Volume 10, Issue 1, Fall 2005
Jason M. Wirth
On Laughter’s Truth
This essay is devoted to an examination of the relationship between truth and laughter in the works of Nietzsche. My central text shall be the much maligned
book four of Zarathustra, with special attention paid to the braying of the ass. Laughter has been traditionally considered irrelevent to serious philosophical content and, at best, a stylistic quirk. I argue that this stems from a basic predjudice that is constitutive of a large part of the Western tradition, namely, the confusion of working hard (a sine qua non for philosophy) with taking oneself seriously. I then analyze laughter in Nietzsche’s works as the voice of truth itself. Laughter is the affirmation of a register of truth as the other beginning that has been lost in every thing that begins. Such an analysis involves a discussion of the nature of both truth and laughter. In so doing, I also distinguish Nietzschean laughter from three representative and seminal accounts of laughter provided by Hobbes, Bergson, and Kant.