Who laughs last… - Laughter philosophical disquisitions

You laugh when you perceive something funny, if you recall an amusing event, if you are in the middle of a happy moment, if you enjoy something, feel embarrassed, feel uneasy or want to be sarcastic. Lots of positive and negative things can result in laughing, smiling, tittering. As it is a complex process, it has been examined in many ways from medicine to philosophy. We have collected some points of interest from these.


Laughter is actually a physical reaction. It is usually accompanied by mimics and sound, and is part of the communicational manifestations of a certain culture. In addition, gurgles of laughter might occur diametrically opposed to the given situation. If we mentioned grotesque situations, we have to also note the millennial folkloric and the ritual laughter that goes back to religious depths, or the self-ironic and mocking laughing in Bakhtin’s carnival theory. Nevertheless, laughing may depend on age – remember how funny everything seemed when you were a teenager, and how long and heartily you could laugh.

Sardonic laughter has a strange or even shocking story from our present view, which we use as the synonym of the mocking, forced laughter nowadays. Residents of the ancient Sardine killed the old, who could not work anymore, while laughing. This can be considered as a kind of ritual. According to another version, an autochthon plant poisoned its ‘victims’ in a way that their faces were distorted in ‘grins’.


Mentioning laughter philosophy, we must also note Vladimir Propp. The famous folklore researcher became well known due to the Russian magic tales among others. His theory about laughter is in connection with the world of tales, myths and religion. Laughter is a magic skill of the living, because the dead cannot laugh. Accordingly, the mystery of “coming to life”, reviving or initiating are followed by laughter as a type of ceremony. Ritual laughter has generative power.


In Christian religion, laughter at Easter also has a ritual content: the priest cheers up worshippers at the Easter sermon. This gesture evokes the joy of resurrection, because Jesus defeated death, the evil by resurrection. According to other opinions, people’s euphoria in spring and their relieved state after Lent are behind the Easter laughter.


Laughter has an important role in eastern religions like Buddhism, Shintoism and Taoism. The laughing Buddha or Pu-tai is an important figure of these religions, because he is the god of fortune. The story says there was a monk Ch’i-t’zu or Qieci in the 10th century, who roamed the world as a beggar, but was always generous and joyful, and gave presents to children from his worn-out sack. Later, he was regarded as Buddha’s reincarnation. After his death, he became part of the Asian folklore and finally, he was divinized. Many people associate him with the religion founding Buddha – mistakenly – due to his typical fat and bald representations. It is also a superstition that rubbing his belly brings good luck, and it has nothing to do with Buddhism.


During history, there were some unexplainable phenomena about laughing, for example the laughter epidemic. In the case of Tanganyika in 1962, a never-ending laughter grew on the students of a girls’ school gradually. Experts mentioned mass psychosis in this case. Naturally, a fit of laughter might come upon you any time in the most unexpected moments, but the uncontrollable laughter does not take longer than a few minutes.


The beneficial effects of laughing are well known; during laughing endorphin is released that has a pain-killing effect. The level of stress hormones drops and it influences the circulatory system positively by increasing oxygen supply. Laughter therapy is often used by the clown doctors for example, who visit children and elderly people in hospitals. There is laughing yoga as well, which is a training that induces laughing artificially. The process usually falls into real laughing.

After all these, we would like to encourage all of you to a heartily laughter at least once a day – especially in the cloudy winter period. In order to fulfil the daily dose, cheerful people of the elder days come to help you, whose photos are selected from our database photo stock.


Translated by Zita Aknai



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