Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Laughter The Best Medicine?

The first part of Kant’s this reading I did not did not make a lot of sense to me. However, in the middle I found the examples helped to get his point across since he picks everything apart for that you can’t make sense of it. The examples made the reading much clearer. I found it very interesting that he broke laughter down in terms of the body and mind. It gives me a whole new way of looking at humor. When he discusses the diaphragm expanding and the sensation of joy when one is laughing, I thought it put humor in a new dimension for me. For example, when something is funny we laugh. But we don’t ever think about in this century what bodily occurs when we laugh. His critique of Voltaire brings up a lot of good points also. The example of “break one’s head” I found very funny. His connecting of the mind on page 46 is also something I never thought of. What happens in our minds when we find something humorous? His connecting the idea to the intestines also made me think again, that we move our minds and bodies when we find a joke funny.
Hobbes on the other hand, uses what we have discussed in class as humor at the hand of another. The example of the blonde in the tree by Dr Ellis is what Hobbes means. Even though by laughing we are really making fun of someone (in this situation the blonde) we still in our minds find it hilsrious, whereas someone who has blonde hair would find it offensive.
Another thing that Hobbes discusses is the humor at someone else’s expense where the joke is on them, and they are aware of it. He goes on to discuss that the best thing for us as humans to do, is to “free others from scorn”. In other words, don’t laugh at someone else; Instead, help them to keep the joke from being on them, whether they are aware of it or not. Hobbes agrees with Kant that laughter is a feeling that comes from joy and also having wit. He also says that people laugh at someone else incompetence or “absurdity”. A modern example of this is the TV show America’s Funniest Home Videos; Everyday people performing tasks not on par, and the general public finding enjoyment in their lack f capacity to perform these mundane tasks. In addition, they are rewarded for this absurdity by receiving s check for ten thousand dollars.
Hobbes concludes with his own definition pf laughter as being, “sudden glory is arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others.” He goes on to say that people go out of their way to see who can get the other to laugh harder, at the sacrifice of themselves or of someone else. He comments that people would have more fun laughing “in a company” than laughing at one specific person who messes up. He feels that it is better that everyone laugh as a whole than just focusing the absurdity on one person. In other words, he feels that the expense of someone else is not a proper way to express joy and as Kant puts it “movement of the diaphragm”.
Personally I agree with both of them. But I do feel that we as a society have more mediums that have put us in the practice of laughing at others getting hurt. With TV, movies, and the internet we have become a society that regularly laughs at the brunt of someone else’s stupidity or inadequacy. This is just the way things are. Is it right? No it is very wrong, and more often than not we do offend others without knowing it. Hobbes would say that even the person being in on the joke is inappropriate because it singles that person out, and that is unfair. Kant’s take on laughing was more bodily based and I found this to be fascinating. He takes that function of laughing, and isolates the body parts responsible for doing this. They both have points of view that I found very interesting, and I wanted to contrast their ideas that one thinks laughing at someone’s expense is cruel, and the other gives examples to help get points across, and Voltaire’s critique was very fascinating, and even funny.

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