Kanizsa Triangle Illusion

APPENDIX A.

KANT'S THEORY OF HUMOR/LAUGHTER. In his work on aesthetics, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) articulated a theory of jokes that may be taken as a general theory of humor. Kant's theoretical approach to humor is a kind of incongruity theory (i. e., laughter is a reaction to the disparity between expectations and perceptions), although he emphasizes the physical- over the mental- side of amusement. According to Kant's theory of humor/laughter, the pleasure one takes in humor is not as great a pleasure as one's delight in beauty or in moral goodness. Even though amusement is caused by the play of ideas, it is more a type of sensory gratification based on feelings of health and well-being. Kant maintained that in listening to a joke the person develops a certain expectation as to how it will turn out; then, at the "punch line," the expectation suddenly vanishes. The sudden mental activity is not enjoyed by one's reason, and the desire to understand is frustrated. Accompanying the mental movement/gymnastics at the "punch line" is the activity of the person's internal organs (producing the resultant feeling of health). Thus, according to Kant's humor theory, the incongruity one experiences in humor gives the body a sort of "wholesome shock." In Kant's approach, the transformations accompanying laughter (that is, the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into "nothing") must be into nothing and not into the positive opposite of expectation. This is because it is not enjoyable to one's understanding directly, but only indirectly, by throwing the body's organs into a state of oscillation, then restoring them to equilibrium, and thus promoting health. Kant's humor theory has been called the "nothing theory of humor" where the "nothing" refers to holes that are not filled with explanations concerning wit and laughter. Thus, many a "strained expectation" - which fails to materialize - leads to a letdown, and not to laughter, in the listener. See also HUMOR, THEORIES OF; INCONGRUITY/INCONSISTENCY THEORIES OF HUMOR; SCHOPENHAUER'S THEORY OF HUMOR.

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