• A Wise Person Proportions their Beliefs With Humor

    Author(s):
    Chris A. Kramer (see profile)
    Date:
    2021
    Group(s):
    Ancient Philosophy, Feminist Humanities, Political Philosophy & Theory, Public Philosophy Journal
    Subject(s):
    Philosophy and literature, Philosophy, Humor studies
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    philosophy of art, 20th Century Continental Philosophy, Humor
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/kh6f-p247
    Abstract:
    What has proportion to do with humor or irony? And what do either of these have to do with being human? Jokes, laughter, and funniness connote excess, exaggeration, incongruity, dissonance, etc., the opposite of proportion--balance, symmetry, Aristotle’s golden mean. Yet, The Philosopher maintains, the wit has found the ideal moderate position between the deficient boor who seems constitutionally incapable of laughing, and the excessive buffoon who doesn’t know how to laugh at the right time, in the right way, or for the right reasons--buffoonish laughter is indiscriminate. The title, paraphrasing Hume, is consistent with Kierkegaard’s valorization of irony, as philosophical doubt and the confusion induced through Socratic Irony both call for a special sort of proportion: ontological proportion. Put simply, one ought to proportion one’s being, as well as others’, as though along a shifting spectrum rather than essentially and hierarchically. The latter fosters a serious attitude that takes polarities as the rule with no exceptions; black or white, good or evil, with us or against us, one of us or one of them, always seeking the ideal of purity. We see this disproportion in authoritarians who manifestly lack a sense of humor--Hitler’s joke courts, Turkey’s president Erdoğan attempting legal punishment against a comedian who mocked him, and Trump’s thin-skinned inability to laugh at his own expense, a monumental character flaw for the most powerful person in the world. Their views are serious, rigid, closed, and dogmatic about themselves, others, and for each of them excepting Trump, the presumed absolute nature of values--Trump’s unironic pretense toward any value is merely a means to service his own absolute end, himself. The playfully ironic person can cope with reality, with ambiguity and, borrowing from Maria Lugones, “ontological confusion,” the not-fully-settled identity.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    3 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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