The discourse about laughter that has now become traditional, seems to summon to mind three principal characteristics of laughter: its specifically human nature; its structural relationship to the joy and pleasure procured by what is laughable; its automatic, reflexive aspect. Furthermore, numerous scholars have expressed ideas, certain ones of which have been structured into explanatory theories claiming general applicability.
These two types of discourse seem unsatisfactory to me. The first one seems to obscure two fundamental aspects of laughter: its historicity and the complexity of its determinism. By atomizing its object, the second one, being merely analytic, offers a reductionist vision having little heuristic value.
I think that laughter, like all human behavior, referring to the human complexity, must be the object of a multidisciplinary approach involving biological, psychological and socio-cultural considerations. So, it requires turning to the conceptual set of tools and the unique methods of the following disciplines: ethology, medicine, cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology and anthropology. And the idea of communication could well be the unifying concept.
Eric Smadja is a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, a member of the Société psychanalytique de Paris and of the International Psychoanalytical Association, a couples psychoanalyst and also an anthropologist, associate member of the American Anthropological Association. Prize awarded by the International Psychoanalytical Association in 2007 for an "exceptional contribution made to psychoanalytical research", he is the author of various books: The Oedipus Complex, Crystallizer of the debate between Psychoanalysis and Anthropology, PUF, 2009; The Human Couple: A Multidimensional History, PUF, 2011; Couples in Psychoanalysis (Dir.), PUF, 2013; Freud and Culture, PUF, (September) 2013.
5 September 2013