Tag Archives: Francis Hutcheson

The Passions and Actions of Laughter in Shaftesbury and Hutcheson

L. Jaffro (2017). The Passions and Actions of Laughter in Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. In A. Cohen and R. Stern (eds.), Thinking About the Emotions. A Philosophical History. Mind Association Occasional Series, Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2017, 130-149. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/oso/9780198766858.001.0001/oso-9780198766858-chapter-7

The third Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson considered laughter as a passion in its own right. The hilarious response is not reducible, as Hobbes believed, to the facial expression of the sudden awareness of our own superiority. Ridicule is however an important kind of laughter; it is also an action, part of a strategy against the seriousness of fanaticism. Shaftesbury gives much importance to the politics of laughter and to the caustic power of ridicule, but also to the capacity to laugh at one’s laughter, which is crucial to what he calls good humour. Hutcheson and Shaftesbury interestingly disagree on the question of how to regulate laughter and limit its abuse.

Reid on Aesthetic Response and the Perception of Beauty

L. Jaffro (2015). Reid on Aesthetic Response and the Perception of Beauty. In R. Cophenhaver and T. Burras (eds), Thomas Reid on Mind, Knowledge, and Value. Mind Association Occasional Series, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 124-138. https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198733676.001.0001/acprof-9780198733676-chapter-9

The chapter deals mainly with the ‘Essay on Taste’, situates Reid’s position in the debate opened up by Shaftesbury and Hutcheson, and makes three points: the first about the nature of aesthetic perception; the second about its object, ‘excellence’; and the third about the location of beauty in the forms of nature or works of art, where excellence is expressed. Taste should be viewed as a social operation of the mind. In some cases, it involves a communication from God to human beings. The psychological approach to aesthetic perception must be complemented by a metaphysical account of what makes us feel the beautiful or the grand.