Nietzsche, Zarathustra and the status of laughter

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Laughter is not one of the phenomena most commonly associated with Friedrich Nietzsche. Indeed, numerous people to whom I have mentioned my interest in Nietzsche on laughter seem to have assumed that connecting the two was my own, rather warped, idea of a joke. The momentous-sounding ideas for which Nietzsche is best known—the Ubermensch, the will to power, the urgency of the need for self-overcoming—might at first glance appear to lend support to such a reaction. Moreover, in philosophical work on laughter and humour, Nietzsche is almost invariably ignored. So my purpose in this paper is to suggest that ignoring Nietzsche's contribution to the philosophy of laughter and humour is an important oversight, since he awards laughter a status higher than that granted by any other philosopher. For Nietzsche, laughter is far from being a trivial, frivolous phenomenon. Rather, it plays an important role in his entire world-view. According to Walter Kaufmann, 'for Nietzsche laughter represents an attitude toward the world, toward life and toward oneself.' [opening paragraph]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-49
JournalBritish Journal of Aesthetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1992


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