Wednesday, January 20, 2010

contradiction and malice

            After being assigned the readings for today, we were told that we should not necessarily believe everything said in the Plato article.  While I completely agree that some of the ideas presented are not well developed, others do hold some degree of truth.

            Plato claims that when we are witnesses to comedy we “experience a mixture of pain and pleasure”.  This is clearly an interesting thought and in addition, presents some ideas that are seemingly sound.  For example, it is first reaffirmed that “malice is pain of the soul”, obviously this is a credible thought.  After other forms of malice or ignorance are examined the idea becomes presented that “when we laugh at what is ridiculous in our friends, our pleasure, in mixing with malice, mixes with pain… and on these occasions we both feel malice and laugh”. 

            I must admit that I am often guilty of laughing at my friend’s “misfortunes” or a less than thoughtful remark they may have made, thus showing ignorance.  I might be ahead of myself but I am assuming all of us are guilty at laughing when one of our friends falls going up the stairs or falls in general.  Typically, when an instance like this occurs we laugh uncontrollably until we realize there is a chance they could actually be hurt and then while trying to hold back the laughter and giggles we ask if they are ok.  When it has been confirmed that they are ok we continue our laughter, maybe even fight back tears, and then eventually we are able to calm down. 

            It goes without saying that this order is a bit mixed up and that our first instinct should be to make sure said friend is ok and then laugh at their expense.  I would agree with Plato that this is in a way a fusion of pleasure and pain but to say it is malice is a bit extreme.  Malice is defined as a wish or intent to do harm, therefore, malice would be if I intentionally tripped my friend, watched them fall, and then laugh at them. 

            Soren Kierkegaard presents a similar idea to Plato’s in “Traditional Theories of Laughter and Humor”. Kierkegaard notes that humor is dependent on contradiction and goes further to say that, “the tragic and the comic are the same”. Kierkegaard’s assertions are noteworthy; contradiction is indeed a funny thing.  Contradiction, according to Kierkegaard is, “that which is not in itself”.  He gives an example of someone observing a drunken man who attempts to present himself as sober or when a drunken man trying to act sober is swaying back and forth. 

            Kierkegaard and Plato’s concepts of humor seem to go hand in hand.  Both instances rely on an observer who find comedy in a situation that is not typically funny or is not intended to be funny, thus affirming the idea of contradiction.  Plato also relies on contradiction with his example of mixing pain with pleasure do to finding humor at what is “ridiculous in our friends”.  It is a contradiction that we would find humor in anything potentially harmful, whether physically, emotionally, or mentally, to our friends, yet, often we do. 

            The ideas present within all of the articles about humor have lead me to draw the conclusion that laughter/humor/comedy is often used to masque the serious and make light of heavy situations.  This intended outcome would be why Kant notes, we are able “to voluntarily put [ourselves] into a certain mental disposition in which everything is judged”.   

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