Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'll laugh if I want to!

After reading these excerpts, I can't help but feel annoyed with Plato and the dialogue between Socrates and Protarcus. In the dialogue, Socrates makes an argument which states " Then our argument shows that when we laugh at what is ridiculous in our friends, our please, in mixing with malice is a pain of the soul, and that laughter is pleasant, and on these occasions we both feel malice and laugh"(pg. 13). Now, I am not disagreeing with the fact that it is unfair and rude to find humor in other people's misfortunes. I do think that we should be considerate to our neighbors and those around us for that is how we would most likely want to be treated. What is bothersome about Socrates' argument is the fact that he makes it seem like all laughter is evil. He talks only of the type of laughter that stems from the calamities of others, and I am sure we can all vouch for the fact that there are many other, more prominent reasons for laughing. Now, I know Plato has not had the wonderful opportunity of watching TV, movies, and theatrical performances, things that we laugh at on a daily basis... but I find it extremely hard to believe that the only reason people laughed back in his day was because things were going wrong in their neighbors' lives.

Hobbes makes the statement: "the passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden glory arising from sudden conception of eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of other, or with our own formerly"(p 20). Basically, Hobbes is saying that our laughter corresponds with our superiority over others; laughter is that "sudden glory". After reading Plato, I feel that Hobbes' case is built off of what Plato believes through Socrates. Hobbes is also suggesting a limitation on laughter and providing a strictly concrete reason as to why we laugh and what laughter means by arguing that we find "glory" in being better than everyone else. Well, yeah it is exceptional when we succeed in life, but seriously Hobbes, that's your definition of laughter? Glorifying our successes? Sounds a little cheap to me, because while I aim for success in everything I do, I do not feel that my "sudden glory" when I surpass another is the only definition for laughter. And vice-versa as well; I do not think that laughter necessarily means we have experienced that "sudden glory". What about times that we laugh because it seems like life cannot go any worse and we don't know what else to do but laugh?

Rather than saying that laughter is essentially evil, or that it is basically just our being happy that we have surpassed others, Kant speaks about humor and laughter as "healthy" because it "gives a wholesome shock to the body". And going along with that theory that it is a good thing to laugh, we come to Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard seems to take a more detailed approach to comedy and humor, and in doing so disagrees with Plato's view. He believes that comedy stems from contradiction, however he says, "the tragic is the suffering contradiction, the comical, the painless contradiction" which makes a clear distinction between what is tragic and what is funny. Plato would most likely think that there is no distinction between contradictions; that anything contradictory is going to make one laugh but will be tragic. Here, Kierkegaard is stating that we are people can distinguish between what is a tragic contradiction and what is a painless contradiction, and therefore know what is funny and what is not.

To summarize, I feel that Hobbes and Plato do not give the human race enough credit and are almost forcing the world to believe that laughter is malicious, crude, and gives a person a conceited reputation. Kant and Kierkegaard, while outline different statements, still seem to believe that laughter is not so harsh as the other two make it seem. It's a wholehearted expression, and we usually can distinguish between what is funny and what is not. So sorry Plato and Hobbes, but I'll laugh if I want to, and you're not going to tell me it's wrong!

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