Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Inclusion of Malintent in Examinations of Humor

Having just read excerpts from the works of Plato, Immanuel Kant, Soren Kierkegaard, and Thomas Hobbes in which the aforementioned thinkers attempted to grapple with the concept of humor I have come to several conclusions regarding the shifting views of humor and comedy over the past two and a half thousand years. The first is that these eternally revered philosophers, despite their meticulous attention to detail, should not have been permitted to author any works on the topic of humor. In their multiple vain attempts to create superior catch-all, fish-net definitions of humor they have not once succeeded in making me laugh.

These men dissected some (though far from all) of the psychological and a few sociological causes of laughter itself. Each of them seem to be attempting to expand upon a previous definition. All of the mentioned thinkers were intent on proving that malice and contempt have an undeniable place in the human experience of humor. Hobbes even goes so far as to attribute all human comedy to the sudden realization of superiority over another human. This may come to pass as a result "of observing the imperfections of other men." This statement represents the most radical shift from the Aristotelian definition of comedy which maintains that comedic situations are those which are not inherently painful or motivated by mal-intention.

Aside from Hobbes, it seems that the other authors merely desire to integrate malice and humor which is a result of 'Schadenfreude' to those funny situations which are not necessarily painful as Aristotle already described. This supports the conclusion that, although neither Kant, Plato, Kierkegaard nor Hobbes were humorous authors, they did desire to account for a somewhat inherent human malicious ill will toward other humans which results in pleasurable laughter.

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