“But although it seems as though laughter were one of the principle signs of joy, nevertheless joy cannot cause it except when it is moderate and has some wonder or hate mingled with it”
The essence of laughter is, for all intents and purposes, somewhat of a mystery. It finds its rationale in anatomy and biology, but these fall far from explaining the pure emotion behind the phenomenon. The lightness of your heaving chest, the reddening of cheeks, the hoarseness of your voice afterwards. All these are evidence that laughter occurred, much the same way a dog wags its tail, but does little to explain why it occurred. Whether it be due to jokes or gag humor, it is hard to pinpoint the innate human requirement of laughter. When we experience great pain, we cry. When we experience tremendous joy, we likewise cry. So, then, what does laughter do besides remedy these two extremes? As Descartes states, joy by itself is not enough to illicit laughter. There must be wonderment or hate mixed into the interaction. Thus, I posit a hypothesis centered in the idea of relief to explain the purpose of laughter.Relief, in itself, can stir the same feelings that laughter does. When a thorn is removed from your side, you exhale and sigh in relief. Likewise, laughter works in this same vein of emotional relief. When we watch someone fall down a set of stairs, we are relieved it wasn’t us. When we hear the punchline to a joke, we are relieved and satisfied by the solution. The sad truth is that there is a finite amount of reactions to the realities of life: we can laugh or we can cry, and both of these serve the twin purpose of alleviating the anxiety and pains of living. We seldom look to cry, but laughter can sneak up on you and provide you relief to a pain you had mostly forgotten about. There are several venues by which we can reach such a euphoric state of laughter, and it is by studying these techniques that we may be able to more effectively communicate the joys of laughter. Yet, the reason we laugh is as mysterious as it is necessary. Deaf individuals laugh despite having never heard laughter. Infants laugh despite having the mental capacity to realize what they are doing. It is a natural response, innate in all people, and we must recognize this in our humor studies. It is imperative, it is crucially important, and most of all it is desired. I’ve never met a person who never wanted to laugh. Even the saddest individuals would relish in the simple joy of laughter, because laughter is the sweetest release we can experience, and it is worth it to strive for the reaction.
N.B. Sorry for the late post, but I just thought I'd write down some theories before class.