Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gurdjieff's Theory of Laughter

This is about Jill Bolte Taylor, Shirley Q. Liquor, Cognitive Dissonance, and the American Tradition.

What It Do;
Gurdjieff offers us a theory of laughter, independent of any state of amusement (= humor), that nevertheless distinguishes between laughter as a physiological response and the organismic cause of it, which he also calls “laughter.” This organismic variable (O), though not necessarily the same as humor, is shown to be a complex structure that is radically different from the visible laughter that results from it. Since his conception of O, though outlined in a most rudimentary and concise form, provides us the basis of the most viable theory of humor that we have been able to elaborate and immediately brings into relief some of the most conspicuous features of this humor-theory, we find it both convenient and opportune to begin with his succinct formulation of the structure of the organismic variable responsible for both humor and laughter. The passage on laughter is reproduced below in full and much of this thesis may be considered to be a systematic interpretation of his theory of laughter, its integration into a general theory of humor, and a sustained exploration of its consequences in various domains. We shall ignore his references to other aspects of his system such as his theory of yawning, of accumulators, centers, and so on, except insofar as they are relevant to our proper understanding of humor.
The framed web presentation is very cumbersome, but the analysis is on point and is the likes of which you will never encounter in the ordinary literature....,

Gurdjieff’s Theory of Laughter

1. Though only a theory of laughter, and not of humor, it distinguishes between the binary-structured organismic variable (O) and its physiological resolution (R). O provides the basis of the most viable theory of humor even while preserving its link with laughter (R).

2. R is the discarding of superfluous energy due to O: an unstable structural opposition between two sharply contrasting simultaneous impressions, positive and negative, of a single stimulus (S). It is not the particular contents—cognitive, affective or motor—but the binary structure of the mutual neutralization that determines O.

3. R is pleasurable due to relief from tension and not due to amusement (as in humor); O may nevertheless have a painful element.

4. Though the convulsion O may be unerringly registered by the subject, the constituents and even structure of O may remain unspecifiable.

5. This laughter mechanism releases possibly pre-existing negative emotions through the negative component of O. Thus, culturally it is a ‘luxury reflex,’ simultaneously valorized for the relative freedom from fundamental biological instincts it provides and also devalorized for its necessary dependence on the same. Marks the ambivalent threshold between nature and culture.

6. Laughter being infectious, R in another can act independently of S for one’s own laughter (parastha-hâsa). Similarly, another’s laughter induces one to perceive the real S in terms of O.

7. The possibility and frequency of O’s occurrence is doubly determined: both by the effectiveness of the stimulus (S) and the subjective state of the individual (also his psychic constitution).

8. [61] Gurdjieff’s ‘behaviorizing’ theory of the psychology of the ordinary modern man is perfectly compatible with the traditional ‘psychology’ underlying brahmanical philosophy; just as the reversal of the ‘behavioral circuit,’ the finality of his system, is the counterpart of the ‘autonomy’ (svâtantrya) of the Trika ‘metapsychology.’ It is within this combined theoretical framework that humor-and-laughter, hâsa-and-hâsya, will be investigated in their universality.

9. Hâsa classified as a pleasant emotion despite the neutral character of O, because the resulting laughter (R) is pleasant.

10. Reduction of Freud’s ‘comic of movement’ to Gurdjieff’s ‘laughter in the moving-instinctive center.’


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