Thomas Hobbes seemed to believe that “mainspring of all laughter” was the “sudden glory at the sight of an inferior.”*
On one hand that seems to be a pretty solid definition for much of today’s laughter. On the other hand, if Hobbes is correct, this is an obscene observation about the nature of humanity.
I believe…I want to believe, he is not.
* Enid Welsford, The Fool – his social and literary history.
The direct quote from Hobbes’ Leviathan is this, “I may therefore conclude, that the passion of laughter is nothing else but a sudden glory arising from sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmities of others, or with our own formerly: for men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with them any present dishonour.”