Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teach and Delight

After reading Plato, Kant, Hobbes, and Kierkegaard‘s different claims on humor, I began to wonder where people develop an opinion as to what makes something funny. The four philosophers’ concepts overlap in different aspects, but as I look at everyone’s blogs for this week, I begin to notice that people already picked which philosophers they agreed with. To me, this seems a little contradictory, I feel that these readings this week were to demonstrate that everyone has a different perspective of what makes something funny, and the four philosophers just stated their opinions on what makes something humorous just like what we did in class. Every individual may not agree with another person’s idea of humor, but that just goes to show the complexity in defining humor.

Humor could mean one thing to mean and the complete opposite to another person, and I think that is amazing. I find that humor is what makes us human and each person should demonstrate their unique sense of humor. I agree with Plato that “laughter is pleasant” (13). Plato describes humor as something that causes both “pain and pleasure,” he explains that humor lies in the ridiculous, which sometimes stems from misfortune of others. It is malicious to find happiness in another’s misfortune, but many are ignorant of themselves/their actions, if this is the case then laughter is to follow.

I think laughter has an amazing ability to make light of a situation, but also laughter can serve as a defense mechanism. Kant defines laughter as a “sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing” (47). Laughter serves many different purposes, and I think the list could go on forever, that the difficulty found within humor can change as the situations change. Kant and Kierkegaard both look at the ‘delight’ side of humor. Just like what we discussed last semester about poetry’s purpose to ‘teach and delight’, humor can be looked at the same way. In Plato’s definition knowledge and pleasure are the major forerunners demonstrating the two important roles of comedy.

As I read the passages by Plato, Kant, Hobbes, and Kierkegaard I knew people would not agree with their definitions of humor. I found that the balance of “teach and delight” served as an ongoing theme within each philosopher’s case. Even though I did not see eye to eye with necessarily every aspect of their definitions on humor I believe that the philosophers succeeded in pushing the boundaries of what makes something funny. These scholars not only provided their audience with a description of humor, but they demonstrated the different levels of discomfort found within comedy, demonstrating the multitude of opinions when discussing what makes something funny. (This was demonstrated in class on the first day, with our list of the different forms of humor we like/dislike).

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