chapter  Six
24 Pages


WithMark Sinclair

With his 1900 Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, Henri Bergson belongs to the small number of major philosophers to have addressed in depth the topic of laughter and the comic as its source. The superiority theory of humour, which holds laughter in low esteem, was predominant in the history of philosophy until the eighteenth century. Given that Bergson takes laughter to have the social function of chastising such anti-social behaviour, he considers the comic in character to be the comic in its purest form. However, Laughter develops and even challenges the ontological framework of Matter and Memory, as much as it applies it. Laughter, Bergson’s argues, serves the needs of social life. The laughter of a child may appear to stand as an obvious counter-example to despite his sociological superiority theory. A definition stating the necessary conditions of the comic, which together would constitute its sufficient conditions, it would seem, is not Laughter’s aim.