No Humor in Heaven

No Humor in Heaven

"Plato and Aristotle didn't distinguish between "laughing with" and "laughing at." They considered all humor to be rooted in schadenfreude, aggression and contempt. Two thousand years later, when Thomas Hobbes described the natural human condition as "nasty, brutish and short," he saw humor as part of the problem, not the solution."

Laura Capello Bromling explains why there's no humor in Heaven.

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The idea of play also ties into the idea of humor and aggression. Did you ever notice, for example, that in nature, the only animals who have been observed to play are predators, and play is essentially practice hunting?

Bongo Bill:
The idea of play also ties into the idea of humor and aggression. Did you ever notice, for example, that in nature, the only animals who have been observed to play are predators, and play is essentially practice hunting?

Apart from, of course, monkeys and other primates, and dolphins and whales, all intelligent creatures who play without malice.

I think the reason why Plato and Aristotle didn't like laughter is because they were Puritans. They were "serious" scholars and laughter was the tool of the child, the idiot and the drunk (essentially the poor), not "serious" scholars who were so much superior to everyone else (the rich).

Two words - class conflict. Marxists claim class conflict began with the industrial revolution, but I would argue it began even before the birth of Christ, and was carried through the puritanical Christian religion which found it's ultimate expression in the industrial revolution.

Look at all our depictions of Western (Greek and Roman and even Norse) Gods and later, as Christianity took over, Saints and Jesus. Nearly every single one represented before the renaissance is grimacing.

Don't take God's name in vain, means essentially don't laugh at God.

Compare that to the Asian gods, the Gods of the Pacific Islanders, of the Mayans, the Africans - all these contain happy, smiling, laughing Gods.

Yet when the Puritans encountered these people they saw these laughing gods and declared them demons, and the people who worshiped them as savages. This made it easier for the puritans to classify and condemn these people and kill them or force them into slavery, in other words, made it easy for the puritans to wage class warfare.

Look at how the Puritans react to fun today - Drinking, drugs, comics, movies, games, music all come under fire. They actively move to eliminate fun and that which is funny out of our lives.

And it all started with Plato.

Dolphins and most whales are predators, but yeah - there may be a social aspect to it as well for the primates. A good point. But what does it say about humans, who are both predator and primate?

Puritanism didn't mean anything when Plato and Aristotle were around, but I'm sure you didn't mean to ascribe them to that specific viewpoint. What you find, however, is that other cultures are just as serious - the Laughing Buddha you mention, Boddhisatrva Matreya, seems to be unique in all the world as a benevolent mythological figure who laughs. There are trickster gods everywhere, of course, and they always laugh - but tricksters aren't exactly benevolent. Joy and revelry, meanwhile, are themes as in the Abramic religions as anywhere else.

I don't know why you're trying to drag class warfare into it, though. Plato and Aristotle were aristocrats, but both were avowed proponents of meritocracy - Plato, in fact, was the first person in recorded history to suggest that the ruler of a nation should, as a matter of policy, be the wisest person. The Puritans who settled America were poor farmers, just peasants. Can you imagine a British aristocrat extolling the virtues of the famous "Puritan work ethic"?

And the assertion that wealthy classes disliked lowbrow entertainment is nothing short of (dare I say it?) laughable - in Europe at least as much as anywhere else, the wealthy were the patrons of the low arts as well as the high. Opera and theater had their origins as really coarse comedies and satires, and to be an actor was considered about as reputable as prostitution - but who do you think paid for them, if not the very same French and English and German noblemen who not only patronized their writers, but also watched the shows?

The idea that only the educated (hence wealthy) could appreciate the fine arts has been around as long as there has been fine art, but the inverse idea, that only the uneducated could appreciate lowbrow art is a relatively modern one. Did not, after all, Caesar watch the gladiatorial games along with the masses? Were not Shakespeare's comedies (and they were lowbrow back then) patronized by the Queen and the commoners alike?

Classes existed before Marx, obviously, and aristocrats have distinguished themselves from commoners since as long as aristocrats have existed. However, the idea of class warfare can really only be traced as far back as the French Revolution. Prior to that it might be more accurate to call it class politics or class economics.

The fact of the matter is that Christianity spread during the Middle Ages, during which time Christian thought was dominated by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, who were convinced that mankind was depraved and fundamentally evil. Its roots were also drew deeply on the ascetic tradition, where denying oneself the pleasures of the flesh was how holy men became holy. And this coming from a religion whose central miracle was about someone who was tortured to death to bear the punishment for every bad thing ever committed by any (or some, depending on your denomination) human being, ever. Hardly surprising that Christianity has one of the sourest outlooks of any religion.

I don't deny that it's the Puritan tradition of rejecting anything that they consider sinful (drink, adultery, violence) that creates much of the backlash against games - but I don't buy for a second that they consider fun to be a sin, or that social class enters into it at all.

Actually, most modern sociological research that I've read indicates that play, regardless of species, serves two main purposes; introducing the individual to a socialized group by encouraging ad-hoc cooperation and/or coordination (which prepares the young for other activities such as hunting in the case of predators and defense of the group in the case of prey) and also forming a social structure or hierarchy.

As for the rest, humor also has another origin other than aggression, contempt and schadensfreude; defense. Humor can be used to defuse tensions that might arise in a shifting group dynamic by deflecting a situation that has a potential to become more aggressive.

@aquatoad: Neither of your two main purposes takes into account solo play. Unless we're all dealing with different definitions of "play."

on Humor: I think much humor does have hints of malice, and we often find other people's pain hilarious (for whatever psychological reasons). But I find some things humorous which are not malicious, nor relate to pain, nor even deal with my superiority to someone else. Some things are just funny. Schrödinger's XBOX? That's hilarious.

There have been plenty of humorous heroes in media who, while still taking the Michael out of people, are benevolent and try to achieve justice. Look at James Bond, Mickey Mouse. Hell, almost every single episode of Scooby Doo ends in the gang laughing. If we want to take this to literature, look at the father of the person who scripted Overlord, Terry Pratchett. Some of his main characters, such as Rincewind and Vimes, often crack witties.

The problem is that using the D&D rule set is limiting. Not every game uses that rule set. And look at Monkey Island. There's plenty of humorous tasks to achieve there, and the main character, while occasionally malicious, isn't exactly evil.

Sure, killing people in GTA is funny, but to suggest that games are only capable of giving humour in that evil/malicious/unkind form is going a little far.

Hmm.. Humour...

Lawful Good : "And trust no-- Trust practically no-one. All right? Except trustworthy people." Vimes
Lawful Neutral : "You called a leg shot!" "Sometimes I miss." - Judge Dredd.
Lawful Evil : "Hang the mimes in the scorpion pit. Upside down. Make sure they read the sign." - Lord Vetenari.
Neutral Good : "Witchcraft. It's like chemistry, but with more newt." - Willow
True Neutral : "I AM DEATH, NOT TAXES. I TURN UP ONLY ONCE." - Death.
Neutral Evil : "You know me, I've got nothing against foreigners, some of my best friends are foreigners, but these particular foreigners aren't from this village!" - Geriatrix
Chaotic Good : "The only thing we don't have a god for is premature ejaculation... but I hear that's coming quickly. " - Comicus
Chaotic Neutral : "Kenny's family is so poor that yesterday they had to put their cardboard box up for a second mortgage." - Eric Cartman
Chaotic Evil : "Oh dear, I've had one of my trademark changes of heart." - Montgomery Burns

So, what, humour is evil now? Geez, why is it that all things fun seem to be evil, according to some person a long time ago? Furthermore, why are we still listening to them?

stompy:
So, what, humour is evil now? Geez, why is it that all things fun seem to be evil, according to some person a long time ago? Furthermore, why are we still listening to them?

Well, there was that Prince of Peace about 2000 years ago...And that Chinese Warlord about 2500 years ago...

FunkyJ:

Bongo Bill:
The idea of play also ties into the idea of humor and aggression. Did you ever notice, for example, that in nature, the only animals who have been observed to play are predators, and play is essentially practice hunting?

Apart from, of course, monkeys and other primates, and dolphins and whales, all intelligent creatures who play without malice.

Primates have been observed to indulge in savage bullying and dolphins are notorious rapists. This is how the animals play and it is not much different from our activities. Life is cruel. It is not meant to be funny, or heart-warming, or fulfilling. Discomfort, violence and suffering are the forces that drive evolution and progress. We have ideas of how things should be and we delude ourselves into believing that those ideas are reality. Fun, humor, play and games are not for our amusement. They developed along our cultural and biological evolution as tools to help us survive and reproduce. Humor and games are often about violence; superiority and inferiority. They are about "us" and "them". They are about the joy of victory and the painful shame of defeat.

The article was absolutely great.

I continue to be amazed that people think the world is actually a nice place.

Good read, in mass effect I was allways annoyed that to be cool I had to be evil.

 

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