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Assignment Questions

Compare and Contrast Berger and Critchley

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Topic: Compare and Contrast Berger and Critchley

I must take two or three critical elements and analyze how Berger and Critchley treats them. In order to compare any elements I will send an email regarding information needed to write the essay. I will also include a link to their books. The comparison and contrasting comes from these books so its recommended to read these books in writing the essay. These two books deals with humor.

This paper must follow these guidelines:
1. It must be around 1000 words long (about 4 pages with the standard 250 words per page).
2. Concise
3. Avoid any weak verbs , “to be” verbs, and clauses
4. Double space, Times New Roman

Must receive paper by Dec 1 , 10:00 Pm

Here are some information of Berger and Critchely and I have also included a link to their books where more information can be read. The comparison and contrasting comes from these books so its recommended to read these books in writing the essay for me. Thank you

Peter L. Berger Book can be found at

http://books.google.com/books?id=3bzB9Qk9emIC&dq=Peter+l+Berger+essay&pg=PP1&ots=aUlxeTZ2kr&source=in&sig=jnS3-h7doxNjgp7VAul2zRihTxk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=13&ct=result#PPA159,M1

Simon Critchley Book can be found at

http://books.google.com/books?id=9GNXp45DnGUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Simon+Critchley#PPT14,M1

Peter Ludwig Berger :

· An American sociologist

· Work of Berger is “Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience (1997)

· Berger states his thesis neatly in a footnote: “homo sapiens is always homo ridens.” Ours is the uniquely laughing species. Other animals play and perhaps even smile, but only human beings laugh. The comic sense is common to all cultures, Berger maintains, even if its local expressions remain hard to transfer from one time and place to another.

· Berger has been arguing for decades that the human construction of life’s meaning and value issues in pluralism but not relativism or nihilism. It is our ingrained nature to project significant if often conflicting worlds into being. We make because we ourselves have been made: “In acts of projection, man reaches out toward the infinite. But he is only capable of doing this because the infinite reached out to him first. Put succinctly, man is the projector because ultimately he is himself a projectile. The symbolizer is himself the symbol.”

· Laughter is universal because human life is universally incongruous. Berger agrees with theologian Pascal and anthropologist Plessner that we are creatures caught between incongruous realms: between the subatomic particles and the starry spaces, between nothingness and infinity. We are neither apes nor angels but frail reeds with self-transcending minds. Like other animals, we are our bodies, behaving instinctively; unlike them, we also have our bodies, acting intentionally. To maintain perfect equilibrium between these contrary worlds is impossible. Being both finite and fallen, we walk life’s tightwire ever so tipsily. When the balancing act fails, we collapse either into laughter or tears. Tragedy declares the final triumph of the dense and ponderous requirements of everyday life. Comedy is the deeper response, Berger argues. It points to another reality than the empirical world, with its necessary compromises and conformities: to a free and redeeming realm where death and destruction do not finally reign. Far from being merely subjective and idiosyncratic, therefore, laughter yields objective truth about nature and nature’s God: they are not malificent hut beneficent, even joyful and comic.

· BERGER specifies not only the sources of comedy hut also its five basic kinds and functions. The benign humor of P. G. Wodehouse and Will Rogers holds hack the darkness by returning us to the innocent childlike world of laughter for its own sake. The grinning-grimacing tragicomedy of Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer–Yiddish writers who knew the emarginated and tormented life of Jews–consoles us even amidst our tears; its laughter encompasses horrors that must not he erased from memory. Hence the tragicomic joke that God rewarded his Chosen People by giving them the only Middle Eastern country with no oil. The sheer intellectual wit of Oscar Wilde and H. L. Mencken makes playful use of paradox and irony in order to cultivate a sardonic detachment–often with malice afore-thought–from the madding crowd and suffering world. In this vein, Wilde observed that living morally is like washing one’s clean linen in public.

· Berger argues that two greatest forms of comedy seek far more than escape from sadness and consolation for pain. Satire turns laughter into a weapon for moral reform rather than a toy for indulgent pleasure. It combats corruption and injustice, stupidity and delusion, by means of a militant irony. Berger cites the work of the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, though the fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy might have better illustrated a satire that avoids Kraus’s hitter probity. Berger rightly regards folly as the distinctively religious kind of comedy. It turns the grim ordinary world–even the grim religious world–upside down. This foolish inversion discloses the extraordinary world of the sacred, where tears are redeemed in joy and lament is replaced with laughter.

· Berger dares to suggest that the French absurdists and surrealists open the way to such holy folly by pointing up the madness that often passes as ordinary reason. They enable us to see Christ as the ultimate Fool who surrenders his infinite majesty by taking the form of a mocked and murdered man, the crucified Clown whom God raises in victory over the world’s sober-sided pride.

· Berger’s taxonomy of laughter is enormously helpful. Sociologically and anthropologically, his argument rings right. Hence the frontal award of a custard pie. Theologically, however, Berger’s interpretation of comedy reads like a recipe for unreconstructed liberalism. Like all of his other works in the sociology of religion–from such early hooks as The Sacred Canopy (1967) and A Rumor of Angel’s (1969) to more recent titles like The Heretical Imperative (1979) and A Far Glory) (1992)–this one offers a splendid variation on the old liberal line: the holy is the transcendent dimension of life. Human experience, especially in its comic moments, encounters an invisible sacred world lying beyond and behind mundane reality. These universal glimpses of the unknown God enable individuals to make lonely leaps of faith despite the seeming godlessness of the world

· Such Enlightenment confidence gives Berger more concern for generic religion than for confessional claims about the scandalously self-identifying God. It also makes him more fascinated with the suave Erasmus than with that Christian humanist’s crude and sometimes clowning opponent, the Luther who said that he drank beer in Wittenberg while God wrought the Reformation. Berger is not ready to say, with Luther, that redemptive laughter is a parable and echo of divine grace rather than its foundation, a true signal of God’s intention to save the world through the folly of Christ’s radically particular gospel.

Simon Critchley

· The thing about humour is that the super-ego is also at play, so what interested me, particularly in the last chapter which is key to the book -and no one seems to have picked this up in writings on Freud – is that, in the later Freud, the essence of humour is the ability to look at myself and find myself ridiculous. That makes me laugh. So the pathology of humour is the same pathology as that of melancholia or depression The difference with humour is that humour can alleviate that, can transform that experience of wretchedness into something elevating, and liberating, in Freud’s words. I don’t want people to dwell in their wretchedness, I want people to find themselves ridiculous, and in so far as they can find themselves ridiculous they can rise above that wretchedness.

· He begins the book by trying to describe the phenomena of humour and the phenomena of laughter. And then I say I am going to make normative claims. He saids that it is normal to say about humour that it is good to laugh at yourself and not good to laugh at others – that is the ethical headline of the book. It is descriptive therefore, in that he was feeding of what happens in humour and trying to offer a certain idea of how humour ought to be, what the best sorts of humour are capable of.

· He mentioned Pascal and talked about the flip side of wretchedness as being religious experience. Critcley believes that there is no God and begin from the assumption that modernity is defined by the impossibility of any metaphysical belief in a deity. That’s where I begin from and that is axiomatic for me.

· He states “Now that’s an anxious atheism. It’s an atheism that is anxious because it inhabits questions that were resolved religiously in the pre-modern period. So the difficulty of modern life, of modernity in the full sense is this: the way in which we make sense of ourselves, those things we value and attribute meaning to, is still within a religious framework. Yet we cannot believe that religious framework. So from my perspective, modernity as a fully secular worldview has never really been achieved. We still inhabit the traces, the memory of, that religious perspective. And that’s an ambiguous thing. On the one hand it’s a good thing: there’s a story I use about Foucault in something I’ve just been writing on Racine and Christian subjectivity in drama. Foucault makes this comment in 1980 in a seminar at NYU where he asks ‘How would we differentiate the pagan from the Christian?’ The he says it would be in terms of the following two questions: the pagan of late antiquity asks himself the question ‘Given that I am who I am, who can I fuck? Boys. girls, animals, whatever?’ The Christian asks himself the question ‘Given that I can fuck no one, who am I?’ And we’re still very much within a Christian framework: what Christianity in the West, and perhaps Islam does that elsewhere, and Judaism cuts across both in interesting ways, but Christianity in the West, opens up a perspective of depth into what it means to be a self. And that depth of the self is something that is experienced in the sight of God. So that the great thinkers of self and subjectivity are Paul and Augustine. They look at the self from the perspective of God and they find themselves wretched and interesting. Constituted by conflictual desires.The difficulty we have is that we have that wretchedness of conflictual desire without reference to God. So humour is one way of thinking that complexity through. But there are other ways as well. I take it that why psychoanalysis is interesting is that psychoanalysis is a way of attending to the deep complexity of what it means to be the self.

· He saids” To that extent, we’re attracted to situations of embarrassment and pain, the same reason that people watch horror movies with their hands over their eyes. Humour at its best is making explicit what is tacit, what is assumed, the stock of social know-how, and calling that into question, but calling it into question in a way that is recognised. Genuinely great humour recognises the world it’s describing and yet we are also called into question by it. That’s what great art should do. That’s what great philosophy should do. The one thing about humour is that this is an everyday practice that does this.”

· Are there things you shouldn’t laugh at? On the one hand I’d say no, there’s nothing you shouldn’t laugh at, and I can imagine making a strong anti-censorship argument, that we should have racist and sexist jokes because they are part of the lived experience of humour and to ignore them is just to repress them and to ignore a deep truth about ourselves. On the other hand that could be seen as a licence to permit racial and sexual hatred, or hatred of immigrants and asylum seekersSo if philosophy is the activity of reflection about that which passes for truth, and what is asked of a philosopher is to question what passes as truth, then it seems to me that humour at its best is doing a very similar thing. Great humour is blowing apart what passes for truth in the world. Most humour is rubbish and most humour doesn’t do that. And that’s way you need to be prescriptive, to just say that this is better than that.

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