For many, humor is an innocent and exciting part of our lives today during which we can let loose, kick back, and have a good laugh. While we might assume that humor is a positive aspect of our lives today, Hobbes, Plato, Kant, and Kierkegaard warn us about the implications that simple jokes and simple laughter might have.
In the first excerpt I read by Hobbes I immediately was reminded of the illustrations we did in class on Tuesday. Hobbes asserts the “Superiority Theory of Laughter” which we emphasized through a typical “blonde joke”. In this situation, there is always an audience, a target, and a speaker. Some jokes, like blonde jokes, are targeted towards one specific constituent and are said in order to make them inferior. Hobbes asserts the “Superiority Theory of Laughter” which we emphasized through a typical “blonde joke”. In this situation, there is always an audience, a target, and a speaker. Some jokes, like blonde jokes, are targeted towards one specific constituent and are said in order to make them inferior.
Those who are superior are the ones who laugh at the joke, along with the teller of the joke. Hobbes asserts that these types of superiority jokes are a result of human nature. Hobbes says that we are always searching for ways to demote another human being whether by wealth, physicality, hierarchy, or personality. Upstaging others and making them inferior has become a way in which we use humor to get a reaction out of an audience, but also for our own entertainment. Continuing with this superiority model, Hobbes gives us instances during which we do not laugh as those when we or our friends are the target of a joke. Humor is thus used to validate our own inherent desires for superiority and while funny to a select audience, Hobbes indeed brings us to a startling conclusion and warns us of the dangers of humor.
These dangers are exemplified by Plato who associates laughter with amusement with irrational laughter with violence and a violent reaction. When we further examine Plato, he seems to allude to the dangers of laughter because of its associations to both pleasure and pain. Plato further explains the disparities between those who are weak and those who are strong as people who are unable or able to retaliate when tormented by another. Plato knows that laughter is form of ignorance and is founded in malice and this seems to be what Hobbes is alluding to as well.
Now Kant and Kierkegaard are slightly less involved with the negatives of humor and laughter and we can bestow their theories to our discussions of Tales of the Tikongs. Keirkegaard mainly talks about humor as an illustration of the concept of “contradiction”. Where things in and of themselves might not be humorous, there is a humor in their contradiction. In Tales of the Tikongs we discussed the themes of tradition, religion, and politics extensively in class. And while we might not directly think that the book is funny because it implies something extremely important, we can nevertheless be humored by the extremities of the culture or the ridiculousness of the characters. Kierkegaard claims that these contradictions are not funny in themselves but are evoke laughter for several different reasons. And Kant might say that Tales of the Tikongs allows us to reap the healthy feelings that result from our bemusement or our laughter of the stories told.