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Superiority Theory In Reflections Upon Laughter

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Superiority theory was therefore confirmed by the superior members of society refraining from laughing. In “Reflections Upon Laughter,” Hutcheson argued against Hobbes’s claim that the essential feature of laughter is expressing feelings of superiority is. If Hobbes were right, claims Hutcheson, there can be no laughter where we do not compare ourselves with others or with some former state of ourselves and whenever we feel “sudden glory,” we laugh. But neither of these is true. We sometimes laugh at an odd metaphor or simile, for example, without comparing ourselves to anyone. Not only are feelings of superiority not necessary for amusement, Hutcheson argued, but they are not sufficient, either. We have feelings of superiority toward people…show more content…
Unlike the superiority theory which aims at social reform through the emotional side of humour, incongruity theory aims at social reform through the cognitive side. The cognitive juxtaposition of contrary interests and attitudes is the key to comedy in Bernard Shaw. The slum dwellers and landlords in Widower’s House, romantic and realistic attitudes to war in Arms and the Man, external polish and internal instincts in Pygmalion provide comic juxtaposition and create humour with satire. This approach was taken by James Beattie, Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkegaard, Arthur Schopenhauer, and many later philosophers and psychologists. It is now the dominant theory of humor in philosophy and psychology. As Robert Latta and others have pointed out, the words “incongruous”and “incongruity” are used sloppily in many versions of the theory. The dictionary says that incongruous things are “characterized by a lack of harmony, consistency, or compatibility with one another.” Congruere in Latin means “to come together, to agree.” In geometry, congruent triangles have the same shape and size; one fits exactly over the other (104). Paul McGhee’s uses the term incongruity “interchangeably with absurdity, ridiculousness, and the ludicrous.” McGhee offers a second definition of incongruity: “something unexpected, out of context, inappropriate, unreasonable, illogical, exaggerated, and so forth.”(10). The core concept in incongruity theories is based on the fact that human experience works with learned patterns. Most of the time, most experiences of most people follow such mental patterns. The future turns out like the past. But sometimes we perceive or imagine a thing whose parts or features violate our mental
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