The dynamic concept of humor : Erich Fromm and the possibility of humane humor
This dissertation focuses on the social philosophy of humor from the viewpoint of Erich Fromm’s critical humanistic thinking. The work consists of an introduction and four individual articles. The introduction discusses Fromm’s theories in relation to the phenomenon of humor to provide a basis for the articles. The central aim is to understand the dynamic nature of humor and how it is related to the problem of being a paradoxical creature, that is, a human being. It is claimed that humor has to be analyzed and interpreted in a unique historical and cultural situation. The first article discusses Fromm’s concept of social character to offer a theoretical tool to understand how deeply humor is a social phenomenon. It is argued that the social character is a crucial component if we are to reach beyond jokes and laughter, and to grasp their deeper social significance. The second article furthers this thought by developing a critical standpoint on the phenomenon of laughing at oneself. It calls into question the prevailing optimism about the capability to ridicule oneself. Following Fromm, it is claimed that humor needs a serious backbone from which the perceived oddities are evaluated. The third article brings forth the debate of humor and freedom. In opposition to the widely shared idea that humor should be absolutely free, it is argued that humor cannot be separated from the sphere of humanity, and this basic fact sets the ground for the freedom of humor. Freedom has to be obtained within the limits of humanity. This leads to the notion that it is untenable to claim that we should be always able to laugh at everything. The fourth article elaborates the influence of social circumstances for humor, and the competitive nature of contemporary humor is taken under critical scrutiny. It is argued that humor and laughter reflect the current historical situation and, eventually, ourselves. Therefore, from a humanistic perspective, it is concerning how natural and popular humor competitions appear to be. As a whole, the dissertation is a philosophical study, and it aims more at philosophical understanding than to concrete empirical research settings. However, the conducted research is empirically inspired philosophy, and thus intimately connected to the living phenomena of humor and laughter. ...
PublisherUniversity of Jyväskylä
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