Life's Joke: Bergson, Comedy, and the Meaning of Laughter

In Lydia L. Moland (ed.), All Too Human: Laughter, Humor, and Comedy in Nineteenth-Century Philosophy. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 175-193 (2018)
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The present essay argues that Bergson’s account of the comic can only be fully appreciated when read in conjunction with his later metaphysical exposition of the élan vital in Creative Evolution and then by the account of fabulation that Bergson only elaborates fully three decades later in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion. The more substantive account of the élan vital ultimately shows that, in Laughter, Bergson misses his own point: laughter does not simply serve as a means for correcting human behavior but is rather the élan vital’s vital summons, the demand of life itself, that human beings challenge their obligations, question their societal forms, and thereby create new and, for Bergson, more ideal forms of life and community.

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Russell Ford
Elmhurst College


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