Chapter 3: Varieties of Humor
Pun and witticism:
Pun: bisociation of a single phonetic form with two meanings. “two strings of thought tied together by an accoustic knot.”
Reversals of logic: see the same thing, or read the same thing in a different way.
If we have matrices of “different magnitudes” or “different forms of reference” involved with one another, we laugh. The codes of the matrices need not be incompatible to makes us laugh, they only have to be different from what we expect. Why pun? Different magnitude/reference but same code.
Man and animal:
Disney characters: intersection of two: man and animal. Perception of animal (cartoon character) and man (their attributes and behavior).
The impersonator is two different people at the same time.
Drama or comedy: drama (more sympathy from the audience), comedy (degrading for you, fun for the public).
The trivial and the exalted:
Parody is a form of impersonation. Intersection between two planes : exalted and the trivial. Making fun of our human mistakes.
Exalted: general law of nature
Caricature and satire:
In a political cartoon what you see (symbols), triggers off memories and other ideas. You need to “see the joke” because it is not only what is on the picture, but also what is in your mind in regards to this.
Portrait caricature: at the same time we see ourselves and something else, but this is only and purely visual. We also need to know the person that has been drawn or the type of person that it represents so that we could find it funny.
The comic and the aesthetic come from the polarity between self-assertive (comic, burla) and self-transcending (sympathy, aesthetic experience) tendencies.
In a satire, allegories can be made with animals. For instance in Animal Farm, by using animals to describe or present how societies work, when we see things in another plane, in another matrix, we are finally able to really perceive them, of being aware of them. The satirist most effective weapon is irony because it defeats an idea by accepting its values, premises and method of reasoning, and by using and applying them show its absurdity.
We need to know more about the background in order to laugh or feel pity towards something. The same action or situation might or might not make us laugh: an accent when it is an imitation is fun and when it is real it is accepted without laughter. Things that we don’t perceive as normal or as a “normal person” are laughable. E.g. how people made fun of how barbarians talked.
The paradox of the centipede:
Difference into taking things as parts and taking them as wholes. For instance, in examining a sentence “the whole is greater than the part”, if we understand English we understand the phrase but if not we are just going to examine the sentence word by word and it will not make sense to us. “the” “whole” “is” “greater”, etc.
Paradox of the centipede: we can’t concentrate at the same time in the performing that we are doing and in performing at the same time. This might be tacit knowledge, because we know how to exercise this performance, that’s why we are performing it, but since it works at a lower level we can’t get as low as that goes and at the same time be working on our higher level performance: the act itself.
The displacement of attention is an unexpected change from noticing the whole to noticing the part or to noticing the dominant of something or noticing a previously neglected aspect of the whole.
I see how this relates to discovery: seeing a previously neglected aspect of the whole in light of an old one previously noted, or obvious to note.
Essence of humor (Bergson): Simultaneous participation in two or more series of events that are independent from one another and that can be interpreted into two different meanings.
“One type of comic verse lives on the bisociation of exalted form with trivial content.”
“ya yo veré dijo la nube” something that is connected or bisociated in a way but trivial in content. The words and have a relationship to each other, but their meaning could be completely different. Even if it is the same word, it can be used with different senses.
Nonsense can only be fun if we pretend or aim at it making sense.
We only laugh if we perceive the tickling as a mock attack (mock-aggressive), as something meant to make us laugh. If we were to perceive it as a real attack we don’t laugh.
The character of a clown, since one sees one is a compilation of humor. His face painted in a ridiculous way and their clumsy way of acting, speaking and walking are all in one fun. Still, they speak out a discharge of sadistic, sexual and scatological impulses that lead everyone to laugher (they are repressed in the audience).
Originality (surprise effect), emphasis (suggestiveness), economy (filling the gaps)
What differentiates a good joke from a bad joke? Koestler suggests 3 main criteria of comic technique: originality, emphasis and economy (we can expect them to play a significan part in science and artistic creation).
Measure of originiality: surprise effect.
Even if someone emphasises (replaces creative originality) a joke before we see it, osea, even if we anticipate it or see it coming, when it comes we still find it comic because we didn’t know when and how exactly was the joke coming.
Suggestive techniques: they create suspence and facilitate the listeners flow.
- Selection: Depends on the choice of relevant stimuli: what things will matter in a joke or story, what others will not matter.
- Simplification: nonessencial elements omitted
- Increased by exaggeration: place stress on certain things.
The contrary of suggestion is economy: the technique of implication (indirect suggestion):
(este ejemplo va con lo del Picasso diciendo que es una replica)
Implication: hint, oblique allusion
Transformation: see the joke
Chapter IV: From Humor to Discovery
Explosion and catharsis
Intellectual gratification offered by a joke: when we laugh at a joke we often recognize the cleverness of the joke and we often feel pleased because we understood the joke.
Seeing the joke —— solving the problem
The creation of humor: Humorist need to be creative in order to use different ways of thought and in order to think fast in at least more than one plain at a time. Not only do they need to do this, but they also need to display the attention of the person they are talking to into the collision of the matrices, into the joke.
Paradox and synthesis: the person who invents the joke laughs very little at it. This is because the jester is often engaged in an intellectual exercise to plan what he is going to say next and to find incompatible matrices that will make everyone laugh.
Scientific discovery: is it really more on the scientific method or is it more about creativity? It is about the latter and it has nothing to do with chance, because we have this subsidiary awareness made up of the things that we have thought of in the past, of the places where we have been, of what we have seen and the problems that we have worried about. It is this that lead us to discovery, to the focal awareness. It is in that eureka moment that we are able to put together two matrices that previously seemed extremely different from one another. Bisociation of “incompatible” matrices.
Part 2: The Sage
V. Moments of truth
The Chimpanzee and the Stick
Koestler explains the experiments made with a chimpanzee, a stick and a banana. Nueva, the chimpanzee was inside a cage and could only reach a banana using some prop, when the stick was presented to her she played with it but by the third time that it was given to her, she grabbed it and caught the banana using the stick. While reading this with Kata, she mentioned Michael Polanyi and his subsidiary and focal awareness. She knew from her subsidiary awareness that she could use the stick to go further and when she concentrated on the problem of getting the banana from the tree, she indwelled upon both of them when she saw the stick and was able to get her banana.
To discover things for the fun of it can after be useful.
Seeing two matrices at the same time (bisociation) : indwelling
Once two matrices are combined they cannot be torn: once you know what the pieces of the museum mean, you can never see them in the same and previous light. ✯
“and when two matrices have become integrated they cannot again be torn asunder. This is why the discoveries of yesterday are the commonplaces of today, and why we always marvel how stupid we were not to see what post factum appears to be so obvious.”
When we are stressed out about finding the solution to a problem, we are blocked. We are under pressure, we act erratically and repetitive, we try doing random things. Our thought moves around in circles, going and going, again and again into our knowledge, trying to find the solution to our problem. In the figure above, s is us going and going into circles because we can’t find the solution to a problem. T, is the target, the problem we are trying to solve.
Def: Eureka act/ process: sequel to discovery
“Discovery often means simply the uncovering of something which has always been there but was hidden from the eye by the blinkers of habit.”
*Connection to Polanyi’s first to last of his images, we can’t state our subsidiary awareness until it appears in our knowledge of discovery. Solo que, Koestler attributes more things to habit than what Polanyi does.
Chance and Ripeness:
Ripeness: when the favorable chance-opportunities present themselves or a present.
Statistical probability for a discovery to be made:
+ the more firmly established and exercised each of the still separate skills or matrices.
(but we need something more than this in order to make a discovery)
Learning is based on insight
Chance just triggers the fusion between two matrices by hitting on one of the many possible links in which it could have happened. Time can be more or less ripe (), but it is lastly the personal factor, the creativity of an individual in synthesizing what he has got in the time when he has got it. Ideas make history, not history ideas.
The components of a discovery are lying around and waiting for a trigger-action
*Does Polanyi agree with this, is Koestler meaning subsidiary awareness (in Polanyis terms) in “the various components which will go into the new synthesis are all lying around and only waiting fro the trigger-action of chance, or the catalyzing action of an exceptional brain, to be assembled and welded together. If one opportunity is missed, another will occur.” Or is Koestler talking more about chance, that a certain discovery is going to take place regardless of the individual’s subsidiary awareness?
Two celebrated discoveries: a conscious logical one aided by chance and an unconscious one.
“fortune favors the prepared mind”
Difference frames of reference: knowing about at least two things that seem to be complete unconnected. When chance sometimes hits us, or something randomly happens, we can connect this two frames of reference that seemed disconnected but that are really a new discovery.
Pincaré on his discoveries, after he got multiple ideas all of a sudden, randomly when he was not really thinking about the problems that he wanted to solve:
VI. THREE ILLUSTRATIONS
3 examples of the sudden bisociation of two previously unrelated matrices:
- Gutters invention of printing: Guttenberg was looking for a replacement of the carving letters in wood. He combined the old printing seal with the wine press machine one day, all of a sudden after thinking in this problem.
- Kepler in astronomy and physics: Kepler reconciled astronomy with physics, before him it was only examined with geometry. Here is the question that drove him to his great three laws on planetary motion: “Why do the planets closer to the sun move faster than those which are far away? What is the mathematical relation between a planet’s distance from the sun and the length of its year?” Before Kepler, nobody had asked the physical causes of the motion of the heavenly bodies. After Kepler, scientists started to ask the right questions, substituting the why (telos, like the old Greeks) for a how. This because Kepler view the cosmos with his physics spectacles, something that no one had done before him.
- Darwin’s natural selection: Darwin didn’t originate the idea nor the controversy of evolution.The 3 matrices that Darwin united, he confined the theories of people before him, arranged them and made them make sense together:
- Lamarck’s and other theories of evolutions before him.
- We adapt to our environments and our predecessors inherit our new traits.
- Malthus (understood wrong by him): the survival of the fittest.
VII. Thinking Aside
Limits of Logic
Discovery favors the mind of people who are seeking to solve a problem, it often acts when people are not specifically looking for that answer. The idea of beauty is an important aspect of discovery and is very influential to the people that make them.
The paradox: No thought can slip through subjectivity and irrationality and nothing can be proved until after the event. Even if our mind mostly work with abstract symbols whose credo is objectivity and logic. GEB. There are many things that we are unaware of, but that still are part of who we are and how we discover.
The unconscious before Freud:
Cartesian catastrophe (Descartes): separation of matter and mind. And according to Descartes, awareness was the main characteristic of the mind (leaving no room for the unconscious). They thought that the mind was aware of everything and that it is impossible for something not to be in our awareness.
The ideas that we generate in our consciousness very often come from our subconscious (E. Platner)
*(dialogue) in the past people used to think that the unconscious state was something totally different from the conscious, later they found that it was a matter of degrees.
The Mechanization of Habits
Awareness is a matter of degrees. Koestler’s definition of awareness: “experience which decreases and fades away with our increasing mastery of a skill exercised under monotonous conditions.” Neither is awareness linear, we are conscious and unconscious of many things at the same time.
Formation of a habit: mastery of the code and stability of environment
Virtuoso: highest elaboration of a fixed routine: automatized rules of the game and a malleable strategy
Exploring the Shadows:
*(dialogue) conscious thoughts bring unconscious thoughts for us to discover* *Focal awareness and preconscious (subsidiary in Polanyi’s terms).
“Every definite image in the mind is steeped and dyed in the free water that flows around it.”
The hooked atoms of thought:
Poincaré mentions that discoveries, specially the most interesting ones are made by the unconscious from the ideas that seem far and away. The unconscious does what the conscious does not.
*(Poincaré was saying that the subconscious does what the conscious mind cannot do.)
Exploring the Deeps:
Pictorial thought: thinking in or with pictures. Is our primitive thought, babies think this way: with specific images of what each word means. Using this thought is regressing to a lower level of mental hierarchy.
*(distinction: just making regression in the unconscious and actually using it in the conscious state)
The Word and the Vision:
Einstein mentioned that his mind work with visual elements and even with kinetic ones (movement of his muscles), not with a “vague” language. It is until he get the idea with pictures that he tries to rationalize it and put it into words.
This makes me wonder if using language and words to express what we think disrupts or gets in the way of us understanding things and making discoveries? I really like the idea of keeping in my mind imagery and trying to think in those terms.
Visual pictures are more vague, and so, making connections (creative act) among them might be easier for this reason.
The snares of language
Sometimes it might be difficult to put complex ideas into words and on other occasions we find words whose meaning is complex and whose ideas it carries deal with history and context. It is a problem to take words and their meaning for granted, some examples of this are “space” and “time” whose meaning varies depending on context but whose significance has change ever since Newton wrote his Principia. We should constantly be reviewing the words that we use to make sure that we can define them in right terms (which is indeed very difficult). Still, creativity might sometimes not be as compatible with words as it would be with pictures, sounds or feelings.
VIII. Underground games
The Importance of dreaming
Concretization and Symbolization
Punning for Profit
The benefits of impersonation:
While we dream our minds play “games on us” that go beyond the limits of our individuality, empathy is another way to call this phenomenon. In a dream, we can be or become whoever our subconscious wants us to be.
Originality: forgetting what we know at the proper moment
“Without the art of forgetting, the mind remains cluttered up with ready-made answers, and never finds occasion to ask the proper questions.”
When Edison was a kid his head was so big that people thought that he had a disease, but he was a big forgetter. Once, when he was paying his taxes someone asked what his name was and he didn’t remember it, so he lost his place in the line.
*(dialogue): “familiar thing or idea appear under a new angle in an unexpected light.”
Standing on One’s Head:
“A drastic form of displacement is the sudden shift of emphasis from one aspect of a situation to its opposite, accompanied by a kind of “reversal of logic”
Gestalt psycologie shows how things can be and not be at the same time one thing and another very different thing.
*(dialogue): mental head-stand: turning mistakes into an area of study, e.g. X-rays and photography.
Aha Moment: People that consume drugs get out of the habit, and focus on things that they have never seen before, they see things on a different level. Maybe that is why some modern people have used it and have created things under its influence.
Downward stream of mental conscious: when we learn something and it becomes a habit. Something that functions automatically.
IX. The Spark and the Flame
What comes after the Eureka act?
Many times, scientist have their eureka moment only to find out afterwards that their idea did not pass the verifiability test, this taking into account that verifiability doesn’t hope to achieve absolute certainty.
When the facts can’t support the intuition.
*(dialogue): our intuitions can be wrong, even after we bisociated them.
When the environment is not too ripe for a certain discovery.
These may lead to another linkage by another scientist after some time or it may dazzle us into a lie.
When our habits function as antibiotics to reject a new idea when it arrises. This is applicable for the discoverers as well as for the entire community when it is informed of a new paradigm.
Sometimes for us to see the integration of two matrices, we need repetition of the appearance of the links of the matrices. I may add that after a lot of repetitions we should not be able to escape from the connection using logic, but still we do sometimes.
The Dawn of Language:
When kids learn words, and more importantly, when they learn that this words are connected to the real world, that they name things. The bisociative act in this is the “synthesis of the universe of signs and the universe of things.” When one matrix gives another matrix meaning, the words begin to “live” and “give birth to new thoughts”. It is something almost magical.
X. The Evolution of Ideas:
Separations and Reintegrations
Connection between the process of discovering something and scientific progress. It may even take centuries for interpretations to seize and for a theory to sink in in science and society.
Elaboration and consolidation on a discovery is the process that takes the longest time.
Comparison between science and biology: not linear.
Twenty-six Centuries of Science:
Koestler points out that the history of science has been more like a roller coaster instead of fluidity in a straight line. He talks about science from Pythagoras to the last century: we think that we are very close to achieve the truth, many societies have thought this, haha.
Scientific progress is neither gradual nor continuous.
With the bisociation of previously unconnected matrices I get the feeling that consilience is being made, I get the feeling that it is more real and attainable.
Knowledge is constantly changing; new theories arise while others are proved wrong or at least less true.
*(Dialogue): Entrepreneurship is an art: Expression of what is going on in our minds, our focal and subsidiary awareness. This is why discovery favors the prepared mind.
The Thinking Cap
Theory and experiment.
The essence of science is not finding new facts, but in finding new ways to think about the ones that have already been found. It is mostly about the context that you give to these facts (theory) and the different ways in which you think about them and arrange them.
Koestler uses the term “thinking cap” as Kitty Ferguson uses “spectacles”.
The pathology of thought
Mental blocks in science and the individuals.
Limits of Confirmation:
Scientific evidence can’t tell us that something is true, it can only tell us that it is more true that other thing. Koestler says this in order for us to not make divisions between science and art, based on a false assumption that science is in a position to obtain “objective truth” while art isn’t. Truth is that in both cases there is a lot of interpretation.
Fashions in Science:
A lot of the polemic in science has been made out of a lack of understanding and coming to terms from their protagonists. Sometimes it is not about wearing a different thinking cap, but about wearing a fashionable thinking hat. It seems that people are wearing certain colors of spectacles based on the fashion of the time, on what is popular at the time, etc.
Boundaries of Science:
Scientific progress goes more in zigzags and curves than in a straight line going up, as many people naively think. Neither is progress cumulative in this “straight line” way.
Difference between exactitude in observations and measurents and the explanatory power of theories. E.g. Brahe’s almost perfect data of measurement and observation, very precise… and his theory putting these facts together.
Many people of different times attain or think that they are at the doorstep of reality. From Pythagoras to even politicians like Stalin.
IX. Science and Emotion
Three Character Types
Types of sage that combined the artist and the jester.
- Benevolent Magician: does very high tasks, just like the artist. Homo universal. Pythagoras, Archimedes, Pasteur.
- Mad Professor: Does what he does because he wants aggrandizement and power, just like a satirist. They are evil.
- Scholarly bookworm and lab worker: dull, uninspired, orthodoxy, divorce from reality.
Self-assertive element: 157
Self-transcending element: 158
Motivations of the scientist:
Curiosity, wonder, humility: 1
Competitiveness, jealousy, assertiveness, determination: 2
Magic and Sublimation
It is not only 1 or 2, it is both of them combined, passionately. Believing that we are part of something bigger than us, with a sense of participation in the infinite or with a god living within ourselves.
The Boredom of Science
*check out Koestler’s commentary on education in the final paragraph of this section, starting from the last page, where the summary starts.