Superiority Theory or Relief Theory
Most of the time philosoph, superiority theory and relief theory are theories of humor
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, relief theory or the tension release theory include the is
that laughter exists as a homeostatic mechanism that helps eliminate psychological tension while
superiority theory is based on the assumption that an individual laughs at other people’s mistakes
like how they accidentally fall down because the, which asserts the perpetrator’s supremacy.
relief theory thinks that humor and laughter are used primarily to overcome inhibitions, which
expose desires that are suppressed. Laughing at an individual because they are smiler.. The
argument author claims that the existence of relief theory in the 18th Century weakened the
mostly false. In other words, I believe that superiority theory is better if you compared to relief
theory. It is important to note that the superiority theory argues that everything is humorous
because it is happening to another people. further writes that the theory was developed by Plato
and continued through Aristotle. In addition, the theory postulates that people derive pleasure
from other people’s pain and suffering. It confirms the fact that people laugh at jokes that are
relatable to other’s stupidity, misfortune, mistakes, and weaknesses among others. Evidently, the
identified vices make the perpetrators feel they belong to higher standards compared to their
victims. Ultimately, the superiority theory uses laughter and humor to punish an individual’s
weakness and make the perpetrators feel better about themselves.. On the other hand, Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy further says that in relief or arousal theory, humor and laughter
eradicates psychological tension because it allows an individual to release bad energy and face
his fears, thereby, overcoming their senstvffge. The theory was developed by Sigmund Freud
between 1856 and 1939. Critchley highlights the fact that Freud noted that humor or any laugh
producing situations helps people enjoy their hidden desires without for them to know that much
and as well save psychic energy or activity. Basically, the theory helps people deal with two
different thoughts or emotions by releasing incongruity, anxiety.. Both relief and superiority
theory is more concerned with mechanisms of the humorous reactions compared to the koncelpt .
Furthermore, fat people jokes ,no hair jokes, disability and racist jokes among other stereotypic
jokes are modern examples of commonly used forms of humor in superiority theory because they
are presented in a degrading manner. Besides, unlike superiority theory, relief theory does not
describe most instances of humor, especially those that occur quickly. Add to that , most cases of
humor dosen’t include an energy build up, which is released, an indication that superiority
theory is stronger than relief theory.
At last , according to Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, relief theory is effective in case an
individual exhibits anxiety and self-consciousness, which is not the case in superiority theory
that entails finding humor in an individual’s misfortune, inferiority, or modesty which, in turn,
justifies the perpetrator’s supremacy.
Critchley, Simon. On Humour. Routledge, 2011.Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Humor: A
Peer-Reviewed Academic Source. https://www.iep.utm.edu/humor/ Accessed 17
McDonald, Paul. The Philosophy of Humour: Philosophy Insights. H
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Philosophy of Humor. https://platoo.stanford.edu/entries/
humor/#SupTheAccessed 17 September 2018.
Schopenhauer Version on Incongruity Theory
Incongruity theory is one of the arguments that try to explain why things are funny.
This theory has over the years become the theory that is most accepted all over the world
especially when explaining humor and comedy (Veatch).
There are various versions of Incongruity theory that have been given by different
people over the years. These versions include Schopenhauer version which states that
incongruity is perceived from the concept and the real object that it claims to represent.
Kant’s version which is the most widely accepted version indicates that mismatch occurs
when an expectation is strained into almost nothing. Hegels’ version seemed to be similar to
that of Schopenhauer but seemed to state more that, the laughter in it was a negation of the
expected appearance. Bergson was one of the people who also attempted to give a perfect
explanation of the theory by reducing the approach into the living and the mechanical.
The most tough version of incongruity is, therefore, the version by Arthur
Schopenhauer. He states that the theory is to be perceived to be between the concept and the
object that it is supposed to represent in itself. In his version, he goes ahead to state that for a
person to be able to understand the incongruity theory, which is the most complicated theory
used compared to the superiority and relief theories, one has first to be able to understand the
According to the incongruity theory, therefore, people will laugh when there is an
action that seems to be incomplete. It is also because the feeling of laughter is usually a
feeling that gives pleasure and satisfaction and even from the realization that one can view
things differently. The Ludicrous is divided into two which contains the folly and the wit.
The folly is when a person finds themselves laughing unintentionally due to an action that has
been done by another whereas wit is when someone makes a joke knowingly. In both
instances, there is laughter though the intentions are different. It also means that the laughter
is from the realization of the real world which has surpassed one’s perception.
In determining this theory, some criteria are used in its analysis. This criterion
involves generality, specificity, and standard of taste. In generality, most of the arguments
that exist seek to provide predictions that emanate from the observed behaviors which
however do contain variables that intervene which at times are a presentation of different
psychological processes. In this case incongruity theory by generality is a theory that tries to
explain the feeling of laughter and why people laugh. The method of laughter and the reasons
to laughter is in itself a psychological process. The theory is meant to predict the reasons as to
the behaviors of people and the ideas that cause laughter.
Specificity refers to the degree in which a particular subject relates uniquely with the
thing that is supposed to explain. In incongruity theory, though it is complicated, it describes
more and gives a better understanding of why people engage in laughter, comedy, and
situations of humor. With the different versions of people like Kant and Schopenhauer, they
create a clear perspective that humor is as a result of a perceived concept and the real object
and a sudden transformation of an expectation that is reduced to nothing. This theory,
therefore, has more specificity when it is compared with theories like the relief theory which
describes humor as a way to relieve tension in stressing situations and instances of fear or the
superiority theory where people laugh at an occurrence because it proves them to be more
The standard of taste is also a criterion that is used which in analyzing incongruity
theory. The standard of taste is the response and preference of a particular explanation that
gives us the most satisfaction and pleasure. Incongruity theory gives more pleasure to
theories like the relief and superiority theories that people cannot relate. People have widely
accepted it as it provides a reasonable view. It, therefore, means that the standard of the taste
of this theory is high.
The theory cannot also explain a situation where there is a lack of humorous response
even though a purported incongruity had presented itself. I believe this weakness can be
addressed by looking at the different groups of people for one to be able to understand the
outcome. It means that an inconsistency may not have the desired response as it has been told
to the wrong group of persons or was intended to be rhetorical.
VEATCH, THOMAS C. "A theory of humor" Humor - International Journal of
Humor Research, 11.2 (2009): 161-216.
Essay 1: Humor and Taste
Due via Canvas by Tuesday 10/23 at 11:59pm
(Note: I am extending the deadline from 10/18 to 10/23)
Address the following topics in your essay:
• Present a universal theory of humor (you may build a hybrid view if you wish)
o Be more detailed and nuanced in your explanation than Assignments 1 and 2
o Analyze your view using the criteria from class: generality and specificity, and
standard of taste
o Address and respond to any potential weaknesses to your view
Use your theory of humor to explain the limits of acceptable humor
o According to your theory of humor, what makes a joke unacceptable or in bad
o Should some offensive topics be off-limits for humor? Why/why not?
o Feel free to use examples from the documentary we will watch in class, The Last
• Write a three (3) page formal essay (no title pages)
• Use 12-point font, Times New Roman, 1-inch margins
• Cite your sources to provide evidence and support for your argument
o Use MLA format (in-text citations + works cited page)
o Cite class readings only—outside sources are acceptable for examples
o I discourage citing the Powerpoint slides—do your own research please
o Failure to cite and analyze class readings will result in a loss of points
• Submitting this assignment to Canvas will check for plagiarism and originality through
Turnitin.com. Don’t cheat—it’s not worth it. I report all instances of plagiarism to the
• I only accept the following file formats: doc, docx, pdf, txt, and rtf (Google docs and
Pages files are unacceptable). If you do not use the proper file format then the assignment
will receive a 0.
• Also, Canvas/Turnitin.com will not process file names that include special characters or
dashes. If Canvas/Turnitin.com does not accept your file then it will receive a 0.
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