Morreall points out in his introduction to the Plato excerpt, “that amusement is an emotion in which we tend to lose control of ourselves.” Through a discussion between Socrates and Protarchus, Plato outlines how this loss of control, and laughter may coincide with pain and pleasure. Socrates explains his theory to Protarchus, who does not seem to be on the same intellectual level as Socrates. Socrates does all the talking and Protarchus does all the listening, and questioning. “The nature of the ridiculous,” can be described as “Know[ing] not thyself,” according to Socrates. He goes through the ways people can be ignorant of themselves, noting that the greatest ignorance is when people, “imagine themselves superior in virtue, when they are not.” Finally, Socrates argues that realizing your enemies are ignorant is pleasurable humor, but realizing your friends are ignorant is painful humor. Thus, laughing at one’s friends initiates both pleasure and “pain of the soul.”
So, what is so funny about this excerpt? There are two major points. First, Plato points out the root of humor in his day, which also translates to our time as well. We do find laughter in other’s ignorance, and there is an awkward feeling associated with realizing you or your friends are those being made fun of. The second is that Socrates understands that his conversation with Protarchus proves his lack of wisdom, and by continuing he is essentially making fun of him to his face. Through contrasting Protarchus’s lack of understanding to Socrates explanation, Plato verifies his point about humor.
Both Plato and Hobbes find humor, in the ignorance of others. Their ignorance juxtaposed next to another’s or your own intelligence is where they derive humor. On the other hand, Kant finds humor in the situation. In order to laugh, which is good for the health, simply “…put oneself into a certain mental disposition, in which everything is judged quite differently from the ordinary method…” For Kant, laughter is derived by the occurrences of unexpected situations while in the proper mindset. Kierkegaard finds humor in the situation, as well. One can see the influence of the previous authors on the preceding authors, when comparing the readings. Although, humor theories have developed and expanded, and will continue to do so, it is nice to still be able to laugh at material written in 348 B.C.