Word of Mouth
11:22 am
Wed November 6, 2013

The Philosophy Of Tickling

This photo was used to illustrate Schuster's story with the following caption: Photographs from Nadezhda Ladygina-Kohts, Infant Chimpanzee and Human Child. Originally published in 1935, the book offers a comparative study of the behavior of a human child (Ladygina-Kohts’s own son Roody) and an infant chimpanzee named Joni. The bottom two images in this plate show Joni reacting to being tickled.

The sensation of tickling has baffled great thinkers  since the days of Aristotle, who used human ticklishness to distinguish people from animals. Later, Freud puzzled over the strange mix of pleasure and pain caused by tickling.  

Indeed, we tickle kids or siblings, sometimes affectionately, sometimes edging towards cruelty.  Still unknown is why people laugh when tickled, and why you can’t tickle yourself? Why do some people enjoy tickling and others not? And what is tickling, after all? Contemporary philosopher Aaron Schuster picks up those questions. He’s on the faculty at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and wrote “A Philosophy of Tickling” for Cabinet Magazine.

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