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Technology is a laughing matter: Bergson, the comic and technology


There seems to be no connection between philosophy of humor and the philosophy of technology. In this paper, I want to make the case that there is. I will pursue a twofold goal in this paper: First, I will take an account from one of the seminal figures in the philosophy of humor, Henri Bergson, and bring out its merits for a philosophy of technology. Bergson has never been fully appreciated as a philosopher of technology. I will fill this gap and show that Bergson’s account of the comic contains some interesting insights about our relation to technology. Second, I will show that humor and the comic open up a new perspective on technology that may facilitate new ways of thinking about our technological culture.

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  1. In Scharff and Dusek (2003) Bergson is mentioned only 5 times. In the more recent Berg Olsen et al. (2012) Bergson’s name is mentioned only once. Bergson is also absent from a lot of introductions to the philosophy of technology. To name just a few: Ferré (1995) does not mention him at all and Dusek (2006) mentions him once. And last but not least: The entry on philosophy of technology in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does not mention Bergson at all (Franssen et al. 2013).

  2. Thanks to the referee for pressing me to address this issue.

  3. I have kept this section as short as possible. The reader who wants to know more about the historical and intellectual context of Bergson’s work is referred to Milner Davis (2014).

  4. Bergson was not the first to see the corrective potential of laughter. The idea that laughter as a social corrective was anticipated by Francis Hutcheson in his Reflections upon Laughter from 1725, see Hutcheson (1973).


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I would like to express my gratitude to Hannes Perk, Arun Tripathi and an anonymous referee for their helpful comments and suggestions. I also want to thank Liam Francis Walsh for allowing me to use his cartoons.

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Correspondence to Steffen Steinert.

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Steinert, S. Technology is a laughing matter: Bergson, the comic and technology. AI & Soc 32, 201–208 (2017).

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  • Bergson
  • Humor
  • Philosophy of technology
  • Philosophy of humor
  • Laughter
  • The comic