Ever start laughing and can’t stop? Laugh so hard, you pee your pants? Case of the giggles? Maybe you’ll catch your breath, but then the laughter starts again. We can’t help it. Something is bound to make us laugh. Plato states, “That amusement is an emotion in which we tend to lose rational control of ourselves.” In EN 368, the list collected on the second day of class shows the different types of humor, various situations, and diverse occurrences that make each one of us laugh, and sometimes uncontrollably.
Kant describes that when we listen to jokes “we develop a certain expectation as to how it will turn out. Then, at the punch line, our expectation vanishes.” With the disappearance of our expectation, the movement of our minds and bodies “produces a feeling of health.” This produces great feelings and comes as a “wholesome shock to the body.” We laugh and feel gratified. However when we feel good about ourselves, how often is it at the expense of others? In our EN 368 classroom, we discussed how we often do not find degrading humor, that funny. Therefore, we focused on the superiority model of humor and Plato and Hobbes offer insight, for why in the situation, we may find being superior, funny.
Plato and Hobbes both discuss models of superiority similar to the version of superiority exemplified by the blonde joke. Plato sees that because one feels greater than another individual, the source of the superior feeling comes from malice, but the individual also feels pleased with the higher than another feeling. Hobbes calls this feeling, “sudden glory.” It’s the quick recognition of being in a better situation than someone else. In superior model jokes, the target is made to feel less than the speaker of the joke. The listener of the joke realizes that he or she is also in a better position than the target of the joke, and with this comes the laughter of delight.
It’s a combination of having an expectation, the expectation vanishing, and a sudden realization that we are better off than we originally thought that makes us feel good, and give a little laugh. But that laugh won’t last long, once we recognize it’s at someone else’s expense. Plato may have thought we would lose control, but it’s only for an instance. We all have our limits with humor, are able to regain control soon enough, and finally lose that case of the giggles.