Start Date

1-3-2013 2:00 PM

End Date

1-3-2013 2:20 PM

Description

Why is it that when we laugh – not at jokes or to patronize – but when we laugh ecstatically and drift away from the self that seemed to constitute the majority of waking life, we feel free, at ease? And why is it, asked Georges Bataille, that after this ecstatic moment we come back to the mundane everyday with the feeling of a new and ineffable knowledge about human existence?

In this paper I present Bataille on laughter and its merits as a philosophical project. Laughter is an experience to be theorized and a praxis aiding in our pursuit of truth and an ethical life. At its limits a body produces laughter – the rollercoaster ride, high-risk rescue, la petite mort – and the threshold of existence is torn asunder to reveal the absurdity of serious behaviour and thinking. Seriousness: planned futures, workdays, major and minor worries, fear of self-harm in helping others, any element that composes our stable identity. The seriousness in our lives disappears during fits of laughter, an exhaustive experience linked to death, and because of its proximity to destruction, in laughter Bataille finds knowledge of what we are as human bodies: beings composed of finite matter brought into existence by chance and as chance existences no more valuable than another human life. I will discuss and extend Bataille’s work which describes laughter and philosophical thinking as the same, the former held in higher regard for its ability to provide a richer understanding of what the copula to be entails: an affirmation of life through giving ourselves to others.

 
Mar 1st, 2:00 PM Mar 1st, 2:20 PM

Georges Bataille, Philosopher of Laughter

Why is it that when we laugh – not at jokes or to patronize – but when we laugh ecstatically and drift away from the self that seemed to constitute the majority of waking life, we feel free, at ease? And why is it, asked Georges Bataille, that after this ecstatic moment we come back to the mundane everyday with the feeling of a new and ineffable knowledge about human existence?

In this paper I present Bataille on laughter and its merits as a philosophical project. Laughter is an experience to be theorized and a praxis aiding in our pursuit of truth and an ethical life. At its limits a body produces laughter – the rollercoaster ride, high-risk rescue, la petite mort – and the threshold of existence is torn asunder to reveal the absurdity of serious behaviour and thinking. Seriousness: planned futures, workdays, major and minor worries, fear of self-harm in helping others, any element that composes our stable identity. The seriousness in our lives disappears during fits of laughter, an exhaustive experience linked to death, and because of its proximity to destruction, in laughter Bataille finds knowledge of what we are as human bodies: beings composed of finite matter brought into existence by chance and as chance existences no more valuable than another human life. I will discuss and extend Bataille’s work which describes laughter and philosophical thinking as the same, the former held in higher regard for its ability to provide a richer understanding of what the copula to be entails: an affirmation of life through giving ourselves to others.