagree.  A subject who puzzles is, almost by definition, a subject who registered an incongruity.  When he or she does not register an inconguity, as in the case of a simple straightforward assertion, the subject does NOT puzzle about the meaning, and certainly does NOT find any humor there.

>> The very fact that he does set to puzzling shows that he adopts the assumption that the various elements in the photograph are or might be congruous

I think that a human being sets to puzzling whenever he or she doesn't understand.  There need not be a recognized incongruity to set a person puzzling, but there also need not be a presumption of underlying congruity.  One sets to puzzling in the hopes of "making" sense of the experience, in my view.

"[Someone who disagrees with your view] just doesn't comprehend, and thus his viewpoint is irrelevant."

Has this proved to be an effective way of incorporating the concerns of your critics?

Jim.







==================
www.Jim-Lyttle.com
==================


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