Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thought on Humor: Why Marx is not funny

Not infrequently, I find myself arguing with people about humor in philosophy. I think Wittgenstein was funny. Hobbes is sort of funny. Keirkegaard is very funny. Marx is not funny. People take issue with that. Marx is very funny, they respond, he is full of quips and barbs. I came across this passage in Kant's CPrR that reminded me of this debate. He writes,
...and it is no wonder that they find inconsistencies everywhere, although the gaps they suppose they find are not in the system itself but only in their own incoherent train of thought. (p8 in the Cambridge)
While some read these sorts of cracks as an indication of the author's sense of humor, it seems strange to me to consider Kant funny. The difference between cracks and humor is where one sees inconsistencies or discontinuity. Humor is about establishing patterns and then breaking them (hence the Rule of Three). Thinkers like K and Witt. understand that there are no foundational patterns and therefore consistently undermine their own projects. Kant and Marx (la'havdil elef havdalot) find the humor (and inconsistencies) in the writings of others, but are committed to a rigidly consistent project themselves. That's why they are most certainly not funny.

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