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The role of laughter on the good life: a philosophical perspective

The Role of Laughter in the Good Life:

A Philosophical Perspective
Laughter is important for both human emotional and mental health and it can play a
helpful and healing role in parenting and family life. Laughing is one of the
healthiest things one can do when confronted with the major stresses and
emotional pains in life. The human capacity to laugh is significant and to understand
our laughter is to go a long way toward understanding our humanity. Laughter has
not always received the positive coloring it regularly enjoys in today's free
societies. Laughter is a malicious response to the ignorance of others, and a
principled individual must avoid such a hateful response to the faults of
others(Grunberg, 2011).

The Traditional Theories of Laughter

Three theories of laughter are common to the philosophy of laughter and humor.
The superiority theory is unquestionably the oldest. All laughter is a response to the
comical ignorance in others. The superiority theory makes a solid case by claiming
that laughter is derision towards another's misfortune, and a good laugh commonly
follows the painful obstacles that others may endure. An example of this type of
laughter may be when one goes to a fair and visit the dunk tank where someone is
repeatedly dropped into a tank of icy water. This may be funny because it is a
relatively harmless situation of watching someone else ridiculed for being in a
ridiculous predicament. Yet another example might be when someone forgets his
lines during a play or other live performance. It is funny when someone slips up,
and a hearty laugh at the embarrassing dilemma often seems natural (Gordon,

The New Theory

Morreall argues that each traditional theory contains an important aspect of
laughter his new theory may explain. The superiority theory claims that a laugh
arises when one is feeling awkwardly better than another. At that moment when
one laughs, it is in response to this reassuring, although devious feeling of
superiority. The relief theory can explain laughter in some nerve-racking situations
where tensions are high and make one uncomfortable. The incongruity theory
explains why we are sometimes amused by the anomalies occurring in the natural
order of experiential phenomena, and we may laugh in response to these sudden
deviations to the current worldview (Lombardini, 2013).

The Value of Humor and Laughter in life

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The role of laughter on the good life: a philosophical perspective

Laughter has far more to offer than just derision toward one's fellow man. Morreall
claims that laughter is a type of aesthetic experience, a form of mental liberation,
and a way of interpreting one's life as a whole. Since he believes all of these traits
are conducive to living a fulfilling life, I will begin by evaluating his claims one by
Humor and laughter are conducive to living a healthy life. Laughter allows one to
cope better with stressful situations and it can markedly reduce tension and the
accompaniments of stress since a good sense of humor permits one to become
more flexible in his approach to any situation. According to Morreall we must act
sternly when a situation demands our intense attention, but he also claims that a
good sense of humor allows one to live with the awareness that nothing is important
in an absolute way (Burg, 2014).
Some laughter is in response to the pain or suffering of others. These situations
must first demand our practical concerns. An unpleasant shift in perspective such
as learning the death of a loved one, or being confronted with some distressing
incongruity, is not the kind of thing that makes us laugh and would not be the type
of situation in which laughter is normally an appropriate reaction. We should take
necessary precautions against laughing at morally reprehensible situations or
events. Laughing at the possibility of other's misfortune or pain is rarely a morally
excusable reaction.

My justification
The psychological and physical relaxation generated by laughter is well known to
all. It can draw individuals attention away from things that cause anger, guilt, stress
and other negative emotions. It allows to see difficult situations with a new
perspective, more like a challenge rather than a threat. At the social level, laughter
and humor, creates bonds and better relationships with others. Also, because
laughter is contagious, if we introduce into our lives more laughter this means that
will help others in our environment to laugh more, which will have positive
repercussions on many levels (Cook, 2003). By improving the mood of those around
us laughter and humor reduces not only their own stress levels but also ours. In this
way the quality of our relationships is improved with benefits for everyone.

In response to the claim that laughter is not an important trait of one living the good
life. Philosophers characterize laughter in a limited and unreasonable group of
assumptions. There are many advantages for the individual who has a sense of
humor: he is better in tune with his surroundings, he can easily recover from the
gravest of losses, and he sees the world in a positive light. Plato is irrational to
assume that the guardians should not be exposed to laughter because laughter is a
natural human response houses several benefits not only for the individual but also
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The role of laughter on the good life: a philosophical perspective

for society as a whole (Montpellier, 2014).

Grunberg, S. (2011). Laughter for the Health of It: The Importance of Laughing Even
When Nothing Seems Funny You Gotta Believe. [online] You Gotta Believe.
Available at: http://yougottabelieve.org/4-laughter-parenting-and-bonding-orlaughter-for-the-health-of-it-the-importance-of-laugher-even-when-nothing-seemsfunny/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2014].
Gordon, M. (2010). Learing to laugh at ourselves: Humor, Self-transcendence, and
the cultivation of moral virtues. Educational Theory, 60(6), pp.735-749.
Lombardini, J. (2013). Civic Laughter: Aristotle and the Political Virtue of Humor.
Political Theory, 41(2), pp.203-230.
Burg, H. (2014). Importance of Laughter - HEB. [online] Heb.com. Available at:
http://www.heb.com/sectionpage/healthy-at-heb/life-live-well/importance-oflaughter/sd30710015 [Accessed 9 Nov. 2014].
Cook, J. (2003). Book Reviews : Life, Love and Laughter. The Expository Times,
114(7), pp.250-251.
Montpellier, R. (2014). The Importance of Laughter.. [online] Elephant Journal.
Available at: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/the-importance-of-laughter/
[Accessed 9 Nov. 2014].

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