Derived Properties Postulate


DESCARTES' THEORY OF HUMOR/ LAUGHTER. The French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is regarded by many researchers to be the first writer to deal with laughter from the physiological, as well as from the psychological, point of view [however, other researchers attribute this honor to the French physician Laurent Joubert (1529-1582); cf., Roeckelein, 2002, p. 131]. Descartes' theory of laughter begins with a physiological account of what causes the audible explosion in laughter (the blood passes from the right cavity of the heart to the lungs, filling them, and drives out the air). According to Descartes, psychologically there are only six basic emotions (wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy, and sadness), and laughter is found to accompany three of them (wonder, mild hatred, and joy). Descartes asserted that derision is a kind of joy that is mixed both with surprise and hate, and when laughter is natural (and not feigned or artificial), it seems to be due partially to the joy derived from that which one recognizes as incapable of being injured by the malice that has excited an indignation, and partly to surprise at the novelty of that malice in such a manner that joy, hatred, and admiration are all contributory causes to the laughter. In his theoretical approach to humor, Descartes broke away from the literary tradition that had led all previous thinkers (following the classical writers) to deal with comedy as a literary form rather than with the wider issue of laughter, and although Descartes' account is inaccurate in physiological terms, it is nonetheless of interest because of the incidental psychological aspects contained in his theory. See also HUMOR, THEORIES OF; JOU-BERT'S THEORY OF LAUGHTER AND HUMOR. REFERENCES

Joubert, L. (1560/1579/1980). Treatise on laughter. Translated by G. D. de Rocher. University, AL: The University of Alabama Press. Descartes, R. (1649/1909). Les passions de l'ame. Paris: Le Gras.

Roeckelein, J. E. (2002). The psychology of humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

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