Author Topic: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan  (Read 15195 times)

Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #15 on: December 18, 2014, 01:37:41 AM »
No replies (regarding the thread topic) yet? Perhaps Smullyan's allegory is too long. Let's try an excerpt so you don't have to read the whole thing:

The main philosophical problem of the Middle Period was to establish whether this mysterious thing called "Humor'' really had objective existence or whether it existed only in the imagination. Those who believed it really existed were called Pro-Humorists; those who believed it did not were called skeptics or Anti-Humorists...

The Pro-Humorists were roughly of three sorts; the Rational Pro-Humorists, who claimed that the existence of Humor could be established by pure reason; the Faith-Humorists, who believed that reason could be somewhat helpful but that an act of faith was crucial; and finally there were the "Mystic-Humorists'' who claimed that neither reason nor faith were of the slightest help in apprehending Humor; the only reliable way it could be known was by direct perception...

The Mystic-Humorists kept repeating, "If only you could see humor directly, you would not need rational arguments nor any faith nor anything like that. You would then know that Humor is real.'' This phrase "see Humor directly'' was particularly apt to be criticized. The Mystic-Humorists actually said: "Yes, we can see humor in many situations. Life is permeated with humor, if you can only see it.''

The skeptical Anti-Humorists said, "So, you claim you can see humor! Tell me, what color is it?''

The Mystic-Humorists laughed and said, "Humor doesn't have any color!''

The skeptics continued: "Oh, so you can see it only in black and white! Well, then, what shape is it?''

"It doesn't have any form or shape.''

"Then I am confused! Is humor visible or invisible?''

"Of course it is invisible!''

"But I thought you just said that you can see it. Didn't you say that you could see the humor of certain situations?''

"Well, yes, I said that, but I didn't mean 'see' in the literal sense of 'see with your eyes.' Ocular vision really has nothing to do with it. I used 'see' in the sense of directly perceive, not see with the eyes. The perception, though as direct as vision, is really through a different sense altogether.''

"A different sense? Which sense is it---hearing? If so, what does humor sound like? Or is it smell or taste or touch or what? With which of the five senses do you perceive humor, or is it a combination of more than one of them?''

"No, it is not any one of these five senses, nor is it a combination of them. It is a different sense altogether---in a way, it is a nonphysical sense---we call this sense the 'sense of humor'.''

"Good God, you literally mean a nonphysical sense? In other words, you mean it is something occult like telepathy or clairvoyance? But scientific integrity requires us not to believe in anything occult; hence we cannot but believe that this Humor is something totally unreal, a mere figment of the imagination.''

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #16 on: December 18, 2014, 02:14:39 AM »
It looks as if we're avoiding the topic because we don't want to go through 19 pages of the same thing.  :D

Love the photo, Magdalena (I'm assuming, of course, that's you and not a musician or some other famous person I'm too "out of touch" to recognize).
:-*
Thank you, Gerry.
That's me!  :D
I remember you said people use avatars, and fake names and never show their faces here and you are right, so you inspired me, this is why I'm showing my face to the world. I'm an atheist, and I have nothing to hide. Thank you for that. You see? I listen to what you have to say, so it looks like we've found common ground!  :)
Do you agree?
I think there is actually a thread from way back when dedicated to peoples pictures of themselves. Can't find it, though.....

http://www.happyatheistforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=8695.0
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Davin

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #17 on: December 18, 2014, 06:51:31 AM »
I didn't like it. Way too annoying to read.

Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

Recusant

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2014, 04:30:27 PM »
Another homework assignment, Gerry Rzeppa? Nearly every thread you've started on this site has begun the same way, and each assignment seems to be more tiresome than the last. This one was the most tedious and prolix by far. Smullyan appears to be very fond of his own prose, but in my opinion it's rather pedestrian and uninspiring. Not at all a pleasure to read. As for the subject matter of the piece, despite being a prolonged attempt to hammer something home, I found it strained, overblown, and not particularly clear. Apparently you consider it a useful and incisive allegory. If so, what aspect of our society does it address, in your opinion?

Humor is to seriousness as __?__ is to __?__

You are a pedagogue, so I don't particularly blame you for taking a pedagogical approach. However, my impression is that while you may think of yourself as teaching, what you've actually been doing sometimes at least has undertones of haranguing members of this site, using the trappings of teaching. You have somewhat of an air of providing instruction in the form of lecture and dialog, and you keep within that character at least some of the time, yet you slip into apologist mode often enough to give me reason to think that it's a significant part of your agenda here.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2014, 06:06:13 PM by Recusant »
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2014, 05:54:14 PM »
No replies (regarding the thread topic) yet? Perhaps Smullyan's allegory is too long. Let's try an excerpt so you don't have to read the whole thing:

The main philosophical problem of the Middle Period was to establish whether this mysterious thing called "Humor'' really had objective existence or whether it existed only in the imagination. Those who believed it really existed were called Pro-Humorists; those who believed it did not were called skeptics or Anti-Humorists...

The Pro-Humorists were roughly of three sorts; the Rational Pro-Humorists, who claimed that the existence of Humor could be established by pure reason; the Faith-Humorists, who believed that reason could be somewhat helpful but that an act of faith was crucial; and finally there were the "Mystic-Humorists'' who claimed that neither reason nor faith were of the slightest help in apprehending Humor; the only reliable way it could be known was by direct perception...

The Mystic-Humorists kept repeating, "If only you could see humor directly, you would not need rational arguments nor any faith nor anything like that. You would then know that Humor is real.'' This phrase "see Humor directly'' was particularly apt to be criticized. The Mystic-Humorists actually said: "Yes, we can see humor in many situations. Life is permeated with humor, if you can only see it.''

The skeptical Anti-Humorists said, "So, you claim you can see humor! Tell me, what color is it?''

The Mystic-Humorists laughed and said, "Humor doesn't have any color!''

The skeptics continued: "Oh, so you can see it only in black and white! Well, then, what shape is it?''

"It doesn't have any form or shape.''

"Then I am confused! Is humor visible or invisible?''

"Of course it is invisible!''

"But I thought you just said that you can see it. Didn't you say that you could see the humor of certain situations?''

"Well, yes, I said that, but I didn't mean 'see' in the literal sense of 'see with your eyes.' Ocular vision really has nothing to do with it. I used 'see' in the sense of directly perceive, not see with the eyes. The perception, though as direct as vision, is really through a different sense altogether.''

"A different sense? Which sense is it---hearing? If so, what does humor sound like? Or is it smell or taste or touch or what? With which of the five senses do you perceive humor, or is it a combination of more than one of them?''

"No, it is not any one of these five senses, nor is it a combination of them. It is a different sense altogether---in a way, it is a nonphysical sense---we call this sense the 'sense of humor'.''

"Good God, you literally mean a nonphysical sense? In other words, you mean it is something occult like telepathy or clairvoyance? But scientific integrity requires us not to believe in anything occult; hence we cannot but believe that this Humor is something totally unreal, a mere figment of the imagination.''


Meh, I only read this excerpt but it's enough to make me not want to read the whole thing. If you're going to go on about allegories it's a pity you didn't bring up Plato's Allegory of the Cave instead, it's a much more interesting topic.  ::)
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Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2014, 06:40:43 PM »
Apparently you consider it a useful and incisive allegory. If so, what aspect of our society does it address, in your opinion?

It seems to me that Smullyan was curious about two things: (1) the "transcendental" aspects of life, like humor, and how different kinds of people understand and react to such things; and (2) free will -- or the impossibility thereof -- which is addressed later in the piece.

Humor is to seriousness as __?__ is to __?__

In the excerpt I quoted, I would say that "Humor" is analogous to "the supernatural". Here's the excerpt with the various forms of the word "Humor" changed to corresponding forms of "the supernatural":

The main philosophical problem of the Middle Period was to establish whether this mysterious thing called "the supernatural'' really had objective existence or whether it existed only in the imagination. Those who believed it really existed were called Pro-supernaturalists; those who believed it did not were called skeptics or Anti-supernaturalists...

The Pro-supernaturalists were roughly of three sorts; the Rational Supernaturalists, who claimed that the existence of the supernatural could be established by pure reason; the Faith-Supernaturalists, who believed that reason could be somewhat helpful but that an act of faith was crucial; and finally there were the "Mystic-Supernaturalists'' who claimed that neither reason nor faith were of the slightest help in apprehending the supernatural; the only reliable way it could be known was by direct perception...

The Mystic-Supernaturalists kept repeating, "If only you could see the supernatural directly, you would not need rational arguments nor any faith nor anything like that. You would then know that the supernatural is real.'' This phrase "see the supernatural directly'' was particularly apt to be criticized. The Mystic-Supernaturalists actually said: "Yes, we can see the supernatural in many situations. Life is permeated with the supernatural, if you can only see it.''

The skeptical Anti-Supernaturalists said, "So, you claim you can see the supernatural! Tell me, what color is it?''

The Mystic-Supernaturalists people laughed and said, "The supernatural doesn't have any color!''

The skeptics continued: "Oh, so you can see it only in black and white! Well, then, what shape is it?''

"It doesn't have any form or shape.''

"Then I am confused! Is the supernatural visible or invisible?''

"Of course it is invisible!''

"But I thought you just said that you can see it. Didn't you say that you could see the supernatural in certain situations?''

"Well, yes, I said that, but I didn't mean 'see' in the literal sense of 'see with your eyes.' Ocular vision really has nothing to do with it. I used 'see' in the sense of directly perceive, not see with the eyes. The perception, though as direct as vision, is really through a different sense altogether.''

"A different sense? Which sense is it---hearing? If so, what does the supernatural sound like? Or is it smell or taste or touch or what? With which of the five senses do you perceive the supernatural, or is it a combination of more than one of them?''

"No, it is not any one of these five senses, nor is it a combination of them. It is a different sense altogether---in a way, it is a nonphysical sense---we call this sense the 'sense of the supernatural'.''

"Good God, you literally mean a nonphysical sense? In other words, you mean it is something occult like telepathy or clairvoyance? But scientific integrity requires us not to believe in anything occult; hence we cannot but believe that this supernatural is something totally unreal, a mere figment of the imagination.''



Pasta Chick

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #21 on: December 18, 2014, 06:44:44 PM »
It looks as if we're avoiding the topic because we don't want to go through 19 pages of the same thing.  :D

Love the photo, Magdalena (I'm assuming, of course, that's you and not a musician or some other famous person I'm too "out of touch" to recognize).
:-*
Thank you, Gerry.
That's me!  :D
I remember you said people use avatars, and fake names and never show their faces here and you are right, so you inspired me, this is why I'm showing my face to the world. I'm an atheist, and I have nothing to hide. Thank you for that. You see? I listen to what you have to say, so it looks like we've found common ground!  :)
Do you agree?
I think there is actually a thread from way back when dedicated to peoples pictures of themselves. Can't find it, though.....

http://www.happyatheistforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=8695.0

There was this, but we also changed our avatars to real photos a couple years ago too.  Of course those are all gone now.

Pasta Chick

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2014, 06:51:30 PM »
No replies (regarding the thread topic) yet? Perhaps Smullyan's allegory is too long. Let's try an excerpt so you don't have to read the whole thing:


Not so much that as weariness over being dragged into another 20 pages of circular debate, only to be told how we actually feel. 

Part of me wants to again extend welcome to the rest of the forum, as that is where most of us find common ground.  And do stuff like share photos and mundane life updates.  But a lot of me is afraid of being proselytized at in my happy place  :-\

Recusant

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #23 on: December 18, 2014, 07:47:05 PM »
Apparently you consider it a useful and incisive allegory. If so, what aspect of our society does it address, in your opinion?

It seems to me that Smullyan was curious about two things: (1) the "transcendental" aspects of life, like humor, and how different kinds of people understand and react to such things; and (2) free will -- or the impossibility thereof -- which is addressed later in the piece.

Humor is to seriousness as __?__ is to __?__

In the excerpt I quoted, I would say that "Humor" is analogous to "the supernatural".

So, where in the real world do we find the society-wide torture and incarceration of people whose lives include a belief in the supernatural? What point was he trying to make by emphasizing that so heavily? What does "laughazone" represent? Humor in the allegory is considered by the entire society to be a disease. How does that correspond to the real world, assuming that humor = the supernatural?

A problem I see with your interpretation is that Smullyan assumes the existence of the supernatural all through his allegory, and the society he writes about seems to do the same. Humor represents something else, it would seem.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2014, 08:06:05 PM by Recusant »
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Magdalena

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2014, 09:56:10 PM »
It looks as if we're avoiding the topic because we don't want to go through 19 pages of the same thing.  :D

Love the photo, Magdalena (I'm assuming, of course, that's you and not a musician or some other famous person I'm too "out of touch" to recognize).
:-*
Thank you, Gerry.
That's me!  :D
I remember you said people use avatars, and fake names and never show their faces here and you are right, so you inspired me, this is why I'm showing my face to the world. I'm an atheist, and I have nothing to hide. Thank you for that. You see? I listen to what you have to say, so it looks like we've found common ground!  :)
Do you agree?
I think there is actually a thread from way back when dedicated to peoples pictures of themselves. Can't find it, though.....

http://www.happyatheistforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=8695.0

There was this, but we also changed our avatars to real photos a couple years ago too.  Of course those are all gone now.
It feels kind of weird seeing my face here, so I'm going to move it over there.  ::)


“I've had several "spiritual" or numinous experiences over the years, but never felt that they were the product of anything but the workings of my own mind in reaction to the universe.” ~Recusant

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Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2014, 11:35:45 PM »
It feels kind of weird seeing my face here, so I'm going to move it over there.  ::)

Bummer. I agree it's weird seeing one's own face all over the thread, but it was nice to see the person I was replying to; made it feel more like I was actually talking to somebody.

Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2014, 12:11:39 AM »
Humor represents something else, it would seem.

The story has been variously interpreted (though my view is shared by many). Knuth describes the whole first part of Smullyan's story as a parable regarding the limits of rationality: that there are things (like Humor) that can't be fully known by reason alone; things (like Humor) that are personally experienced and thus "believed in" with great certainty long before (if ever) they are rationally analyzed; things (like Humor) that can't really be understood except by those who have personally experienced them.

A related story is The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells (https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wells/hg/w45cb/chapter32.html).


Davin

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #27 on: December 19, 2014, 07:07:57 AM »
Great, some stories... which are just stories. I could talk about the stories and what they might mean, but they aren't very good stories.

In the H.G. Wells story, (which was better by a lot, but still not that good), the guy was an idiot... or at least a story puppet meant to lead the reader to the conclusion that the author meant the reader to reach. Nunez could have proven sight in a lot of different ways than just trying to explain it. In ways that could be tested and the data individually verified... but he didn't. Now, with a story like this, one can try to put pretty much anything as sight.

Theists might say that faith is the sight int he story.
Skeptics might say that rationality is sight in the story.
Anti-vaccers might say that they are Nunez in the story for not vaccinating their children.

So many possibilities.

I suppose I could assume that Gerry here wants "sight" to be faith or god or something like that. In that case, I suppose the lesson we can learn from the story, is that the faithful do not empirically prove that their god exists, even though could easily do so. In that case, they are as stupid as Nunez.

Always question all authorities because the authority you don't question is the most dangerous... except me, never question me.

Recusant

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #28 on: December 19, 2014, 09:40:34 AM »
Humor represents something else, it would seem.

The story has been variously interpreted (though my view is shared by many). Knuth describes the whole first part of Smullyan's story as a parable regarding the limits of rationality: that there are things (like Humor) that can't be fully known by reason alone; things (like Humor) that are personally experienced and thus "believed in" with great certainty long before (if ever) they are rationally analyzed; things (like Humor) that can't really be understood except by those who have personally experienced them.

A related story is The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells (https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wells/hg/w45cb/chapter32.html).

Were my questions too difficult for you to answer? Instead of addressing them at all, you tell us what somebody else thinks of the allegory, then you assign further homework. 

Do you want to take another run at it, or do you think Smullyan's dreary wall of text has nothing more to offer than some vague platitude about the "limits to reason"?
"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration — courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth."
— H. L. Mencken


Gerry Rzeppa

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Re: "A Planet without Laughter" by Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #29 on: December 19, 2014, 01:54:45 PM »
Quote from: Davin
Great, some stories... which are just stories... they aren't very good stories. I suppose the lesson we can learn from the story, is that the faithful do not empirically prove that their god exists, even though could easily do so. In that case, they are as stupid as Nunez.

Quote from: Recusant
Do you want to take another run at it, or do you think Smullyan's dreary wall of text has nothing more to offer than some vague platitude about the "limits to reason"?

One of the points made by both stories is that it is very difficult to convince those who have not had a particular kind experience (like humor, sight, etc) of its reality: each person attempts to "fit the facts" into his chosen framework and if the experience in question is outside the bounds of that framework, communication becomes difficult (if not impossible).

So to Davin I say, the moral of the stories is that "the faithful do not empirically prove that their god exists" in ways and terms acceptable to you because it can't be done -- your framework isn't large enough to admit the evidences.

And to Recusant I say, "the limits of reason" are not merely the subject of "some vague platitude" in the story, but the central issue. Repeated demands for a particular kind of evidence for things that are both discovered and understood via different kinds of evidence is what makes finding common ground between theists and atheists so difficult.

The stories I've referenced in this thread (like Edwin Abbott's Flatland, http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/97/pg97.html) ask the reader to put himself in the place of the various characters in the interest of broadening the reader's perspective. These stories have been around a long time, and many people find them both thought-provoking and enlightening. I know I have. I thought some folks here might enjoy them in this way as well, and we might discuss them further. But we obviously won't get very far with people who discard lasting works of literature as "just stories" or "dreary walls of text".

« Last Edit: December 19, 2014, 03:47:05 PM by Gerry Rzeppa »