Friday, January 21, 2005

Kierkegaard on Humor:

I remember reading Kierkegaard in a philosophy class and finding myself deepy disappointed there wasn't a Cliff's Notes version of his works available. Which is not to say I didn't appreciate his wit and passion, but only that there were many things on my mind back then that seemed far more pressing that the deep ponderings of a lonely Danish philosopher.

Someday I hope to go back and catch up on everything I missed the first time around. In the meantime, David Hart's "Laughter of the Philosophers" in FIRST THINGS offers much to ponder. I especially liked this passage on the difference between irony and humor:

"...irony can certainly recognize that the incongruities that throng human experience typically frustrate the quest for truth; but, having seen as much, irony is then impotent to do anything more than unveil failure and vanquish pretense. Humor, on the other hand, is born from an altogether higher recognition: that tragic contradiction is not absolute, that finitude is not only pain and folly, and that the absurdity of our human contradictions can even be a cause for joy. Humor is able to receive finitude as a gift, conscious of the suffering intrinsic to human existence, but capable of transcending despair through jest.

"And this is why the power of humor is most intense in the 'religious' sphere: Christianity, seeing all things from the perspective of the Incarnation (that most unexpected of peripeties), is the “most comic” vision of things: it encompasses the greatest contradictions and tragedies of all, but does so in such a way as to take the suffering of existence into the unanticipated absurdity of our redemption. Which yields the—to my mind—gratifying conclusion that, to be both a “lover of wisdom” and an accomplished humorist, one must almost certainly be a Christian; or, rather, that only a Christian philosophy can be truly 'comic.'"

No comments: