"Wittgenstein once said that a serious and good philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes (without being facetious)." - Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir.
Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary says the meaning of the term 'humour' has changed in time, and is currently related somehow to:
The term 'wit' is akin to such as Old High German 'wizzi', which is knowledge. And still further back in time the name of the oldest Indo-Aryan books, the Vedas, derive from Sanskrit 'vid', to know. Cognate with its main roots and as a product of its long history, the term 'wit' has acquired meanings like the following:
Like humour, the words wit, irony, sarcasm, satire, repartee often refer to expressions intended to arouse amusement:
"Avoid witicisms at the expense of others." - Horace Mann, educator.
Other humour synonyms
There are many more humour synonyms to reflect on:
Comedy, comicality, comicalness, drollery, drollness, funniness, humourousness, wittiness, jocosity, jocularity, jocundity, jocundness; flippancy, levity, lightness; banter, chaffing, jesting, joking, kidding; banter, chitchat, pleasantry, repartee; esprit.
There is also the humour of comic strips. In Norwegian-American humour, Peter Julius Rosendahl uses that modern genre to express the life of Norwegian Americans in the Midwest from 1918 to 1935. "Don't take life too seriously. Very few are said to have got out of it alive." - With Elbert Hubbard
Cognate: GladnessGladness of heart looms tall. It tends to be easier to appreciate humour and humourous aspects of living if you feel happy and contented.
'Glad' comes through Middle English 'glad' (shining), from Old English 'glæd', which is akin to Old High German 'glat' (shining, smooth), and the Latin 'glaber' smooth, bald.
Gladness today usually implies such as "marked by or expressing the mood of one who is pleased or delighted" or "experiencing pleasure, joy, or delight".
Being glad often has to do with having a cheerful or happy disposition by nature, but not always. We may be made happy too, may be made pleased, satisfied, or grateful; and in such cases gladness may rise or get involved.
Gladness thus signifies 'marked by, expressive of, or caused by happiness and joy". There may be a tinge of willingness in gladness too, for example when we are glad to help or serve.
There are various sides to gladness:
Joy is much the same as gladness. The words can be used alternately. 'Joy' comes through French 'joie' from Latin 'gaudia', from 'gaudere' to rejoice; probably akin to a Greek word for rejoice.
To be joyful is "experiencing, causing, or showing joy", or being happy, then. Humour and bland gladness of merriment often imply joviality: markedly good-humoured especially as evidenced by jollity and conviviality. And what is felicitous (above) is very well suited or expressed.
Merriment is something that gives pleasure; or being full of gaiety or high spirits. The synonyms merry, blithe, jocund, jovial, and jolly mean "showing high spirits or lightheartedness". Thus:
Happiness comes from Middle English, 'hap'. It can be related to:
Deficit-needs drive you. Being-needs make you awake.
Dr. Abraham Maslow presents a holistic overview of soundness-related notions. His way of presenting items of interests is somehow related to ours above, too. Maslow's pyramid-shaped hierarchy of human needs is famous:
"The essentials to happiness in this life appear to be many, but that is on the outside."
"Fulfillment steps" that Maslow postulated, to be read from bottom and up:
The first four of these stages he called deficit needs, or D-needs. B-needs (Being-needs) above relates to Self-actualization desires and yearnings. [More]
The figure is to be understood in a light like this: First one has to satisfy basic human needs before the presumed higher needs find room for development. It may be argued in connection with this that in a tot the curiosity needs are very marked and often override short-term needs for food and safety. And curiosity is the beginning of investigations, research and much self-actualization too, so in some cases and in some respects one of the highest needs shows up from the start, so to speak. Thus, the divisions between needs cannot be absolute.
Maslow himself sees parts of that problem with his theoretical model. He argues that once a person has started to self-actualize, he or she may forego many lower needs (so called) in order to unfold the sweeter or higher desires. Also, if you think of man as homo ludens, 'playing man', and considers play and playfulness as very high outlets - many do - then you may also realize that it is a dear and high need in mammals, particularly in children and the young. It is often seen that children desire to forego food and sleep for a while in order to play (but hardly to pray). In the modern world, football is still called play. It may be called marred play.
Now, research has been able to substantiate a few of Maslow's claims connected with the model, but not all of them. The order of progress may very well be different in any case; for example, some persons may skip safety to be with preferred mates and become parts of gangs. Others, again, may drop or tone down social strivings for better class and belonging in order to self-actualize, or to have self-esteem. Both things may happen; it seems pretty obvious.
What seems important in his model, is a general trend toward subtler or more refined fullfilments with age. That could fit many sound individuals.
In our opinion, a fair blend of the various needs is there from the start and needs to be catered to till death is not far.
The spiritual life is part of the human essence. . . . without which human nature is not fully human. - Abraham Maslow
Being-values we link to humour
In the opinion of Abraham Maslow, gladness is akin to realizing oneself a lot too. And one or more being values may be involved. The following are being-values as postulated by Maslow, that may have a bearing on our understanding of humour. The items are taken from a longer list, and the numbering is left unchanged.
1. Wholeness: (. . .) order.
Source: Maslow, The Psychology of Being, 2nd ed. p. 83.
Driving Being-needs of FulfillersAnother way that Maslow approaches the problem of self-actualization is to talk about special, driving needs (Being-needs) of self-actualizers. To be happy (italics added) in their lives they appear to need:
Maslow believes that much of what is wrong with the world ties in with unfulfilled good drives, that the vast majority of people do not have their basic needs taken relevantly care of.
What we laugh at may be looked on in the light of various Maslow findings. Three aspects may stand out:
The value of the many words in Maslow's list above depends on how we interpret them, and on what is juxtaposed to go along with them.
The words in (added) italics in the last string of rich and meaningful words, are typical elements of fiendishness, which is often given outlets in lots of jokes, in humour. Humour of this degraded kind may protect families, may provide safety valves against tensions and negative feelings, and hardships. Also, humour in gossip could be a sign of not having fully realized oneself some way or other. It may be worth thinking about. Self-explorers may ask themselves at this stage, "Why do I laugh? What could be remedied?" It could give interesting insights.
Maslow: "I feel justified in making at least the following affirmations or propositions, all of which [could be] testable." (1968, 101)
He then lists seven points about peak experiences. (Maslow 1968, 101) - [They are here]. He also finds it fit to caution:
It finally seems clear that the cognitive experiences I have been describing cannot be a substitute for the routine skeptical and cautious procedures of science. However fruitful and penetrating these cognitions may be, and granting fully that they may be the best or only way of discovering certain kinds of truth, yet the problems of checking, choosing, rejecting, confirming and (externally) validating remain with us subsequent to the flash of insight. (Maslow 1968, 100. Emphasis added)
Maslow also lists and explains 16 characteristics that blend or intertwine, but allow for a careful holistic analysis. Some forms of humour can be studied in the light of them. [Maslow's list of 16 factors]. (From Abraham Maslow: Toward a Psychology of Being 1968, 101-14)
You may want to add to Maslow's list: Research findings show that wise, benevolent humour is helpful for health and thriving. Daryl Peebles writes in his doctoral thesis on humour:
Some academics and philosophers praise humour and encourage its use. (Peebles 2015, i)
Why not include sagicity in Maslow's list too?
Attardo, Salvatore, ed. 2017. The Routledge Handbook of Language and Humor. New York: Routledge.
Bardon, Adrian. 2005. "The Philosophy of Humor," in Comedy: A Geographic and Historical Guide, ed. by Maurice Charney. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005.
Bremmer, Jan, and Herman Roodenburg, eds. 1997. A Cultural History of Humour: From Antiquity to the Present Day. Oxford: Polity Press.
Halsall, Guy. 2004. Humour, History and Politics in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Koestler, Arthur. 1967. The Act of Creation. New York: Dell.
Maslow, Abraham. 1968. Toward a Psychology of Being. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Maslow, Abraham. 1987. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins.
Morreall, John. 2009. Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons.
Palmer, Jerry. 1994. Taking Humour Seriously. London: Routledge.
Peebles, Daryl. 2015. The Value of Positive Humour in the Workplace. Doctoral thesis. Sandy Bay, Tasmania: The University of Tasmania, The Tasmanian School of Business and Economics. Raskin, Victor, ed. 2008. The Primer of Humor Research. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
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