Insight Humor: Rational Humor or Philosophical Humor

People of humor are always in some degree people of genius. (Coleridge in Douglas 1915:980)

Wit is a proof of intelligence. No one can enjoy an active, creative sense of the comical or be truly witty without a keen, brilliant and critical mind. (Dziemidok 1993:153)

Even jokes, for the most part, are argument. (Green 1979:465)

Wittgenstein once said that a serious and good philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes. (Malcolm 1958:29)

What your wisdom could not discover these shallow fools have brought to light.

(Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing 5.01.232)

Jesters do oft prove prophets. (Shakespeare, King Lear 5.3.71)

This fellow is wise enough to play the fool; and to do that well, craves a kind of wit.

(Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

Humanistic insight humor is by far the greatest of all types of humor.

Aristotle's lost work on humor

A. Introduction

Humor makes a statement. Thus, this type may be called philosophical humor, thoughtful humor, or rational humor. In one sense, insight humor contrasts with other types in that it is humor about important rather than trivial things. Glasgow (1995:178) states, "Comic folly always has a wisdom of its own; there is a logic inherent in comic madness." Lefcourt (2001:87) calls it "perspective taking humor." Humor may be used as a critical and scientific tool to create new knowledge, new perspectives, and hypotheses. It takes us places we have never been before. We learn by purposely making mistakes and deviating from value. To do this we may use: conceits, analogies, new associations, metaphor, juxtaposition, substitution, context deviation and other deviations, expanding metaphors, grammatical deviation, free association, misclassification, mistake, paradox, simile, synecdoche, wrong use or purpose, value deviation. Humor becomes powerful.

As satire, or criticism, it shows: contradictions, ambiguities, circularities, context deviations, defense mechanisms, deviations, hypocrisy, informal logical fallacies, exaggeration, falsities, unexpected honesty, impossibility, ignorance, improbability, irony, taking literally, mimicry, name-calling, personification, reduce to absurdity, self-deprecation, sinking, stereotype, uselessness, blatant vice. That is, each type of humor can either produce new synthetic or constructive knowledge, or serve to analyze or criticize present knowledge. Weeks & L'Abate (1982:143) state that insight humor does not always mean knowledge, but that the behavior is reframed and changes. ( See also the earlier section on "The Use of Humor as a Method of Inquiry" in Chapter 5.) Like poetry, it creates what did no yet exist.

Wittgenstein (1980:24) wrote, "Philosophy really ought to be written as poetic composition." The methods and techniques given for using humor as a critical and scientific method of discovery are as follows: 1. The Metaphorical Method. 2. Exploring a concept or action by means of using each type of humor. 3. Methods used in ordinary-language philosophy. 4. Combined use of humor with the theory of emotion presented earlier. Determining the assessments, actions, feeling and context involved. We may say that humor is thoughtful emotion. 5. Reduction of the abstract and obscure to the concrete. (See abstractionism, intellectualization, allegory and ordinary-language techniques.) 6. Use of association and free association theories of language (See "connotation" and "free association humor.") 7. See "Techniques of Creating Humor" section in the preface of this book. Insight humor consists of one or more types of humor. It is often contextual and situational humor which arises with relevancy out of a story, novel, account of an experience, lecture, argument, etc. It is often not extraneous to the topic at hand, but rather arises out of and because of the discussion.

Hyers (1974) writing on oriental humor, thinks that humor comes from the relatedness of all things and that by it allows us to transcend the narrow intellect and go beyond good and evil to the highest level of being and knowing. (175-180) This humor is harmonious and tranquil. (181-182) Humor in the koan snap and shock us back to reality in a way which could no otherwise be done. Reality is grasped through humor. To understand, we must intentionally frustrate and undermine our thinking, plunge into contradiction and the absurd. A collapse is required. (159-160) He calls it a "transcendental laughter" of our former selves. It is the smile of escaping ignorance. Humor is based on enlightened compassion and affection. (164) Similarly, E. B. White states, "Humor at its best is a kind of heightened truth-a supertruth."


See Chapter 10 for an extensive analysis of insight humor illustrated. Deconstructionist view is that all reading is misreading, or to read is not to read (also oxymoron, contradiction); "How do I know that this color is red?-It would be an answer to say: 'I have learnt English.'" (Wittgenstein 1968:#381) Inappropriate behavior awaiting execution. (In reference to family relations:) Blood is thinner than water (a reversal). "In politics an absurdity is not a handicap." (Napoleon in Esar 1978:6) "No matter how bad your arguments and how little you know, get out and vote." "The desire to kill people to whom I had not been introduced had passed away" [Mark Twain in Schafritz (1990)]. No one "wins a war." "Language speaks, not people. People speak only insofar as they artfully 'comply with' language." (Heidegger 1957:161) When you are difficult you come between yourself.

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am." The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude." "You must be an engineer," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?" "Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip." The woman below responded, "You must be in Management." "I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?" "Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault.

B. The Metaphorical Method.

Any supreme insight is a metaphor. (Parkhurst 1930, in MB:217)

Metaphor creates a new reality from which the original appears to be unreal.

(Wallace Stevens Opus Posthumous 1957, in MB:272)

This method was presented earlier and examples given under "expand metaphor," "metaphor" and "take literally" humor. Several statements indicating the use of metaphor (and so also of humor) are:

The most fruitful modern criticism is a rediscovery and recovery of the importance of metaphor. (Cleanth Brooks, Jr. in MB:60)

To know is to work with one's favorite metaphors. (Nietzsche in MB:205)

The most profound social creativity consists in the invention and imposition of new, radical metaphors. (R. L. Kaufmann in MB:154)

This method was presented earlier and examples given under "expand metaphor-," "metaphor-" and "take literally-" humor. Percy in "Metaphor as Mistake" (1958 in MB:222) wrote, "The 'wrongness' of the very condition of our knowing anything at all." He states further that the thrill and insight of metaphor can hardly be surpassed. As was discussed earlier under "Good and Bad Humor," the best humor can be created if a real, meaningful, or knowledge-giving connection is found between several ideas. An example of insight metaphor is: "We-humans-are a conversation. The being of which is found in language." (Heidegger 1968:277) This will strike the average person as being either weird or humorous.

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C. Exploring a Concept or Action by Means of Using Each Type of Humor.

What we often say about time are jokes which we do not realize are jokes.

1. Introduction. Time in Alice. Time can be examined and clarified by making jokes about it. We see that many of the things we usually think are true about time are false or are mistakes. What we often say about time are jokes which we do not realize are jokes. We can laugh and learn by our mistakes. Humor, then, is a method of reasoning. Here are some time jokes classified by various types of humor.

Zeno deals with our conceptual confusions about time and reduces them to absurdity. According to Aristotle in the Physics, Zeno's argument about Achilles and the tortoise is as follows: "In a race the runner can never overtake the slowest since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead." (Physics Book VI, Ch. 8, 115) This argument depends on the notion that the pursuer must go through all of the same mathematical points as the tortoise. It is like being asked to run mathematically. But a mathematical point is not the same as a physical point. When the interval between Achilles and the tortoise becomes very small, Achilles will have to run, say, 1/10,000th of an inch. It is not easy to run that distance. Imagine someone saying, "I ran 1/10,000th of an inch." There will, then, come a point when the distance is so small that to continue the race Achilles will have to become the turtle. Achilles would become magnificently turtled.

Time is clarified by means of humor in "A Philosophical Commentary on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The entire chapter should be read as a significant use of humor to give insight. It is at the same time an example of the techniques used in ordinary-language philosophy. A short modified section on time from this article is presented below. It shows also that Alice in Wonderland is not nonsense, but insight humor:

The Hatter looking at his watch as if it might have stopped asks what day of the month it is. Alice notices that the watch tells the day of the month, but not what o'clock it is. There is a question as to whether we should call that a clock at all. A clock is an odd instrument in the sense that it measures change rather than time itself (if time exists). The hands of a clock move and this movement we call change of time. But it is really a change of the positions of the hands. We do not ask how long it takes for the small hand of a watch to move one hour. That is, we would never know a watch is slow if there were only one watch in existence and time is only the movement of the hands of that watch. The standard of measure does not measure itself.

Now there is no reason why a watch should measure hours instead of days. It serves the practical purpose of meeting our needs and corresponding to change we observe, such as day and night. We can make the instrument as detailed or as crude as we wish. It could measure weeks. An hour, a minute, and a second are completely arbitrary units of measurement. They could be different. That depends on us and what purpose we are using them for. So why should a watch necessarily tell the hour any more than, as the Hatter suggests, a watch should tell the year? Alice replies that we don't need to tell the year by a watch because it stays the same year for such along time.

This situation is reflected in the question above as to how we know how long it takes for the small hand of a watch to move one hour. The Hatter replies in jest that because a watch would stay the same for a long time to measure a year, his own watch, as it seems to have stopped, would measure a long period of time too. What that period is would be as hard to determine as time would be to determine with a broken watch. We may say that death is measured with a broken watch-death becomes changeless and timeless. Actually the Hatter may have been confused at first about whether his watch was working or not since he would not be able to tell by glancing "every now and then" to see if it is working. It only records days of the month so he would have to wait a day to tell if it is working. That he hears it tick may tell that the wheels are working, but not that the watch is correct. The hands may be stuck.

Now it seems that in attempting to fix the watch with butter the March Hare replied, "It was the best butter." And this is an interesting confusion. To think something is good in one circumstance tends to make us think it is good in every circumstance. Butter makes excellent pastry often, but that does not mean it makes good lubrication or good nutrition-not even if the butter is the best. We take "best" which is a superlative, as having a good connotation even when it is divorced from what it modifies. Someone may tell us they will give us "the best" or "something good" on a certain occasion and we react positively without knowing what it is. It may be the best-turnip. It may be the best turnip but not the best present. Or again we hear it said, "Whatever one does, one should do it well." "Be excellent at whatever you do!" But being excellent, best, or good is not in itself enough. One may be the best murderer in the world. Or we hear that one should pursue the "greatest good for the greatest number." But that does not help us determine what the "greatest good" is. Being good or the best cannot in itself be an intelligible goal. (This reminds us of Alice's earlier quandary about how to get somewhere, but not knowing where she wants to go.) "We are superior" may be flattering until the words "to the lower animals" are added. Nor is this even always especially true.

The notion that words are thought only to name things is applied to the word "time." Alice suggests that the Hatter "might do something better with the time than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers." To this the Hatter replies, "If you knew Time as well as I do you wouldn't talk about wasting it. It's him." The table is turned here on Alice. She objects to riddles, but by speaking of time as if it could be wasted she creates her own puzzles. Is time neuter? Why not a male time? To take expressions like, "Can you beat time?" literally would land Alice in difficulty.

The problem is similar with the term "God." What gender is God? Does God name a thing? Or is it a mistake we make to look for a thing corresponding to the word? Now, of course, if time is a man separate from clocks, we have a confusion. We no longer know what time is. There is no standard to measure it, to know that it is there, much less that it is male. But that is just it, we never knew that it was an it rather than a him. Time need not be a thing; and there need not exist simple absolute time or time which leaps or time which passes from future to present to past neatly packaged as minutes and seconds. There need not be time in itself at all.

Alice disclaims that if Time could change time "in a twinkling" to 1:30, her lunchtime, then she might not yet be hungry. What is odd here is: 1. The ability of time to change itself. 2. The ability of time to change suddenly. For what would suddenly mean here? 3. The relationship between time and objects. Can time alone cause one to be hungry? If time is changed to 1:30 suddenly are objects also changed? Can time exist independent of objects such that it can change without objects changing? The error here is to identify "time" with objects in time. Suppose that time changed from 9:30 to 1:30, but nothing else changed. We would never know that time so changed and it would make no difference to anyone. 1:30 would still be treated as 9:30 and four hours later Alice would eat as usual.

We see that expressions we ordinarily use in regard to time make little sense if taken literally. The Queen of Hearts says, "He's murdering time!" which, although it sounds strange, could easily be a reference to reducing to absurdity our everyday expression, "killing time." The Hatter says that since he "killed time" by singing the Queen of Heart's concert, Time "won't do a thing I ask! It's [He's] always six o'clock now." What could that mean? The situation is the same as above where time suddenly changed to 1:30. That is, everything will go on (change) even though time, whether or not it is independent of objects, stops or does not stop.

What would affect things is if objects no longer changed. Because six o'clock is tea time and time has stopped, the Hatter mistakenly thinks that what is done at that time must stop also. That is, he sets a table with many places supposing that he must have tea over and over because time stopped at tea time. This is not unlike some of Zeno's paradoxes which confuse time with what takes place in time or which assume that time is something separate from the change of things or events. One would think that if time stopped at 6:00 and if time is just change of objects, then at 6:00 nothing would move. But that is not the case. The Hatter keeps having tea in what he calls "whiles." Tea time would be such a "while" or duration and if time stopped here we would have duration left and change taking place in that duration. This is contradictory to the view that time is change. It suggests that time stops yet goes on; that change stops, yet goes on. Questions are suggested, then, as to whether time should be thought of in terms of objects or objects in terms of time; whether we should talk about time in terms of physical terminology or vice versa. Nearly every philosopher has had some say about the nature of time. The notion of duration just raised suggests Bergson's view that time is duration and cannot be reduced to space. On that view, there are no spatial times only living tea times.

After the Hatter explained to Alice why he was condemned (or rather condemned himself) to have one tea time over and over by going from tea cup to tea cup around the table, Alice asks "But what happens when you come to the beginning again?" The meaninglessness of repeating a moment which is never the same, of identifying having tea with an independent and ideal sort of time, and of reaching a beginning when time no longer "passes," lead the March Hare to change the subject. The motif of the riddle is thus continued. We say things we cannot explain. Some ordinary seeming statements and expressions turn out to be useless and meaningless if taken literally. So the subject is changed suggesting, perhaps, that there is no answer. Or the answer is the March Hare's saying, "Suppose we change the subject. I'm getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story." We are misled by thinking that words only name things and by confusing different contexts.

"Time passes" is not like "A train passes." And it is seen that just what time is is somewhat of a paradox. One solution to the paradox might be to see that time as an entity in itself does not exist. "Time," "minute," "year," etc., do not name things. All we can observe is clock hands changing position, day and night, change of planetary positions, or change or movement of objects (and possibly psychological change). But we do not observe time. Another solution might be that time means something, but not one thing. What time and time words mean depends on their use. "Have a good time" means only "Have fun" and does not refer to, or name, or describe time. "We have one minute to go," does not name or describe or refer to a thing called a "minute." Rather, we learn to utter "minute" in a certain situation and so "minute" has as many meanings as it has uses in different contexts. It does not name or refer to something called "time." Another way of saying this is there is no one definition or essence of time. To find out what time is, then, we would merely look and see how time words are used in our everyday language. The examples given above, "Have a good time" and "He was killing time," indicate such usage.

2. Insight Jokes about Time by Type. Time can be examined and clarified by making jokes about it. (Shibles 1978:63-79) We see that many of the things that we usually think are true about time are false or are mistakes. What we often say about time are jokes which we do not realize are jokes. We can laugh and learn by our mistakes. Humor is a method of reasoning. Here are some time jokes classified by various types of humor.

Ambiguity Humor or Pun. Do clocks tell time? They tick, but they do not tock. I have enjoyed the wor(l)ds of your poetry.

Circular Humor (Saying the same thing without knowing it.) The future will tell (also a pun). I know there is a future because it will appear to us. The present is now. There must be a past: I remember it. When is the present? He is becoming older every day. My doctor says that if I do nothing for my cold, it will last for a full week, but if it is treated it will go away in seven days.

Context Deviation Humor (Mixing up different kinds of things.) Can you hear time pass? If time didn't pass, I'd still be eating lunch. Time does not tick.

Contradiction Humor. Time is never a part of telling time. If you don't believe it's one o'clock, come back later and check. Of course, there is a present time. At least there was one yesterday. Forever is gone forever. There is no time anymore. The past is the present changes you are now experiencing (true statement which seems contradictory) Historians study the presence of the past. Eternal now. The evidence for the past is that it is gone. The evidence for the future is that it isn't here yet. We don't grow old in time, but we just change (true statement). He has a great future behind him. The present is gone as soon as you begin to say "now." Time began in time. Time slows down (Can time slow down?).

Deviation from the Familiar Humor. Time does not exist (also reversal). Time does not pass.

Deviation from Tradition Humor. Because time is change, and there is no time independent of change, clocks do not measure or tell time.

Deviation from the Usual. Time marches on with its big feet and drum.

Defeated Expectation Humor. A strange new science fiction world without any time-our world.

False Reason Humor. Sorry I'm late, but time slowed down.

Blatant Honesty Humor. Time? It's nothin'.

Dogma. My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with facts.

Exaggeration. The years of a peson's life do not reach 100, but one's griefs are those of a thousand years. (Anon.)

Expose hypocrisy Humor. I knew what time was before you asked me.

Ignorance Humor. O.K., sure, it's a good watch, but it only measures Swiss time. If the clock stops at one o'clock, it will always be one o'clock. I hope it will stop while I'm doing something that is fun.

Irony. To rule a kingdom is easy; to control a family is difficult.

Taking Things Literally Humor.

"Take your time." "I already have some."

"We lost a lot of time." "I'll help you find it."

"Why did you buy a watch instead of the medicine?" "Because I heard that time cures all."

"Why did you whisper?" "Because time will tell."

"Why did you collect so many bottles?" "I am addicted to the bottle."

Time is left-handed (according to some scientists).

If we "save enough time," we will never grow old.

Sorry, you cannot have tea. It's coffee time.

I was a waiter in prison. I served time for six years.

Metaphor Humor. Time is change. Thus, time is what you do. It is your walking, thinking, moving, reading, eating, nothing more. Time is not "when" you get up. It is the change of getting up. Your getting up is time. Time does not fly, march, walk, sing, or pass.

Obvious Statement Humor. "This may be difficult to follow. Here is how you tell time. First obtain a watch. Next, notice that the hands of the watch move or change. If the long hand is on twelve and the short hand is on one, we say it is one o'clock" (but there is no time as such so you never do tell it).

Paradox Humor. The present, which we think we know best, is what we know least. No matter how short it is, it is either future or past.

Perceptual Humor. A leap in time:


Directions of Time (Reduction to Absurdity):

Personification Humor. She tried to tell time, but it wouldn't listen. The ants were late for supper.

Reversal Humor. He measures sand going through an hourglass by the hardness of a boiling egg. If there is just one clock in the world, and that clock is the standard of time, then if that clock stops, time stops (also riddle or paradox). Death is measured with a broken clock (It transcends knowledge and language). Don't ask what humor means-ask what the serious means. Humor invents people. The clowns are in control. Humor without knowledge is shallow, knowledge without humor is grim. Humor allows us to see disorder where there is a myth of order.

Riddle Humor. Q. What gets lost and saved but is never seen? A. Time. Q. What flies, but is not a bird? A. Time. Q. What marches but has no feet? A. Time.

Self-Deprecation. When a fool says, "I am a fool," is he joking?

Simile or Analogy Humor. Is telling time like telling a tale? Are you in time like you are in the room? Are you in time like you are surrounded by air? Do you breathe time? Do you swim in time as you swim in water?

Sinking Humor (relate the important to the trivial or valueless) If I went an infinite distance how could I send a return postcard? (Also reduced to absurdity humor.) Humor is just something you do when the paint is drying on your boat.

Substitution Humor. We can let any change be the standard of time, even a banana: "Three o'banana," "Twelve o'banana," "Hurry up, it's getting spotty out." "Humor is truth , truth humor, that is all you need to know." (cf. Keats)

Blatant Vice Humor. It's ridiculous to ask what time is. Just repeat the same old hackneyed phrases and slogans we all use. If you still can't understand what time is, keep reading and talk about it with a friend. Or, just talk to your friend and forget the whole thing. Or, pretend you know even when you don't, or explain it all to someone as if you knew, or just tell a few time jokes and have a laugh.

The following is a humorous-serious insight poem about past time. The title is itself ironical because "that old theme" is expressed in a new, if not surrealistic, way:


Blurred vision of memory

masquerades as youth

we cannot touch

or memorize.

Blurred vision

stands before us now

beyond compare

with yesterday

or east or west.

Does it march on with big feet and drum,

its yellow lightning

burst the dumb gray clouds,

and move around us like

unused numbers in the wind?

Or does it pass where no hands move

where no streams run

and no clocks tick

and no thoughts are?

No leaves drop from the fall

and winter does not snow.

Spring does not drive up flowers

and infinity,


We cannot prove

the first step

or swimming hole.

The telescope reversed,

our youth a lie,

the only childhood

we ever had

is with us now.

The child's photograph:

We see

the cheeks are

now fat,

the skin is

now smooth.

For all our dreams

we are our only evidence,

stories told when

we awake.

And "I" am not an image

of a face

that I have ever seen.

The unrepented truth

at last is in us now.

It climbs the branches

of the brain.

Its words grow roots

into dark

and water thoughts.

The thin sap

is drunk in wine,

owlround and applewise.

Buds burn in the flowerplace.

Each planted seed

a different corpse,

the gardener tends his epitaph.

The stone's dates

are moss

slightly wet with dew

faintly glistening.

Some insects without origin

find it home.

Warren Shibles


3 Cartoons About Time



I once thought I could see the past. (Like looking down a tunnel)

Everyone says that time passes, but where is it going?

People often seem to misuse the

language of time without knowing it.


We seem to think we can actually see time-as if with a strong telescope we could see it.

I once thought I tasted time.



We are so used to thinking of time as an invisible thing that it is hard to get rid of the idea.





We should keep an eye on it. We need a watchdog on a watch chain.

The three dimensions are length, width and depth. The fourth dimension is not time. It is change. To see the fourth dimension just move this page and watch me move.

It's a poor sort of memory that only works only backwards," the Queen remarked who remembers "things that happened the week

after next. (Carroll TLG 1960: 172)




If you always have future becoming past, then the present drops out.

We can erase the dividing line of the present.

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday-but

never jam today. (Carroll TLG 1960: 177)


It's as though the Future, Present and Past were bricks like this:-

-Somehow one brick has to become the other brick. The Future

brick has to become the Present brick. It's an odd picture!










I cannot have a past image only a present one,

because the past is gone forever.

Eternity? Is that near Australia?

We need not wonder what it would be like to live in

a timeless world. Our world is timeless.

Time itself cannot change from one to two o'clock, because

there is no time as such. It cannot pass, go, or stop.


Because six o'clock is tea time, and time has stopped, the Hatter

mistakenly thinks that what is done at that time must stop also.


Wittgenstein once said that a serious and good philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of jokes. (Malcolm 1958:29)





Just what is time, anyway?

Its probably just something people invented.

Follow this line!

Did time go by as you followed the line? If so, how do you know? Did time travel along the line?

Perhaps I should be more objective and examine what I really mean when I use the word "Time."

Moment of elucidation: It's one of the clock.


Clocks don't tell time!

That's the upside domn opposite of what I've always been told.


Time doesn't measure change, it is a relation of changes. Time is nothing in itself! Another reversal, I guess!

"Timing a runner" is just comparing the change of the runner with the change of the clock. Hmm, still no time in itself.

We choose some kind of change to be the standard. But we can choose anything, even a banana as the standard, e.g., "one o' banana." That is, if the clock stops, "time" stops, or-no banana, no time.


It's funny how I still keep on thinking that there must be some invisible time. It's just that this old idea is so familiar. I guess I'm brainwashed in some ways

I see, memory is really something we do in the present!

Psychological time: Felt time is really not time, but rather an emotion such as boredom, or even humor. Humor = time! Time goes by quickly when one is having fun.



"What is time?" is an unanswerable riddle if we do not know what kind of answer would make sense. It doesn't make sense if we expect it to be something we can't have evidence for. "It is a mystical, invisible fluid," reduces it to absurdity.

"While" and "duration" are more time words.

It's kind of funny that people do think of them

as things rather than as just changes.


If time is not change, what would it be like? Like an invisible ghost? Does it look like me?

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4. Insight Humor: Space

The following humorous-serious insight poem analyzes space: (also rhyme humor)


We are told that

there is space

in which we live

and move and pace.

But I can't figure out

if it, and what's in it,

are two things or one

together the same minute.

I've never seen the stuff,

nor felt it on my skin.

To say it's there is not enough

to find what shape it's in.

Should we dress for this

as for the cold,

as nonskiers for the slope,

in space suits for the bold?

It's not the sort of thing I breathe

though I'm tempted to think I do.

I must restrain myself

and analyze this kind of goo.

Am I here in space,

like a fish in the ocean,

bird in the air,

in a medium of motion.

If we are said to travel through it

rearranging as we go,

whether we slosh, or float, or fly about,

I doubt if we will ever know.

And if it's not a substance

that is rather rare,

but merely a place,

just a here or there,

well, then, it is nothing at all,

but only a where.

So now we have a different case,

it's how to enter

such a place,

how one could even try

to do the thing called "occupy."

The door is closed,

we fix the lock,

do not come in

or at least first knock.

We occupy the space,

and when we do,

it quickly leaves

to someplace new.

We chase it out

dis-place this or that,

do it as an occupation,

and in such idleness, grow fat.

We make a fence

to enclose a space

so none can get in

and none can erase.

But if the gate

should be left ajar

would some come in

from the fields afar?

We may let our horses run free,

but no space gallops out,

and none gallops in

to allay our doubt.

Horses and fences

are a11 that I see,

and empty places

wherever they may be.

Warren Shibles

5. Insight Humor: The Utilitarian

Person 1: Utilitarianism. Boy, that's a mouthful, I had to spit out my gum to say that. Utilitarianism is to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

Person 2. Yes, I believe in that too. Some people spend money on bubble gum and candy while others starve. They are not "utilitarians."

Person 1: I think everybody should have bubble gum.

Person 2: No, no you don't understand. I mean really good things.

Person 1: Gee, but "good" can mean anything or nothing!

Person 2: Well, maybe you've got a point. "Good" is a pretty empty word, isn't it? It's like a blank check, or an empty garbage can. We can put whatever we want in it. And maybe sometimes people just give or throw away to others things that are not wanted or because there is some other benefit to the giver. Well, let's say as one example "good" means feeding people who are starving.

Person 1: But how would it work anyway? Suppose we've got a pie.

Person 2: What kind?

Person 1: Glad you asked, Peach. Look, there are a thousand starving people, and I have to divide this pie so that I can produce the greatest good for the greatest number, but I don't know how to divide it.

Person 2: It's simple. It's as obvious as the wart on your nose! You just cut the pie into a thousand pieces.

Person 2: You mean everybody gets half a crumb? What good is that? It's the greatest number, but half a crumb is not much good. Why do practically no good for a thousand when you can do less good for two thousand; or do more good for a few, by giving them larger pieces? In fact, you could give two people each half of the pie, and produce more good yet. No, no that's not quite right either. One still has to think this through. For the most quality and good of all, I think I should just keep the whole pie for myself. It's really the greatest good for the greatest number, namely, me! That's utilitarianism.

6. Insight Characterizations of Philosophers

Each philosophy may be characterized by one humorous concept or association which often gives a brief description of its main paradigm. The following were found on the internet and may require some knowledge of the philosopher's work to understand the humor in them. They give the hypothetical humorous cause (or for those living would be the cause) of the death of the philosopher:

Anaximander Infinite causes (Infinite is central to his philosophy)

Camus The Plague (The name of his book)

Derrida Deconstructed

Gödel Became incomplete

Hegel Gave up the Geist

Hume Unknown cause

Kuhn Paradigm lost.

Leibniz Monadnucleosis

Luther Diet of Worms

McTaggert Untimely causes

Nietzsche Overpowered himself

Passmore 100 years of philosophy

Popper Falsified

Quine Became a free variable (Harvard logician)

Ryle Gave up the ghost (was an anti-mentalist)

Sartre Nothing doing (wrote Being and Nothingness)

Unger Never knew (Wrote Ignorance: A Case for Scepticism)

Wittgenstein Became the late Wittgenstein. (His late work establishing ordinary language philosophy was a devastating attack on his famous early work on symbolic logic, the Tractatus.)

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Irony Humor (allegory, ambiguity, contradiction, defense mechanism, escape, defeated expectation, exaggeration, false statement, hypocrisy, blatant lie, practical joke, pretense, reduce to absurdity, reversal, ridicule, substitution, trick, understatement)

The problem of irony is without exception the profoundest and most fascinating in the world.

(Thomas Mann)

Irony is a phenomenon of very considerable cultural and literary importance. (Muecke 1970)

Irony may be classified in numerous ways. (cf. Attardo 2000) Attardo, for example writes, "There is no consensus on whether sarcasm and irony are essentially the same thing." (794) On my view, sarcasm cannot be humor anymore than can ridicule because it does not have the necessary approval and acceptance required. Irony may be intended or unintended. The irony may be flattering or unflattering, positive or negative. Various language games may involve irony, such as greeting when one does not really want to greet, or some other insincere aspect of communication.

Four types of irony are:

A. Standard Irony: saying other than or the opposite of what we mean, and so may be thought to be a kind of lie. Examples: In Alice in Wonderland, the Duchess replies to Alice's statement, "Mustard isn't a bird," with "Right, as usual. What a clear way you have of putting things." (Carroll 1960:86) It must have taken a lot of effort to make that mess.

B. Cosmic Irony: In the area of general natural causation, the opposite of the expected or ideal, happens. It is an incongruity. Example: Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark. A man develops a love relationship with a woman he does not know is his daughter. A murderer is killed in an accident on the way to his victim's funeral. One falls downstairs while telling someone else not to. The more we try to restrain laughter, the harder it is to do so. Life has no goal but death. (M. Maeterlinck "The Predestined." The Treasure of the Humble 1896. cf. Freud) The fire station burns down. "It is a small idea but it will probably make you a fortune."

C. Dramatic Irony: A character in a play expects one thing to happen, but the audience knows something else will happen. Example: You watch a character in a play risk her life to find a treasure box which you already know is empty. ]

D. Socratic Irony: Socrates, pretended to be ignorant about a matter, but then by his careful questioning, brought out mistakes in what people said. It was also ironical that Socrates did not know the answers to most of his own questions. One pretends to ask questions for information when one actually knows the answers. For example, after reading this book on humor, the reader could ask someone, "I wonder what humor is. Could you tell me?"

We may relate irony to other types of humor as follows: Allegory is a kind of extended irony in the sense that one says one thing on a literal level, but another thing on a symbolic level. Ambiguity is involved in the double meanings. With standard irony and Socratic irony the ambiguity is between what is said and what is intended.

With cosmic irony and dramatic irony it is not ambiguity, but a contradiction or incongruity between what is seen or done, and the situation. It is not a lie or false statement. Thus, standard and Socratic irony are kinds of lie, pretense, or escape.

Irony may be used to hide what one really believes, reduce a view to absurdity, ridicule, trick, or play a practical joke. But we must pick up some behavioral intonation, or situational clues in order to know that a statement is ironical. We cannot have irony if no one knows it. It is a joke to say, "I was being, ironical, but didn't know it."

Kenneth Burke (1941) treats irony as one of the "four master tropes." Metaphor is seeing something in terms of something else, thereby yielding perspective. He suggests that irony yields a kind of dialectic. S. MacGill (1838) gives the law of association by contrariety as the basis of irony. Speranski (1897) says that irony is a type of metaphor because a nonliteral quality is attributed. Tschizewsky (1961, in MB 284-5) presents irony as a kind of reversal and points out that reversals may yield deep philosophic insight. The importance of irony is also presented in the literature: "The problem of irony is without exception the profoundest and most fascinating in the world." (Thomas Mann) "Irony is a phenomenon of very considerable cultural and literary importance." (Muecke 1970)

Irony, then, is regarded as a kind of metaphor. Booth (1974:22) said, "Many casual definitions of irony would fit metaphor as well." One reason for this is that metaphor is often taken as literally false, but true on a second level of meaning. It is ironical that that which may seem literally false, turns out to be true. "Wit" is itself defined by Webster's (1986) as: "The ability to discover amusing analogies between apparently unrelated things and to express them cleverly." [Synonyms are humor, irony, sarcasm (which is not humor), satire, repartee.]

"Jest" and "kidding," refer to statements which do not mean what they say. Irony is the false which seems true, the true which seems false, the right which seems wrong, or wrong which seems right. If taken seriously, irony becomes sarcasm and involves the attempt to hurt. It may involve such ironic expressions as: "Oh yes, you're generous, all right."

One may use irony because of pressure to agree, or fear of expressing one's own views, or for humor. It is a way of having a contradiction both ways at the same time. One seems to agree, but in fact does not. Irony is revealed when the statement is so unlike one's other views that it cannot be taken at face value. In some cases, listeners are aware of the irony. If they are not aware of the irony, then for them it is not irony. That is, one may intend for one's irony to be noticed or not noticed. Only if the irony is seen as harmless by someone can it be regarded as humor. It may be intended as humor, but received as an insult. It may be intended as an insult, but be received as humor. The specific uses and assessments may be best examined by analysis of each specific example.

EXAMPLES OF IRONY: "The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes led to extraordinary success." (Luc de Vauvenargues) In her sleep she dreamt of snoring. "Life has no goal but death" (M. Maeterlinck) "It is always silly to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal." (Oscar Wilde) "I'll say this for adversity: People seem to be able to stand it, and that's more than I can say for prosperity." (Frank Hubbard) It is irony when Brer Rabbit tells Brer Fox that there is a laughing-place. It is a laughing-place for Brer Rabbit, but not for Brer Fox. "Untruth is a condition of life." (Nietzsche) We use terms such as "good, bad, time, mind, love, anger," all the time, yet cannot define them or tell how they work. (Also a tragicomical exposé of secondary education.) "The philosophers of the future must find themselves in contradiction to their own times." (Nietzsche) "What is not verbally odd is devoid of disclosure power." (Ian Ramsey 1964:69) She has so many choices that she cannot decide between any of them. An astronaut returns to earth and breaks a leg in the bathtub. The nice thing about you is your irrationality. A woman leaves a man for teaching her how to love. The only important thing in the world is looks. Why study philosophy?-who wants to know that much anyway? "The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something-because it is always before one's eyes.)." (Wittgenstein 1968:#129) The German word, verschlimmbessern, means to make things worse by correction.

The Duchess says the moral of a certain statement is, "'Be what you would seem to be'-or, if you'd like it put more simply-'Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'" (Carroll 1960:86) Freedom is not always recognizable (Cosmic irony). Love is surrendering into freedom. She is most able to find a man, but least needs to; he is most needing to find a woman, but least able to. As a schoolteacher, she spent her life collecting and filing clippings. When she retired she lost her memory and with many more years of effort brought them into disorder again. The goal of life is death. (Freud) The esteemed "Natural Law" member of the Supreme court. (Praise the unpraiseworthy.) How beautiful to be a cared-for mental patient in one's old age, being completely happy not knowing anyone, or where one is. "If you become a physician, I'll eat ninety pies and a live pig." "If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you. Really make them think and they'll hate you." (Don Marquis) Ironical expressions used at a local auction: "Say, that's some salad plate." "You can have the bowl, the table and everything that's under the porch too." "Well, isn't that nice!" "Here, you don't want to miss this sale!" "Look at this! This old scrubboard is all ready to set up in your house." "Well, can't pass this one up." "Here catch this cup. You're getting it air mail." "He is a great cook---you should just taste his blueberries and cream!"

Juxtaposition Humor (conceit, connotation, context deviation, contradiction, deviations, free association, metaphor, reversal, simile, substitution, synecdoche, value deviation)

Wild juxtapositions give insight and produce comic effect. (Charles Bally, linguist)

Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink, or anything else that is pleasant to drink: Mix sand with the cider and wool with the wine-And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!

(Carroll TLG 1960:227)

The word "art" comes from a word which means "to put together." Juxtaposition is the art of putting unlike things together. We juxtapose things to create humor and metaphor. Two or more unlike words may be combined, or two unlike things may be placed side by side. In a painting by Magritte, an apple is as large as a room. In another, a large rock floats in the sky. In a third, tiny men in black hats and with umbrellas replace raindrops, and rain down. One way of creating art is to combine unlike things in this way. Juxtaposition asks the question, "What if...?" What if these objects were put together? Juxtaposition is one of the main techniques of Dr. Seuss books. In one of his books the following are juxtaposed: Fuzzy fur feet. Here come pig feet. Low feet. Slow feet. Up in the air feet. Over a chair feet. EXAMPLES : "Even to the saucepan /Where potatoes are boiling- / A moonlit night" (Kyoroku) Large man holding a tiny teacup. Cleaning woman with designer stockings. "Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink, or anything else that is pleasant to drink: Mix sand with the cider and wool with the wine-And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!" (Carroll TLG 1960:227) (Cartoon shows triangle with fruit): Plain geometry with real fruit on bottom. (Jennifer Berman)

Crossword puzzles are also examples of juxtaposition humor:

Logical Fallacy Humor

The comical...arises when the rules of logic are broken. (Dziemidok 1993:66)

Jokes are highly rational and systematic operations.

(P. Bouissac in Chapman & Foot 1977:117)

Ex omnibus argumentorum locis eadem occasio est.

All forms of argument afford equal opportunity for jests.

Quintilian (Instituto Oratoria VI.iii.65)

There are more idols than realities in the world: that is my 'evil eye' for this world.

(Nietzsche 1954: 465)



1. Introduction.

Logical fallacies are statements which are false, contradictory, or are arguments which do not follow from what is given. False statements can be seen as humorous, because they deviate from what is intelligible. We are befuddled. We laugh at (or with) that which is irrational or which makes no sense to us.

There are many ways of making mistakes with arguments. These are logical fallacies. The following are a few of them. Nearly all of them involve the misuse of language. Logical fallacies may be thought to be kinds of deviations, and thus, kinds of metaphor. Engel (1976:67) wrote that all fallacies can be used for humorous effects. The clearer we are about how our ordinary, everyday language works, the better we will be able to think. As argued earlier, "thinking" is not having small, invisible "ideas" in our "minds." Rather, thinking is mainly being able to use language well. We also have imagery and perception, but thinking is mainly language-use.

"Knowing" means to be able to say or write something about something. Tests are usually spoken or written. The more we know about how language can trick and mislead us, the better we will be able to think. Throughout Alice in Wonderland, Alice bumped her head up against the limits of language. She was misled by language. Examples of this were given under nearly every type of humor presented in this book. And as for Brer Fox, he was misled by Brer Rabbit into thinking there is such a thing as a laughing-place. It turned out to be only Brer Rabbit's laughing-place.

What is meant here by logic is not a system of special symbols, computer languages, or a mathematical model. Kai Nielsen (1970:146) stated in this regard: "Since language is not like a calculus, we should not continue to believe it will function like one." Waismann (1956:23) similarly states, "I am not letting out a secret when I say that the ordinary rules of logic often break down in the natural speech-a fact usually hushed up by logic books." What is meant by logic here is showing that ordinary language as we speak it, is sometimes misused. It is misused by false analogies, category-mistakes, misclassification, and using vague words. Some of the more well-known ways in which we make mistakes are the following. Of course, mistakes are made which may produce nearly every type of humor. Politicians, teachers, college professors, and nearly everyone make these mistakes-and they make them quite often. When we read about these fallacies they may seem obvious. When we make these mistakes the fallacies are undetected. Anything that prevents us from dealing with the argument itself is a fallacy. Ironically, even philosophers who teach about fallacies make them, or even think that such fallacies do not apply to their own thinking. Recently Antipatriarchal Feminists have maintained that logic is male and so none of the logical fallacies or rules of rational argument apply to women or themselves. Andrea Nye (1990:179) states, "Logic is not thought at all."

Formal logic and symbolic logic are metaphors based largely on, or are similar to, mathematical models. They have very little to do with clarifying thinking done in ordinary language, but rather are often seen to be irrelevant to it. And we seldom, if ever think or ought to think in terms of syllogisms. Syllogistic thinking may be thought of as one rhetorical device among others, but it is one which is of little, if any, use in spite of the fact that many universities have courses in it. The application of symbolic logic is more with mathematical systems than with language. Benedetto Croce (1917:147) long ago was aware of this when he wrote: "As the science of thought, logistic is a laughable thing." Informal logic is a form of rhetoric and traditionally many of the devices of informal logic and formal logic were classified as rhetorical devices. The main rhetorical device is metaphor. Thinking in the normal, as well as the abnormal person, is rhetorical and bound up with ordinary language. This assertion has been well argued and elaborated in Gilbert Ryle's (1954) article "Formal and Informal Logic." One cynic defined formal logic as "the art of going wrong with confidence and certainty." (Campbell 1974:137) Here informal logical fallacies are defended while rejecting formal logic.

Albert Ellis' (1958) list of irrational ideas comprises linguistic statements leading to psychological problems. These may be regarded as logical fallacies. If one learns formal logic, geology, computer operations, chess, etc., these may serve as central metaphors and so affect our thinking. But we usually no more speak in terms of syllogistic or symbolic logic than in terms of algebra. Our main tool of reasoning is rather the language we speak and the potential of that language. Following are some of the forms of informal fallacies. Others may be found in books on informal logic. Such fallacies can generate humor. They are often regarded as fallacious in one sense, but acceptable in another. Most fallacies are committed by scholars, politicians. and the average person, but they appear in extreme forms in schizophrenia and other so-called "mental" disorders. One may become fixated or captivated by a particular fallacy. They are language-games or forms of metaphor, and may help to classify an individual's manner of faulty thinking. If our assessments are faulty, then our emotions become negative ones, and there is also loss of contact with reality.

2. Abstractionism Humor. One of the most significant errors of human thought is the error of using overly vague terms. We should be able to reduce all abstract terms to concrete and intelligible terms. If we do not, then these terms will not make sense to us. Waismann (1965), and Dewey (1964) wrote against abstract terms that examples are more convincing than an argument. We can talk abstractly about humor, but it is clearer to give examples of each type of humor. "Platonism" from Plato's theory of ideas is the treatment of abstract ideas as if they have meaning in themselves, e.g. Truth, Beauty, Good, Number, Mind, Spirit, etc. It is to commit the fallacy of abstractionism.

Abstract terms do not have meaning in themselves. For example, if we cannot define "love" and say what it means, then we will not know whether or not we are in love. Also we would not be able to love well, because we would not know what to do or how to do it. In one sense, every word can be made clearer. But some words are more vague than others are. The following is a quotation from a philosopher who uses vague and obscure language. It is not clear what he could possibly mean. Many philosophers often try to avoid talking or writing like this, but nevertheless metaphysicians do have an audience. The following is by the abstract metaphysician, Heidegger (1962). Some think that it is humorous, others that it is serious. It may mean little more to scholars than it means to the reader:

"Along with the formal structure of 'binding' and 'separating'...or, more precisely, along with the unity of these we should meet the phenomenon of the 'something as something,' and we should meet this as a phenomenon." This language is almost unintelligible to anyone. It is not that technical and abstract words are scientific. Rather, they may be our most confused words. The above quotation seems to fit with what the philosopher, Cicero, once said, "There is no opinion so absurd but that some...will express it." Wittgenstein (1968:16) wrote, "What I do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday meaning."

To illustrate the use of overabstract language, a student wrote, "My gastronomical satiety admonishes me that I have arrived at a state of deglutition inconsistent with dietetic integrity." That is, he ate too much. "Real working physicists ignore facts incompatible with their theory, operate with idealizations (like perfect vacua) that render their claims unintelligible." (Pullum 1991:126)

3. Fallacy of Accent. The wrong word is stressed resulting in the wrong meaning. For example, "I cannot recommend the book too highly." This may mean: a) "I cannot recommend the book too highly," or b) "I cannot recommend the book too highly," or c) "I cannot recommend the book too highly."

4. Ad Hominem Fallacy. The person is criticized rather than the argument. Instead of dealing with what is said, one attacks the person who says it. Examples: "Beethoven's last quartets were written by a deaf man and should be listened to by a deaf man." (Sir Thomas Beecham) Instead of obtaining evidence of guilt, one says, "Just look at him. You can see he is guilty." (Demeanor, or how one looks, is the questionable method used in the courtroom to help determine guilt.) "I don't believe anyone who wears a hat like that." "Are you going to listen to someone who only weighs 95 pounds?" Instead of dealing with a student's question, a teacher says, "I see you have a lot to learn," or "How do you know? You're just a student." It is a fallacy because we attack a person rather than deal with the argument. In short, only the arguments should count. Everything else should be irrelevant. The irrelevance can create a fallacy and humor.

5. "All" Statements or "None" Statements. (Also "always" and "never" statements). We often make "all" statements without checking to see if there are exceptions. We may say, "You are all wrong." But can one be all wrong, wrong in every way? The same applies to none or no one. In Alice in Wonderland, the Caterpillar insists that Alice recited the poem, "Father William," not just not quite right, but wrong from beginning to end." (Carroll 1960:51) It is not certain what it would mean to be entirely wrong. If it were entirely wrong, it would not be the same poem.

EXAMPLES: No one knows the answer. You are always late. At death we will know everything. Everything you did was wrong. The deity is all knowing. All is mind. Everything is stimulus and response. Everything will be all right. Everything is chemical. Everything is mathematical. All is roses. Emotion is female. Reason is male. Time heals all. All is relative. We can't know anything. I don't know nothin'. Nothing is truer than anything else (Relativism). No one has answers, only questions. Everything is absurd (Existentialism). Nothing is true (Buddhism). All language is misleading (Plato).

The following all-statements are made by Antipatriarchal (or Radical) Feminists and in Women Studies courses and are critiqued by the humanistic feminists: All men oppress all women all of the time in every way. "All men have oppressed all women." (Hewlett 1986:316) "Every aspect of social life is governed by gender." (Jaggar 1983:21) All institutions are male, so all of society, including the university, reason, inquiry, science and language must be torn down. "Patriarchy is the poisoned well from which all maladies and miseries flow." Andrea Dworkin states, "Sex is power, and nothing else." It is reversal and irony humor that it is rather women who have the most sex power. Here is a case where all statements have led to comic social movements as illustrated by one of the best insight humor books published: Beard, and Cerf (1995), The Official Sexually Correct Dictionary and Dating Guide. It is at the same time an academic work and serves as an example of Wittgenstein's statement that one could write a good philosophical work consisting of just jokes.

6. Fallacy of Anger. People often become angry and attempt to win an argument or control people by means of some form of negative emotion. Anger is not an argument. It is cruelty and an abuse. We may find it especially comical (sinking humor) for educated people and people who should know better, to become angry, instead of presenting arguments. It deviates from rational behavior. They appear silly. We may speak of anger as a logical fallacy.

7. False Authority. It is not an argument to say that something is true because someone says so. Because a person is an expert or famous authority does not in itself make anything they say true. Rather, the specific arguments and evidence are needed. It is not an argument to say that a belief is true because the belief is presented in a dictionary, encyclopedia, or by a scholar. We ourselves must know the arguments and reasons. In medicine, for example, it is important to know as much as we can about the disease we have. Example: "This chewing tobacco is best. It is used by movie stars." Therapist: "What brings you here?" Patient: "Well, the Pope says the embryo is a person, and so I have been talking to them."

8. Beg the Question. (See Circular Humor) This is a statement which assumes what it is supposed to prove. Example: "Of course, there are ghosts or they wouldn't be all around us."

9. Changing-the-Topic Fallacy. Perhaps the most important law of intelligent discussion is: Deal with one argument at a time, and do not go on to another until it is resolved. Most people seem to change the topic rapidly out of habit or so as to escape from the argument. To do so is a fallacy. Example: "Brer Fox: 'Is this the place?' Brer Rabbit: 'You'll have to do just like I tell you...I haven't got, much time.'" You want to know how old I am. An excellent question, how did you think of it?

10. Dogma. Dogma is holding a belief without having any or enough evidence. It may even reject evidence itself. Dogma also involves unchanging and absolute views, such as the statement, "This is the only truth," or "This is the only way of looking at things." (cf. Chapter 10 on religious insight humor.) EXAMPLES: "My view is the only true one no matter what you or anyone else says." "Forget the arguments, I'm right." "You don't need arguments. Just believe it." "Some people will try to use such underhanded methods such as arguments to try to change your views. Just tell them you object to reason." "My own reactions to music are legitimate." (McClary 1991:22) Any criticism of my views is "backlash." (Faludi 1991:xviii, xxii) If any woman criticizes Antipatriarchal Feminism they are "brainwashed." (Beard & Cerf 1995:16) We reject science, reason, logic and language; we have our own true knowledge. (antipatriarchal feminism; Nye 1990)

11. Either-Or Fallacy. The fallacy of thinking something is completely one thing or its opposite. Something need not be true or false, hot or cold. It could be partly true. Something can be warm, instead of hot or cold. Something may be both humorous and serious: tragicomedy, taboo humor, black humor, etc. Compare also the earlier critique of pseudo-opposites under contradiction humor. Example: "The soup is too cold." "I suppose, then, you want it scalding?"

12. False Assumption. We falsely assume something which was not presented. Example: "When this finger heals, will I be able to play the piano?" "Yes." "Great, I never had a lesson in my life."

13. Genetic Fallacy. (Fallacy of suspicious origin of an idea) It is a fallacy to assume that an idea is false (or true) because of the way it was arrived at. We ask, "Well, where did you get that idea?" It doesn't matter where you got it, or how you arrived at it, as long as it makes sense. It is a fallacy to say, "She cannot be a good woman for the job, because she is the only one who applied." EXAMPLES: It is a joke, and irrelevant to say, "I bet you thought of that argument just now."

"'I am real!' said Alice, and began to cry. 'You won't make yourself a bit realer by crying,' Tweedledee remarked, 'There's nothing to cry about.' 'If I wasn't real,' Alice said-half laughing through tears, it all seemed so ridiculous-'I shouldn't be able to cry.' 'I hope you don't suppose those are real tears?' Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt." (Carroll TLG 1960:165)

14. False Cause Fallacy.


Because A happens before B happens, does not mean A causes B. Examples: "I drank a glass of milk, and then fell in love." "I wouldn't drink any more of that milk, then, if I were you." Hamburgers cause domestic abuse. (Jeremy Rifkin) Meat disempowers women. (Carol Adams) "Alice…was sawing away diligently with the knife. 'It's very provoking!' she said....'I've cut several slices already, but they always join on again!'" (Carroll TLG 1960:201)

15. Faulty Question Fallacy. (see Riddle Humor also). A faulty or meaningless question is asked such as, "How many things do you know? "How many bugs are there under a building?" or "What do people really want?"

16. Fallacy of Force. Forcing someone to a belief rather than presenting an argument. Examples: The foolish customer is always right. I believe the person who pays my salary.

17. Fallacy of Hasty Generalization. We "jump to a conclusion" on the basis of a single or only a few instances. Examples: "This tastes terrible. It must have great medicinal value." "It's a bad book. I just read a review of it." "You dropped it. You can't do anything right."

18. Argument from Ignorance. Because we cannot disprove a belief, does not mean it is true. People often erroneously say that certain things are true because no one has as yet disproved them. When we do not know how something works, some come along who claim to know of a mystical cause for it. It is more honest to say, "I don't know" when one doesn't. Examples: 1. I've never seen an airplane. There are no airplanes. 2. I don't know how, the world was created-it just must have been. 3. Death must be wonderful. I haven't heard a single complaint.

19. IGNORATIO ELENCHI: (lit.: "ignorance of refutation")

What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them.

Voltaire "Madness" Philosophical Dictionary 1963/1764.

This is the proving of an irrelevant conclusion. The arguer thinks one thing is proven, but instead another is. Sidgwick puts this: "The journey has been safely performed only we got on the wrong train."

20. Fallacy of Irrelevance. Any kind of irrelevance may produce humor. It avoids the argument. We may prove the wrong point, or continue talking without ever getting to the point. Example: "What is the Buddha?" "I don't feel like answering today." (Suzuki 1935:129)

21. Fallacy of the Majority. Because most people think something is true does not mean it is true. Again, it is the argument which counts, not merely the fact that people agree with each other. We cannot vote truth in. The common view that scientific truth is based on consensus is unacceptable. Also the appeal to majority rule is a fallacy. Examples: They voted fair and square to take all our property. Last year 40,000 cats switched to "Meow" cat food. All in favor of whether it is raining or not, raise your right hand. Most people become angry, therefore anger must be good.

22. Many Question Fallacy. (Complex or Double Question). Asking two or more questions covertly at the same time. Examples: "Do you always lie?" This asks the two questions: a) Do you lie? b) Do you lie always? "Who created the world?" is also a many question fallacy. It assumes that someone created the world, and also that the world was created. But the world was derived from things already here. It did not come from nothing. The question should be asked as two separate questions which reduces it to absurdity, or "If the world was created at all, who or what created it and what can possibly be meant by 'who'? Aunt Harriet?"

23. Miss the Point Fallacy. (See Shaggy Dog Story under Personification Humor)

The point is that there is no point.

One misses the main point of an argument. Example: "There is a fly in my soup." Waiter: "Well, how much can a fly drink?"

24. Appeal to Pity. "I ask you, would you put this poor, lonely person in jail?" "'Give your evidence,' the King repeated angrily. 'I'm a poor man your Majesty,' the Hatter began." (Carroll 1960:104)

25. Refusal to Discuss.

I dislike arguments of any kind. They are vulgar, and often convincing. Oscar Wilde

Examples: 1. Don't study philosophy, it may undermine your beliefs. 2. Me woman, you man. Deal with it. 3. The table is too crowded. If you ask some to leave, they won't. If you start asking questions about the nature of time, or what an emotion really is, you will have the table to yourself. 4. You want to know why. I'll tell you why-just because. 5. Why discuss when you can just get angry with people and call them names?

26. You-Also Fallacy. Attempt to avoid being criticized by criticizing someone else. It is like saying, "I'm guilty, but so are you. So my guilt doesn't count." Example: 1. Sure, I stole the money, but you didn't put money in the parking meter. 2. The U.S. condemned others for having nerve gas, but to avoid embarrassment had to then destroy its own.

Take Metaphors Literally Humor. (ambiguity, conceit, ignorance, metaphor, reduce to absurdity)

"Confound it, Hawkins, when I said I meant that literally, that was just a figure of speech." (Lee Lorenz)

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.


No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the misfortune is to do it solemnly. (Montaigne)

What we have to do is to watch metaphors at work tricking us and our fellows into supposing matters to be alternatively much simpler and much more complex than they are.

(I. A. Richards 1938, in MB:239)

Truths are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions.

(Nietzsche 1960, in Shibles 1972b:5)

A main cause of philosophical disease a one sided diet: one nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example. (Wittgenstein 1968:#593)

There is not a philosophical method, though there are indeed methods, like different therapies. (Wittgenstein 1968:#133)

A metaphor has several meanings. When we take the wrong meaning it is humorous. Alice (Alice in Wonderland) suggests that if one loses one's temper, her cat Dinah could help find it. The March Hare invites Alice to "take some more tea." Alice objects to this invitation saying, "I've had nothing yet so I can't take more." The Hatter adds, "You mean you can't take less, it's very easy to take more than nothing." Alice finds she is not too small to reach a key, and scolds herself as if she were two people. We do normally talk as if we are two people, but what do we mean? Are we misled by taking some of our expressions too literally? "Well," Alice says, "there's hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!" How many people are we really?

People tend to think that there is only one way of looking at things. They take their own theories, views, and beliefs as true-as the only way one can look at the world. To do this is to take metaphors literally or create a metaphor-to-myth fallacy. Each idea or belief we have may be thought of as a metaphor through which we see the world. It is like seeing the world only through the eyes of Brer Bear. When we do take a metaphor literally, we create myths or false beliefs.

It is like putting on different glasses. If we wear our Brer Rabbit glasses, all is rabbit world. If we wear our duck glasses, all is the world of duck. We have "glasses" for each subject we study in school, and for each thing we think or say. We have, for example, anger glasses, geometry glasses, literature glasses, biology glasses, foreign language glasses, critical glasses, gender glasses, or the glasses of a philosopher. "To know is to work with one's favorite metaphors." (Nietzsche, in MB:205) We live in many worlds. Expressions such as, "We had no alternative," are typically blatantly false. For example, the common belief that we had no alternative but to kill over a million people in the Gulf war, is an example of military mindedness-one solution to all problems:-shoot it. The Gulf war is seen as tragicomic.

According to Wittgenstein, we tend to become captivated by our language and imagery. We are captivated by only one perspective or way of looking at things. A single sort of language-game poisons our thinking. The theories and views of scientists, philosophers, and poets appear to be expanded or developed metaphors, e.g. humans are machines, atoms, numbers. Scientific revolutions are said to come about simply by a replacement of one model or metaphor by another. Thomas Kuhn in (1962) states that each scientific theory or school of thought depends on a root metaphor, model, or "paradigm," e.g. atomism. All other research in a certain age is thought of as unscientific: Science students were said to accept theories on the authority of teacher and text, rather than because of evidence. The prevailing fashionable paradigm captivates us and we can see in no other way. But gradually it may be seen to be inadequate and becomes replaced, eventually, by another paradigm at the total expense of the first, bringing about a scientific revolution, but also a revolution in our thinking and way of seeing the world. We see in terms of ever new metaphors, but the current one tends to hold our entire experience captive, preventing us from thinking in any other way. Thus, we often see narrowness and dogmatism current in academic and nonacademic disciplines. This opens the way to satire, ridicule and reduction to absurdity, as well as to "taking things literally" type of humor.

From the perspective of ordinary-language philosophy, taking metaphor literally is creating category-mistakes and type-crossings. Beardsley (1958, 1962) notes that it is not easy to discover clear-cut examples of nonsensical attributions, because someone may always find a meaning in them that we have overlooked. He thinks, though too absolutely, that the following cannot be explicated: "A man in the key of A flat. Participial biped. Consanguinity drinks procrastination." (1958:143)

Freud's may be cited as an example of a theory which has erroneously been taken literally. It takes the law of conservation of energy in physics and applies it metaphorically to Freudian "conservation of psychic energy" in the tripartite "id, ego and superego" scheme. The metaphor or model of "three" applies also to id, ego, superego, but also to Freud's deterministic three fixed stages of development (e.g. oral, phallic, and anal). Freud also presupposes as mentalistic entities and energies: mind, id, ego and superego. All things and events are related to some stage or taken as a sexual object. A room is taken as a womb, sharp objects represent the male organ or breasts, etc. Ella Sharpe, a Freudian, wrote (1940, in MB:258) that a patient's statement, "I missed the point" may suggest breast withdrawal in infancy! This means that every tree, chimney, pan, cup, circle, line, etc. have Freudian sexual references. If adults chew gum they are said to be stuck back at a deterministic oral-erotic stage. Freud's theory is, in short, conceit or farfetched metaphor. It is to be captivated by a model. As a correction of this captivation, Geraldine Pederson-Krag wrote, "As we try to emulate Freud and clarify our concept of what is happening in a patient's psyche, we may find ourselves betraying whatever insight we have gained by too faithful adherence to the implications of our metaphors."

The psychologist, Theodore Sarbin wrote: "For nearly half a century, a romantic mystique has evolved around the professional enterprise stimulated by Freud's colorful metaphors. Experienced clinicians recognize that the mystique is not justified." Sarbin in this same article entitled, "Anxiety: Reification of a Metaphor," shows how Freud took his views literally instead of merely as metaphorical, heuristic perspectives. Sarbin questions the traditional view that anxiety is an internal state or state of mind. It is a myth or metaphor which was mistakenly taken literally. He states that metaphors in psychology become reified leading to category-mistakes, and become taken as myths. This he calls the "metaphor-to-myth fallacy." Taking metaphors literally is to be captivated by a single perspective, model or metaphor. Bergson's view of humor (1911) is based on stereotyped behavior. Taking metaphor literally is a type of fixed thinking or stereotyped thinking. It is also a priorism. Röhrich (1980:127) stated that surrealistic humor presupposes a rational world from which to deviate, but most people are too superstitious to appreciate metaphorical differences and deviations. They, thus, take their metaphors literally. Surrealistic humor, he states, is mainly for intellectuals. (Er ist mehr oder weniger ein Witz von und für Intellektuelle.)

Exposing those models which we take literally is a means of giving insight. We can also "rejuvenate" dead metaphors. Wittgenstein (1968:#464) said that his task was to "quicken the sense of the queer" to reduce what is disguised nonsense to patent nonsense. All of our statements and language use may be explored for such disguised nonsense. Taking metaphors literally produces ambiguity, puns and the so-called "moron" jokes, for example, "He drove over a cliff in order to check the air brakes." Metaphor, then, gives insight, but creates humor if we take it too literally. It is a joke to think we have a mind or time as a thing. EXAMPLES: 1. The back room is a storehouse for eggs. Memory is a storehouse of ideas. 2. Mental chemistry. 3. His ideas got off the track. 4. Officer: "You were doing forty miles an hour." Driver: "But I wasn't out an hour." 5. Exercise your mind. 6. Examples regarding time in the chapter on insight humor are usually examples of taking metaphors literally. Time flies. Save time. Time marches on. Spend time. Kill time. Beat time. Waste time. 7. Drowning person shouts to a friend to "Get help." Friend goes immediately to see a therapist. 8. My car can stop on a dime and leave a nickel change.


Disappear! Get lost! Immediately!

Metaphor Humor

All thinking is metaphorical. (Robert Frost in MB:110)

Every actor is a sculptor who carves in snow. (Lawrence Barrett)

No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If they did they would cease to be artists.

(Oscar Wilde)

Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. (Holbrook Jackson)

All our won by metaphor. (C. S. Lewis in MB:174)

You have taught generations of...students that for gaining an insight into life,

a metaphor is a sharper and brighter instrument than a syllogism.

(Said to Robert Frost when he received an Honorary Doctorate degree.)

Metaphor is a combination of unlike things. Unlike things may be combined in many ways. The different ways they may be combined are shown in each type of humor. Imagery is metaphor combining unlike images. This becomes perceptual (or visual) humor. Metaphor is deviation of any kind. All deviation humor is, then, metaphor. In short, all kinds of humor are kinds of metaphor. Metaphor and humor often find connections where none seem to exist. What seems to be unrelated and false is seen to be related in some way, and true or humorous. Humor like metaphor cannot be reduced to the literal or other structures without destroying it. (cf. Gabin 1987:43) This is one reason why we cannot explain a joke or metaphor without losing them. If one is informed in advance, one cannot be surprised. We do not have the satisfaction of, "Oh, I get it." The literal does not deviate. We need indirection, allusion, connotation, deviation, but explanation removes that and replaces these with the ordinary. Being led prevents us from being misled as is required by humor. We are enmeshed in humor/metaphor. We create them and they create us. They are in us and we are in them.

"Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their marriage were not perceived to have any relation." (Mark Twain) Thus, metaphors are entertaining. They seem to be one thing, but turn out to be another. The metaphor at first seems false, but then seems true in a new way. An analysis of metaphor is contained in the previous discussion of language and association and connotation humor. The examples given here are those mainly stressing the poetic metaphor, or metaphor which doubles as humor. It is aesthetic humor. Metaphor humor is not usually recognized as such. Some do not acknowledge either poetry, metaphor or metaphor humor. One may be "metaphor friendly," or "metaphor illiterate." Any part of speech and grammar may be used metaphorically, even conjunctions, interjections, periods and quotes. (cf. Shibles 1989ab) Questions and commands, as well as indicative statements, may be metaphorical. Each word such as, "man," "I," "life," "nature," may be treated as a metaphor.

According to the cognitive-emotive theory, presented earlier, assessments produce and constitute emotions. Metaphor is a special kind of assessment which can then produce a poetic and aesthetic emotion. "Aesthetic" here refers to a type of emotion. Humor may be seen as an aesthetic emotion or form of beauty. The aesthetic as an emotion and how art expresses emotions has been analyzed. Aesthetic humor may similarly be analyzed. Just as we may speak of humanistic art, we may speak of humanistic, aesthetic humor. Metaphor humor combines the aesthetic with the humorous, just as the grotesque combines the horrible with the humorous. EXAMPLES: "All waters contain the moon." "My salad days when I was green in judgment." (Shakespeare Antony & Cleopatra 1.5.73) There are forty children in the choir and when they sing they suddenly become drunk. "When a dentist asked the location of her aching tooth, an actress said, 'First row, left, in the balcony." (Esar 1978:39) Each word is a whole philosophy. "A woman is never far from mother: There is always within her at least a little of that good mother's milk. She writes in white milk." (Cixous 1981:25) Two year olds are all metaphors. Learn by osmosis. Pure mathematics is creating a coat with three sleeves. Mind is a very thin fluid. Birthday suit. Sleep: a short vacation from life. Oil: life blood. Abstract words are sandpaper to the eye. Saliva is the Cadillac of the digestive system. Electricity: soda bubbling through small straws. "'Tis deepest winter in Lord Timon's purse." (Shakespeare Timon of Athens iii.4.14) "Love: The temporary insanity curable by marriage." (Ambrose Bierce) Life is one great party to which I am not invited. On returning to a hot, unpleasant, Australian camping place: "Well, here we go back to the Taj Mahal of Outback Heaven." (Lefcourt 2001:173) The algebra of emotions. "My salad days. When I was green in judgment." (Shakespeare Antony & Cleopatra 1.5.73) Canned humor. Shaggy dog humor. The culture-bound finds herself in the shape of a paper clip. What kind of glue holds this country together? Is jealousy chemical? This is a kettle of fish. Space is a box with no top, no bottom, and no sides. "He is winding the watch of his wit; and by it will strike." (Shakespeare Tempest ii.l 13) My brain shuts down at 9 p.m. "Imagine someone is trying on a hat…then a friend says 'My dear, it's the Taj Mahal.'" (John Wisdom 1965:2) Traubeblut (lit. grape blood) refers to wine. Lange Finger machen "to make long fingers," refers to stealing. Grosse Rosinen im Kopf haben is literally to have large raisins in one's head, and means to be full of big ideas. The following poem explores a situation by means of the poetic techniques of metaphor.


Coquetry of morning,

our capricious laughter

rings down the sleepy denial,

better things to come.

One cup of coffee shared

tells us how to love

the haze,

see the greenness of the clock,

and put a cloud to sleep.

Our fingers in the breakfast jam,

we do it wrong,

see the flat hills,

imagine a large-bellied milkman

who drinks demitasse,

dancing with graceful hands

in the dawn.

Our voices add the song

to the scenes we see

and in the sultry morning, we

dangerous to the world,

lie together

in the first light's snow.

Warren Shibles

Mimicry Humor. (behavioral, caricature, defense mechanisms, exaggeration, expose hypocrisy, perceptual, pretense, reduce to absurdity, ridicule, satire, stereotype)

Mimicry is imitation. If it is humorous, it is parody; if it is serious or derisive, it is mockery. The imitation is not exact, but exaggerated to point out deviations and faults. Humor arises from these deviations. Even if the imitation or copy were exact, humor would arise from pretending to be what one is not. Mimicry can be verbal, behavioral, or both. Pantomime is a behavioral or facial presentation of a story such as pretending to eat one's entire body. The mock-heroic is ridicule of heroic style involving both elements. Great imitators imitate movements and facial expressions as well as voice and content of thought. Aristotle's imitation theory of comedy is based on imitation of characters of low type. Servants may mimic the haughtiness of their master. Some actors illustrate the sensuous aspects of eating. We may mimic deviant mannerisms such as unusual ways various people smoke, eat, drink, walk, talk, etc. Parody may also be thought of as a kind of mimicry. See Macdonald (1960) for a good anthology on parody.

We may consult anthropology also for parody. The Yaqui Indians stay nearby a marriage giving absurd burlesques of it. Zinacantecan ritual clowns mock ceremonies and give loud, ludicrous prayers, etc. (Apte 1985:159)

Misclassification Humor. (ambiguity, context deviation, logical fallacies, take literally, substitution, synecdoche)

Misclassification is a form of context deviation, category-mistake, type-crossing, faulty subsumption in a class. Metaphor is a form of misclassification, e.g. "You fox." Misclassification stresses a technique of creating humor involving putting things in improper classes. Classificatory systems are typically arbitrary and based on limited qualities for limited purposes. Thus, such unlike things as people and whales are classified together as both being warm blooded. Animate and inanimate are also arbitrary classifications. Misclassification humor can expose such arbitrariness. Alice (Alice in Wonderland) says that mustard isn't a bird so it must be a mineral. The confusion is due to the fact that she is trying to put everything into one of the three categories of animal, mineral or vegetable. She finally says, "It's a vegetable. It doesn't look like one, but it is." (Carroll 1960:86)

Mistake Humor.

It's unfortunate you don't know how wrong you are. (Abner Dean 1963)

Humor legt die Fehlerquellen bloß. [Humor lays the source of mistakes bare.] (unknown)

Situation comedies involve someone getting into some kind of mess. (Delia Chiaro 1992:7)

This is deviation from that which is correct, or from a standard. Mistake is involved in nearly every type of humor. Any sort of mistake may be a source of humor. How we take mistake-angrily or humorously-reveals our attitude toward life and our ability to accept. Lefcourt (2001:194) wrote Willie for the German Wille [Engl. "Will"] in his reference to Schopenhauer's book, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellungen. The German, Verschlimmbesserung, means to make something worse while intending to make it better.

Name-Calling Humor. [conceit, connotation, false (-blame, -reason, -statement), free association, unexpected honesty, blatant lie, metaphor, ridicule, stereotype, value laden terms]

If you can't answer a people's arguments, all is not lost;

you can still call them vile names. (Elbert Hubbard)

Wit is educated insolence. (Aristotle)

Name-calling is, by definition, false statement uttered as if it were true. Name-calling may: a) falsely describe (stereotype). b) be farfetched. c) involve mere connotations or secondary associations. d) be poetic. e) be positive and accepting (less usual). f) be negative and ridiculing. (veiled or unveiled insults) g) involve and exaggerate a fault or characteristic. h) blame someone. i) be partly true and partly false. Examples: "Plato is boring." (Nietzsche 1954:557) One philosopher-linguist is called a "New York Platonist." (Pullum 1991:15) "Linguistics -hat littlest of sciences." (Pullum 1991:11) Linguists doing philosophy of science is called "self indulgent methodological agonizing." (Pullum 1991:124) A written exchange between two linguists involved the epithets: "pure sloth and accompanying ignorance," "arrogance," "narrow and inflexible mind," "disreputable." (Pullum 1991:124) The Complete Idiot's Guide to DOS. by J. Flynn (1993). Sue Savage did research on chimpanzees. (Gamble 2001) The German Angströhre [lit. fear pipe] is a humorous reference to a stove pipe because of the danger of its starting a fire. Hey, Oedipus, your mother wants you. University antipatriarchal and radical feminists are called "Feminazis." The hookers in John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor call each other a long list of names and enjoy it. The medieval German carnival play involved Schimpfreden which were litanies of abuse. (Glasgow 1995:245-246)

Nonsense Humor. (meaningless, absurd, irrelevant, conceit, deviations, escape, defeated expectation, free association, impossible, paradox, reduce to absurdity, useless)

To an absurd mind, reason is useless and there is nothing beyond reason. (Camus)

The fool manifests the existence of nothingness. (Someone may have said this)

Even a joke should have some meaning. (Carroll TLG 1960:219)

(p v q) v (r.s) = z (symbolic logic: an absurd method?)

her A butters child dog.

Wittgenstein wrote, "My aim is to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense" (1968: #464).

The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language. (Wittgenstein PI #119)

What are you doing?

I'm airing out my tongue.

Examples: A child butters her dog. Heidegger's metaphysical works seem to satisfy the criteria for nonsense humor: "This 'System of Relations,' as something constitutive for worldhood, is so far from volatilizing the Being of the ready-to-hand within-the-world, that the worldhood of the world provides the basis on which such entities can for the first time be discovered as they are 'substantially' 'in themselves." (Heidegger 1962:202) Symbolic Logic is taken seriously by possibly a third to about a half of all philosophers. Others hold it to be meaningless and useless and a form of metaphysics.

Webster's Dictionary (1986) defines "nonsense" as: a) Words or language having no meaning or conveying no intelligible ideas. b) Language or conduct that is absurd or contrary to good sense. c) Things of no importance. d) (adj.): Being a simulated unit of speech fabricated by arbitrary grouping of speech sounds or symbols. The last definition says that nonsense appears to be meaningful, but in fact is not. A statement is seen as a meaningless, but is stated as if true. We expect people to be saying meaningful things, but with nonsense our expectations are defeated. This satisfies the contradictoriness criterion for the creation of humor. Whereas metaphor is literally false, but figuratively meaningful, verbal nonsense is literally meaningless and figuratively meaningless as well. Nothing saves its falsity.

We respond to its meaninglessness with humor or anger. We do not understand it. With contradiction we cannot understand both views at once, but we at least understand each view. With nonsense we sometimes do not even understand what is being said, for example, "Saturday stays up late." This can, however, make sense in some contexts. About nonsense we ask, "What could that possibly mean?" Abstraction humor is also unintelligible resulting in nonsense: e.g. What is great Oneness, supernatural, pure being, spirit, god? With paradox we look for some deep explanation. With nonsense we expect none. Perhaps this is why nonsense and farce are said to provoke unreflective laughter. It is an escape from intelligibility, reason and social rules. The fun of nonsense is that it sets us free-as if all is possible. Rational rules, and bounds are destroyed. With nonsense we let ourselves go.

It is not quite right to say that something is purely meaningless. On the association theory of meaning presented earlier, every object and mark is rich with associations. Nothing has no associations. (an ambiguity.) That is, there are no things for which there is a complete absence of associations. It would be nonsense to think that there could be. "A meaningless word" is a misleading expression. A word or sentence may be meaningless in terms of the usual expected meanings, but nevertheless meaningful in other senses. The marks "klzp" are at least meaningful as marks or combinations of letters. They could even be given meaning as words. Even a random mark on a piece of paper, or a yellow flowerpot has meaning. Nonsense is never pure.

As was earlier seen, Alice in Wonderland is not at all nonsense, but rather a careful and critical exploration of misuses of language. Some dramatic productions of Alice are presented as if each word means nothing and is total nonsense. This takes the whole point out of Alice. It would be like reading Shakespeare too fast as if it too were nonsense, which has also been done. James Joyce's (1947) Finnegan's Wake seems like nonsense, but rather has so many meanings we cannot find them all. (Humor of this statement is, if we can't find them all how do we know they are there?) Because the associations are so farfetched, nonsense humor seems like free association. Here is the meaningless, trivial, useless, purposeless and irrelevant. Nonsense is also pleasant confusion. We may laugh at loss of control, and whatever is beyond our knowledge or understanding.

Some descriptive words which relate to nonsense humor are: "Zany": foolish, nonsensical, crazy, goofy; silly: inane, lighthearted as if dizzy or overcome by the humor; chaos: or humor of disorder, useless messes, disconnectedness; daft, foolish, crazy, stupid, mad, thoughtless, absurd. "Amphigory" is nonsense writing or verse, with a semblance of sense. Futile: a future which does not make sense-is hopeless. Ridiculous: whim, and caprice or sudden irrational change of mind seemingly done for no purpose. Farce refers to improbability and pretense. Droll is light whimsical jest, but also it is odd, strange or dull humor. Drollery refers to nonsense or farce taken seriously. It is to say, "It's unacceptable nonsense." Droll is, then, a value term of condemnation as are 'farce, futile, ridiculous, inane.

The absurd is a significant aspect of humor. If nonsense and contradiction are taken seriously or as being unacceptable, they become absurd. Nothing is in itself absurd. It takes certain kinds of thinking to see absurdly. The absurdity is in us. Being the negative pole of nonsense, definitions of the absurd also define nonsense. The absurd is regarded as illogical, unreasonable, incongruous, futile, unintelligible, meaninglessness, impossibility. Sartre (1948:90) wrote: "There is emotion when the world of instruments abruptly vanishes and the magical world appears in its place." He says we act absurdly, yet we must still act. We look for familiar objects, but see something else instead. We are "useless passions." It is kafkaesque. We are accused, but do not know what for. We are on trial, but never find out the charge. For those who believe in original sin, they are guilty before they are even born. Some find the statement that life is absurd, to be the only meaningful statement there is. For them, life is chaotic, not adjusted to, not put together. One can be captivated by a model or metaphor of absurdity and chaos and think that is the only way of viewing reality. Theater of the absurd sees reality as absurd, and nonsense humor arises out of it. When we bury the absurd, humor arises out of it in the form of nonsense.

The play, Fiddler on the Roof, shows the precariousness of life. A poetic seeker after life and beauty plays on a steep and narrow rooftop. Absurdity says that life is chance and is fatal. It comes to nothing after the puffed up smoke of a few years of living. Shakespeare put it well: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" (As You Like It 2.7.139)-a stage full of sound and fury signifying nothing. We leave and are heard no more. He wrote, "There's nothing serious in mortality. All is but toys." (Macbeth ii.3.99) Life is, in this sense, the ultimate contradiction, the ultimate joke. We laugh at the pointlessness of a world that seems to have a point. In Camus' The Plague, Roquentin says, "The world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence."

Both humor and hypnotism involve acceptance. The hypnotized patient must accept uncritically. For humor, one must be critical enough to see inconsistencies, mistakes, double meanings, etc. Humor is not just blind acceptance. Now, if a hypnotist can get patients to accept nonsense without reacting to it negatively or as humor, hypnotism has begun. Hypnosis is, however, not so well understood. The following hypnotic technique is called the "Verbal Confusion Technique." It is like "double-talk," circularities, nonsense, contradiction, put forth in rapid succession. The hypnotist says for example: "At times you can be aware of certain things and at other times you may not be aware of might be aware of a picture…if you look at it. You might be looking at it but if your attention is elsewhere, you might not be aware of the picture. You might be aware of it subconsciously even if you are not looking at it. There is something right now you are unaware of until I mention it and then you become very much aware of it. That is of having shoes on your feet. You can be aware of time, or unaware of it." The dialogue is endless nonsense. EXAMPLES: It would take seven maids seven years to sweep this up. How many hairs do you have on your body? May your datives last forever. Step on each crack of a sidewalk. Q. What does a rock do? A. It sits and rocks. I would like some Oolong tea if it doesn't take too ooo. How many flies have you ever caught? Take vitamin N for nose. To write in pink is a waste of ink, but to write in blue is to say I love you. Find old letters not intended for you, and reply to them. There are three things wrong with her: She smokes, she drinks, and she goes through Cleveland. Wednesdays are confusing. Open this letter from the inside. Mommy is an oogly-googly. "'When you say 'hill,' the Queen interrupted, 'I could show you hills, in comparison with which you'd call that a valley.' 'No, I shouldn't,' said Alice, 'a hill can't be a valley, you know. That would be nonsense.'" (Carroll TLG 1960:142)

The study of humor shows that there is no nonsense. Hyers (1974:146ff.) holds that nonsense is a new kind of sense.

Obviousness Humor. (circular, deviations, defeated expectation, ignorance, understate, useless)

How wondrous this, how mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water.

(P'ang chu-shih, cf. Suzuki 1964:83)




Clear Instructions

The obvious is well-known things presented as if they are new knowledge, for example, "How to tell a joke: start at the beginning, go on to the middle and stop at the end." The result is surprise and defeated expectation. It is saying what we already know and so is pointless information. Circular type jokes are examples of obvious humor. Obvious humor involves describing any simple, familiar action, such as giving instructions for how to drink water, chew gum, or how to walk down the street. We may laugh at the obvious joke, or with the ignorance of the person telling what is taken as a joke. When we are instructed as to how to boil water it seems like obvious humor. On the other hand, there is a lot to know about such seemingly obvious events. Like circular humor, there is a circular and a noncircular aspect. EXAMPLES: Q. What is warm in summer and cold in winter? A. Just about anything.

"Do you think I am hiding things from you?" The wild laurel was in full bloom. "Do you smell it?" "Yes." "There, I have hidden nothing from you." (Suzuki 1964:93)

Child: What would happen if you put water in a glass?

Q. What will the stock market do? A. Fluctuate.

To store clerk: Well, I suppose the directions for the soda are on the label.

"How wondrous this, how mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water." (P'ang Chu-Shih, cf. Suzuki 1964:83)


First find out where the truckers stop. They are likely to know where to find the best food. You can tell because there is a good chance there will be a sign reading, "Eat", "Good Food," or try a gas station notice: "We also serve food, " or "Tank yourself up here." You go in. You see some of the locals stirring their coffee with their thumbs. They know what's good. You watch the cook to see what he or she does. You can learn a lot if you keep your eyes open. One of the really big specialties is hamburgers. People like them. After a long day on the road they are really good.

Keep your eyes on the cook. To make a hamburger you take a handful of ground beef. It comes that way in the stores. You pat it flat. Round the edges until it looks more or less like a cookie. It's not a cookie, but it looks like one. You couldn't serve a cookie to a trucker. You put the hamburger on a grill or possibly on a hot pan, whichever you have. First put some grease or something in the pan. The temperature ranges from low to high. You can cook a hamburger at many temperatures, but it will take a whole lot longer on low than it will on high. After one side of the hamburger is cooked you turn it over and do the other side. Cook it until it is just right. Some like it well done, and others like it medium and some like it rare. If they want it rare, don't cook it so much.

But there is more to it than just that, of course. You have to cut a hamburger roll for it. It is round also so the hamburger will fit better. We take pride in that. For a specialty, you could butter the roll and brown it first, but that takes practice. Put the cooked hamburger in the roll. Then put a pickle slice on top of the hamburger (but under the top part of the bun). You could put a quarter of a pickle alongside the hamburger. The pickle in that case is cut lengthwise. It makes the hamburger look pretty good. Now for seasoning. This is important. In this business important things are significant. You could add salt and pepper. Some like it with nothing, some use just pepper or salt, others use both. There are a lot of possibilities here. For a special treat use some ketchup. It comes in a tall bottle and it's red. It's about the size of a soda bottle. Whatever you put ketchup on tastes like ketchup. It is especially good to use if you do not like hamburgers. Well, that's about it. So you see, experience and skill are what go into good cooking. END

The following poem seems to say something, but doesn't. In one sense, it only describes an uneventful experience making no meaningful statement about it. Because one expects a statement to be made, and none is made, there is the defeated expectation of being given only what is obvious. Zen Buddhism uses this sort of device as well in order to present the everyday, to acquaint us with the obvious.


He took his


connected it to the

tires one after the


With a number of up and

down movements they

were blown up.

He was ready.

The bicycle was

carefully wheeled from

the basement out into the

open air.

He mounted

the bjcycle

feeling the transition

from the walking

to the sudden breeze on his

face caused by the

increase of speed. Then

came the constant peddling

and the task of maintaining

or varying his pace

according to the

strain of his

leg muscles.

Fields and trees

passed quickly, but the

clouds held back,

white and heavy,

like dumplings.

He leaned into his course, curving into his wheels,

then back and tangent

and once more forward.

He then sat upright,

held the handlebars

with one hand

letting the other

fall free.

Warren Shibles

Paradox Humor. (conceit, context deviation, contradiction, deviation from the usual, hopeless, impossible, irony, metaphor, nonsense, riddle self-deprecation, trick)

A paradox is a miracle of truth (Gracián)

All laughter is occasioned by a paradox. (Schopenhauer 1969)

No man needs to search for paradox in this world of ours. Let him simply confine himself to the truth, and he will find paradox growing everywhere under his hands as ranks of weeds.

(Thomas De Quincey)

There is a nature that absorbs the mixedness of metaphors. (Wallace Stevens 1957, in MB:272)

Metaphor combines unlike things thereby creating tension and paradox. We are asked to make sense out of nonsense. Paradox, like metaphor, is as Webster's Dictionary (1986) defines it: "a statement or sentiment that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet perhaps true." Other meanings of paradox are: 1. False seeming statement. 2. A statement that seems true yet turns out to be false, thus paradox is the false seeming true or the true seeming false. 3. Something having contradictory properties. 4. Enigma, mysterious, or something hard to explain or understand. G. Ryle (1954) speaks of dilemmas as deriving from wrongly imputed parities of reasoning. Fry (1987:70) in his article on humor and paradox, even thinks that humor is a mystery and paradox.

Paradox is exemplified especially by the conceit, oxymoron, contradiction and metaphor. The poets, especially metaphysical and Baroque poets, found paradox in these devices. Cleanth Brooks (1948) wrote that all metaphor involves paradox, the awed surprise of contradiction and qualification by analogies. All of our subtler states can only be expressed by analogy, or metaphor, and so by paradox. For this purpose the poet constantly disrupts language. Jackson Cope (1962, in MB:77) believes, along with Wheelwright (1968), that metaphor is paradox which inextricably reveals reality. William Fry (1957) wrote that humor is metaphorical play and paradox. Paradoxes are shiftings of opposites, such as real-unreal, finite-infinite. Schopenhauer (1958/1883) had also claimed that the source of the ludicrous is the paradoxical. R. Wajid (1968) criticizes Hester (1967) for ignoring the paradoxical nature of metaphor. Wajid regards metaphor as seeing an object in terms of its negation. Others have also pointed out that metaphor yields the mysterious, puzzle, miraculous, marvelous, magical, extraordinary, and wonder. (cf. "paradox" in MB:397) Paradoxical humor can yield this. Cosmic irony humor is also a kind of paradox. On the other hand, 'mystery ' is a synonym for "incomprehensibility" and "ignorance."

Paradox may be thought of as nonsense which one tries to make sense of. It arouses our curiosity. It is the absurdity of life which one treats as a puzzle or riddle to solve. Humor is something which is foreign, to our assessments, something which does not fit into our other categories. Paradox fulfills this criterion. Humor is happy paradox which we therefore do not take too seriously. "Antinomy paradox" refers to a statement whose truth leads to a contradiction and whose denial leads to a contradiction. Epimenides' Liar paradox is, for example, "This sentence is not true." "Catachresis" is defined by Webster's Dictionary (1986:350) as: "Use of the wrong word for the context; use of a forced figure of speech, especially one that involves or seems to involve strong paradox (as in 'blind mouths')."

EXAMPLES: "Consciousness is what it is and is not what it is." (Sartre) "When my love swears that she is made of truth I do believe her, though I know she lies." (Shakespeare, Sonnet 138) "Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart push in their tides." (Dylan Thomas 1957:29) Pen that can write inside out. To go is not to go at all. Each person kills the thing that is loved. Humor is the least important thing in the world and the most important thing in the world

I am a slave of liberty. "Liberty cannot exist until it is declared by authority." (Chesterton) Whenever people agree with me, I assume I must be wrong. No choice is also a choice. Life in death and death in life. Cemetery of unknown soldier with flower on one grave. Emotion is reason. Buddhism expert: "I do not understand Buddhism." Artist: one who carves a block of wood out of a block of wood. Generality is a generality. How beautiful is beautiful? "Since there is no gate, let me tell you how to pass through it." (Zen saying) "The only way to do it is to un-do it." "When you have a staff, I will give you one; when you have none, I will take it away from you." (Zen saying) How do you get something you want to say?

Silent screaming. Round square. Eternal now. "Much madness is divinest sense." (Emily Dickinson 1979:#432) There wouldn't be a problem of purpose of our lives, if we did not raise the question. I don't know what I know. Lonely in the crowded subway. Ski tracks on either side of a tree. That anyone is alive, is paradoxical. The only security you have is to adjust to insecurity. All exact science is dominated by the idea of approximation. (Bertrand Russell)

"I've decided to give you a raise on one condition." "What's that?" "That you do not accept it."

"Either the locks were too large, or the key was too small." (Carroll 1960:20)

I'm neither for nor against apathy.

I've not yet decided if indecision is a good or bad thing.

There can be no nothing where something can never be.

They thought in chorus. I hope you understand what thinking in chorus means -for I must confess that I don't." (Carroll TLG 1960:148)

"'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!'" (Carroll 1960:65)

Perceptual Humor. (accident, behavioral, caricature, cartoons, connotation, defense mechanisms (tunnel vision, acting out, deviations, hallucination, etc.), juxtaposition (of sensed objects), parataxis, metaphor (imagery), mimic, practical joke, synaesthesia, humor in music)

What is decisive is a new way of seeing. (Waismann 1965)

Brer fox thought he was now in the laughing place and was expecting to start laughing, but-

"He tuck a runnin' start, he did, an' he went thoo de bushes an' de vines like he wuz runnin' a race. He run an' dat time he struck sump'n wid his head. He try ter dodge it, but he seed it too late, an' he wuz gwine too fas'. He struck it, he did, an' time he do dat, he fetched a howl dat you might 'a' hearn a mile, an atter dat, he holler'd yap, yap, yap, an' ouch, ouch, ouch, an' yow, yow, yow, an' wiles dis wuz gwine on Brer Rabbit wuz thumpin' de ground wid his behime foot, an' laughin' fit ter kill." (Uncle Remus, Harris 1972:70-71)

A. Introduction. Visual perception is a metaphorical interpretation of the world. With perceptual humor there is a deviation from what is usually sensed. Surrealists showed bent clocks, fur in a cup, a woman's feet coming out of a phonograph, a pressing iron with nails on its flat surface, an eye in books and other objects. Perceptual humor involves all of the senses, not solely seeing. There is taste humor, smell humor, touch humor, feeling humor (including giggling and being tickled), and auditory or sound humor.








Abrüstung in der Ost und West. Bei uns anfangen. Die Grünen.

("Disarmament in the east and west. Begin by joining us. The Greens.")

The German international action party, Die Grünen, who have the most humanistic platform of any other party, strictly oppose all killing even to end killing, oppose all violence even to end violence. They make extensive and creative use of humor to communicate their message. Here they show in poster format an eye chart using the word Frieden ("peace") suggesting that the military-minded average person is blind to the concept.

B. Humor in Music and Lyrics., Historically little has been written on humor in music. There are good reasons for this. Perception, thought, imagery, language, and emotion are all involved and there is much conceptual confusion about all of these terms. An analysis of aesthetic emotion and its relation to music has only recently been given.

Music contains subtlety of deviations, contrasts, clashes, and associations which may produce humor. Winter (1960) and Henry Wells (1924) pointed out that even music might be metaphorical. Ivan Fónagy (1963) presents an extensive analysis of the metaphorical character of sound in phonetics and music. Harvey Gross (1964, in MB:125) defines rhythm, in almost the same terms as one defines defeated expectation humor. He wrote, "All expressive rhythms are variations upon a pattern of expectation." He speaks of expressive delays, surprising repetitions and departures from usual word order. Arnold Stein (1951) argued that sound and sense work together to create a metaphor of reality with sound functioning as contributing metaphor. Counterpoint is seen to be used metaphorically. Some music is "light" and "playful" as opposed to "heavy" and "sombre." For Bernstein (1976:139), "Music…is a totally metaphorical language." The forms of metaphor are given by him as follows: "A piece of music is a constant metamorphosis of given material, involving such transformational operations as inversion, augmentation, retrograde, diminution, moderation, the opposition of consonance and dissonance, the various forms of imitation (such as canon and fugue), the varieties of rhythm and meter, harmonic progressions, coloristic and dynamic changes, plus the infinite interrelations of all these with one another. These are the meanings of music." (153)

However, historically little has been written on humor in music. There are good reasons for this. Perception, thought, imagery, language, and emotion are all involved and there is much conceptual confusion about all of these terms. An analysis of aesthetic emotion and its relation to music has only recently been given.

Sound and music humor could be more carefully analyzed in terms of each of the types of humor presented in this book, for example, musical sounds made accidentally. Taste, touch, smell, seeing and feeling humor may be similarly examined. One could take some musical sounds and produce context deviation by playing notes with other inappropriate notes, or play a light, joyful, tune in the midst of heavy music. Connotation humor and imagery are central to tone poem music. Other musical humor may be created by limerick, circularity (repetition), farfetched musical sounds (e.g. Chinese nasal singing or the sounds of rock groups), contradiction or sound clashes and incongruities, deviations, mistakes, exaggeration (e.g. excessive loudness), expansion of a theme metaphorically, free association (jazz); present obvious childlike, oversimple nursery sounds; create paradoxical musical themes, create mimicking, mocking, or ridiculing sounds, substituting for various notes in a piece of music, juxtaposing unlike notes, sinking (relating desirable sounds with undesirable sounds), defeat expectation by suddenly changing the kind of music being played. A concrete case is presented by Steven Paul (1975:171-175) in his article, "The Musical Surprise": "The many devices and techniques for creating humor in music, including understatement and overstatement, incongruity, ambiguity, instrumental effects, and especially, the unexpected, were all integral parts of Haydn's musical vocabulary. He frequently used pauses and silences, 'false' reprises and endings, musical puns, and interrupted cadences, for his favorite technique was to play upon the expectations of the listener through formal, rhythmic, harmonic, and dynamic surprise .... The 'Surprise' Symphony (no. 94 in G major) [is] one of his most popular and frequently performed works."

Linda Lowry (1974), in her dissertation, "Humor in Instrumental Music," gives an intensive and extensive analysis of humor in music. She presents specific compositions which illustrate each type of humor. Some of the humor-producing musical techniques she gives are unexpected or rude noises, wrong notes, silences, awkward performer, deviation from expected form and style, redundancy, parody of style, rhythmic aberrations; sudden changes in tempo, pitch, or key; interruption, incongruity, exaggeration, degradation, suddenness, etc. A detailed analysis is given of the humor in Mozart's Ein musikalischer Spaß.

For light verse, which mainly refers to humorous verse, or nonsense verse, The Oxford Book of Light Verse may be consulted. The limerick has a definite rhyme [aabba] of five lines. But even light verse to be humorous seems to have to be based on insight. Smith (1965:447) said, "Intellectual brilliance is still demanded of the writer of light verse." W. H. Auden claimed that there is no difference between light verse and serious poetry. For satirical verses about religion, see the philosopher Richard Aquila (1981).

C. Imagery Humor. Imagery as Metaphor.

It is better to present one image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works. (Ezra Pound)

A synonym of "metaphor" is "imagery." Aldrich (1968) presented Wittgenstein's seeing-as notion (or aspect-seeing) as an interpretation of metaphor. The image produced in metaphor is regarded as a fusion of the two terms (or objects) involved, or double vision. He gave the humorous example of Picasso who artistically painted a wicker basket in place of goat's ribs. Picasso said, "My sculptures are plastic metaphors. It's the same principle as in painting." Marcus Hester argues that metaphor involves imagery and is known and excited by reading. He accepts much of Wittgenstein's theory of meaning, but goes beyond this view by asserting that metaphors involve imagery. Reading is an act of seeing-as by which the relevant sense of a metaphor is found. He wrote, "In an actual case of trying to discover a metaphor's meaning, we do not first recognize the metaphor, then read it, then analyze its meaning." The three are interwoven as an active seeing-as. The read metaphor, he says, has "presentational immediacy." Herbert Read (1928 in MB:236) gives this definition: "Metaphor is the synthesis of several units of observation into one commanding a sudden perception of an objective relation." It is often claimed that because imagery has many associations, and these associations are not verbally limited, visual or imagistic metaphor cannot be reduced to discursive verbal statement.

There is confusion about imagery. It may refer to 1) sensed objects, 2) images, 3) verbal metaphor, 4) the images which normally accompany words, 5) descriptions of seen objects or images, 6) symbolic meanings for sensed objects. On the view of meaning as association, imagery of all types, as well as meaning and metaphor, may be reduced to nonmentalistic associations.

Bonsiepi analyzes humorous visual metaphor in advertising. The following examples are given:

1. Visual/verbal comparison (a comparison that starts with verbal signs and is continued with visual signs). Advertisement: The "sharp ideas" expressed verbally are represented by a sharpened pencil. Ineffective ideas are represented by unsharpened pencils.

2. Visual/verbal analogy (a relatum expressed verbally is paralleled by a similar relatum expressed visually). Advertisement: Esso: "Refuel anywhere." The refueling of cars is illustrated by the analogy to a feeding hummingbird.

3 Visual/verbal metonymy (cause for effect, connotations for denotations, etc.) e.g. a micrometer is pictured to bring across the message, "Be precise."

4. Visual synecdoche (part for whole). "You find Kardex [products] in the most unlikely places." A baby is used to stand for the whole nursery and for "unlikely places."

5. Visual substitution. A woman is shown in place of a Coca Cola bottle, because of the similar shape.

6. Visual/verbal parallelism. The statement, "You never run out of air," relating to an air cooled engine, is pictured by an inserted area of light gray.

7. Associative mediation. Illustrated by an advertisement for vodka: "Take a holiday from everyday drinks," pictured by an open porthole, sunset, and a calm sea. Thus, vodka and holidays are linked together.

Louis MacNeice (1938) once remarked that an image can captivate us and change our lives. Advertising attempts to capitalize on humor and sometimes humor capitalizes on advertising. For example, Fred Allen said, "Advertising is 85% confusion and 15% commission." To improve humor we may use well-selected images. The more we know about a thing, the more associations we have with it and the more possibilities of deviations from the associations to create humor. A child may take his father's lunch pail along for a small errand because he associates the lunch pail with work. Sternthal & Craigin (1973) in "Humor in Advertising," reported, "Evidence supporting effectiveness of humor is at best equivocal." The present account of humor should advance its effectiveness.

Imagist poetry deals especially with visual metaphor and therefore also with visual humor. Ezra Pound once said, "It is better to present one image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works " The accounts of imagist poetry are quite confused because "image" sometimes refers to verbal metaphor and sometimes to visual or sense imagery. D. H. Lawrence once said that "imagism" was just a joke of Ezra Pound. There is no such thing as imagism. Generally, it involves merely juxtaposing unlike or incongruous images. "Parataxis" is juxtaposing two images or objects without a copula or connecting verb. The two objects are merely placed side by side. Our thoughts about the relationship between them may, then, range widely over their various interpretations. It defies a single literal interpretation. Wallace Stevens, known for his imagistic poetry, said he especially seeks images which are out of place, for example, a summer wedding in midwinter. Pop artists juxtapose for example, breasts and an ice cream cone. It is taboo humor and art at the same time.

T. E. Hulme is regarded as the founder of the imagist movement. He claims that imagery is superior to the verbal. Images supposedly give a unique, new, direct, irrational and mysterious synthesis. He wrote, "Each word must be an image seen….Thought: The simultaneous presentation...of two different images." He believes that imagery and metaphor alone properly represent the flux of reality. These statements may not serve as arguments, but they at least indicate the enthusiasm of the imagists. This theory is extended by Ezra Pound and in discussions of the imagistic, pictorial quality of the Chinese language. Hugh Kenner (1951) describes Pound's poetry as stressing the visible, sensuous, and concrete. Pound, he says, adopted the Chinese ideogram which involves visual, condensed juxtapositions. Pound's cantos are cited.

We do not, in one sense, associate two things we see together. They are already together. It is a joke to say, "I see there these two things, but they are not associated with each other." There is a stress here, as with ordinary-language philosophy, on showing rather than telling. It is often more funny to see or sense a perceived incongruity than to tell of it. Such humorous events, when described, often lose their humor. Fenollosa (1967) notes that the Chinese character or ideogram uses juxtaposed pictures to communicate. The relation between these characters is based on the natural suggestion of the objects seen. Wallace Stevens (1957, in MB:273) wrote, "What I desire to stress is that there is a unity rooted in the individuality of objects and discovered in a different way from the apprehension of rational connections."

In the ancient written Chinese language of Shang (1300 B. C.), which forms the basis of present Chinese root characters, the root characters closely picture the object. The root characters are then put next to one another (parataxis) to create compound words. (For illustrations see Joseph Wu 1969.) The Chinese language with its pictorial roots is highly visual, the sort of language the imagists would naturally look to.

Synaesthesia is a type of metaphorical juxtaposition of the senses. The humor derives from the apparent contradiction. In musical tone poems, the listener is asked to visualize musical sounds. EXAMPLES: See how you feel, high sound, white noise, smooth sound, cool green, hot color, feel blue, blue mood. See how it tastes. See how warm it is. Franz Liszt said to his Weimar orchestra, "Please, make it a little bluer." (MB:262) Psychological disorders may involve reports of synaesthesia. A few examples are: delusions, sense hallucinations, and experiences of "hearing one's own thought." "Anesthetic hallucinations" refer to sensations without having sense organs or receptors to account for them, e.g. feeling that the body is rotting, burning sensation in the brain (when no physical evidence is found for it). The result is dramatic tragicomedy. Although synaesthesia would seem to be error, it is not if we consider that every sense is associated with every other sense. Seeing is never pure. It has associations with language and the other senses as well. It was shown that perception involves verbal thought and assessment. Thus, perceptual humor may be further classified in terms of the other verbal metaphorical types of humor. What we see must for us conform to very rigid standards and values. Any deviation from what we regard as familiar, usual or desirable is regarded either as ridiculous or as humorous, depending on whether or not we accept it. Perceptual humor shows us what we take to be deviations, which events we do and do not accept. The perceptual deviations can be subtle and connotative and so unknown until we see what we find humorous.

Perceptual humor is especially useful in expressing and rendering verbal expressions. We, however, are often captivated by diagrams and pictures when they oversimplify, distort, or when we take them literally. Pictures, scientific formulae and diagrams are merely metaphors. Most of us take them literally thereby creating disguised jokes. Perhaps seventy-five percent of serious natural and social science diagrams qualify as disguised humor of this sort.

D. Perceptual Humor by Type. (See also behavioral humor).

Accident: Dog slips on spilled jello. Umbrella blows out and reverses.

Allegory (and Symbol): An actor dressed in black with white makeup on his face, represents a fatalistic, decadent kind of life style.

Ambiguity: "Your house is a part of you." (Picture of you superimposed on house.)

Behavioral: Smoke a pipe and eat at the same time. Play chess through jail bars.

Caricature: Wear a long, false nose. Cartoons.

Conceit: Freud: A room is a womb.

Connotation: "Worry" represented by a person with a flatiron on her head. A fried egg slightly turned over, called a "sleepy egg." In a climate of recent blackouts, Executive of California Energy Commission shown with bulb light over his head. (New Yorker 2/5/2001.) (Also satire)

Context deviation: Cartoon shows protesters in middle of intersection. Signs read, "Honk if you support us." (New Yorker 3/2/01) Depth illusions, visual paradoxes.

Contradiction: Round square. A flat rabbit. Man without a head. Tree growing in the middle of sidewalk. Thin Don Quixote and his corpulent companion. Sign on door of Weight Loss Clinic: "Out to Lunch." Always plan ahead.

Defeated expectation: A jar of honey almost spills, but doesn't. A faucet with only a drop of water coming out.

Defense mechanisms: Act like child.

Deviation from desires: Melted ice cream. Collection of pictures of the different kinds of animal tails.

Deviation from familiar: Green pig.

Deviation from ideal: Teenager with 16 rings decorating her face.

Deviation from Language: Mix up different styles. Alliteration in what is serious prose.

Deviation from practical: Airmail box twenty feet high. Mud guard for skis.

Deviation from purpose: Dali's fur lined cup. (Much of art is deliberately purposeless.)

Deviation from rule: A road sign at cemetery with arrow pointed up.

Deviation from the usual: Singer whose tongue is colored green. Blue milk

Exaggeration: Every body part may be exaggerated in regard to shape or size. See also section on caricature humor.

False statement: Men with food funnels on top of heads.

Hopelessness: Giving a lecture on philosophy at halftime at a football game.

Hypocrisy: 1. Embrace your boyfriend as you wink at another man. 2. Tall person standing beside short person both wearing elevator shoes.

Ignorance: Feed hay to a rocking horse. Water artificial flowers.

Impossible: Cat walking on air.

Insight: 'What's on your mind?" (Illustrated by a feather on a person's head.)

Irony: "I like you." (Shows angry person behind smiling masks.)

Juxtaposition: Pregnant woman next to a watermelon. Tattoo of cat on one's chest. Chicken sitting on small, oval stones. Fire under water. Large woman with small husband.

Metaphor (and Symbol): Unlimited number of examples in literature. Game of charades. Sit in garbage can. Man with hangover wakes up next to a plate of spareribs and his friend is missing. "The poet makes silk dresses out of worms." (Wallace Stevens 1957:157) "Poetry is a pheasant disappearing in the bush." (ibid. 173) "The tongue is an eye." (ibid. 167) Fiddler on the Roof.

Mistake: Dog half clipped. Person tied in a ball of yarn. "Hey, where are the urinals?" he asked upon entering the restroom. The book cover of Koller's Humor and Society (1988) is upside down and backwards.

Name calling: "Aristotle is a skeleton." (Wallace Stevens 1957:168)

Nonsense: Surrealistic paintings. Follow this arrow ->. Surgeon opens up a patient to find her watch instead of a heart. Hand rises out of bucket.

Paradox: Ski tracks seen on both sides of a large tree.

Personification: Cartoon shows Rigatoni (pasta) talking on phone: "Fusilli, you crazy bastard! How are you?" (New Yorker11/21/1994) Sun: a head without a body. Trees talking.

Practical joke: Child trips another child in play.

Pretense: Clothes as metaphors for persons.

Reduce to absurdity: Soldier shoots broken refrigerator.

Reversal: Play a film backwards. Reverse mermaid (Head is fish). Mouse chasing a cat. Deer hunting humans. Drop food and medicine on the "enemy" instead of bombs.

Satire: Cartoon shows cardboard picture of president: "We can't seem to find anyone better to replace him."

Self-deprecation: I stay in the bathtub until I look like a raisin.

Simile: Fine as frog hair (Ozark folk expression). She is a thin slice of bacon.

Sinking: The Prince dove into the water-plop!

Stereotype: British cat drinking a cup of tea under an umbrella surrounded by sheep.

Substitution: Remove cookies and put a toy spider in the cookie jar.

Trick or deception: (Magician's tricks, deceptions, illusions)

Understate: Olympic runner next to a snail. Rich woman with a nickel.

Uselessness: Pointless tautology in symbolic logic: A = A. The very low door frames of Swiss Appenzell houses.

Value deviation: Wife eats her husband's brains after carefully cutting the skull like a melon (M. Sinet, French cartoonist). Eat grasshoppers. Gently hit someone on a bruise. Pigs living in a beautiful new house.

Vice (Blatant): "When you speak of 'enlightened management,' is that with an astersk?"

E. Perceptual Humor Cartoons

Physician: Perhaps we better take you off of that vegetarian diet.

The name of the author of this book is Warren Scribbles.


Cemetary Hope

Sign on the wall of the local bar:








The three steps to good communication

[Also note: Staircase in Rathouse in Marienplatz in Munich merely goes up to a closed ceiling.]

Is the front part of the following arrow closer of farther away?

Return to Table of Contents

or continue to next chapter. (Chapter 7d continuing Analysis

of Types of Humor.)