Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hobbes, Thomas. The elements of law, natural and politic

Hobbes, Thomas. The elements of law, natural and politic: part I, Human Nature, part II, De corpore politico ; with Three lives. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Regarded as one of the founding texts of the Superiority tradition of humour theory, wherein Thomas Hobbes asserts that “the passion of laughter is nothing else but a sudden glory arising from the sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmities of others, or with our own formerly” (54). Thus, humour is a respose to perceived superiority in relation to another, or in respect to one's past self. This perception must be both new and sudden. Like many early writers (and several contemporary ones as well) Hobbes collapses any distinction between humour and laughter. Less often noted is that Hobbes also leaves open the possibility of non-mocking laughter, declaring that: "Laughter without offence, must be at absurdities and infirmities abstracted from persons, and where all the company may laugh together” (55).

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