Philosophy’s concern with laughter is as old as philosophy itself. Already in Plato’s dialogues, the example of a Thracian girl giggling at the pre-Socratic philosopher Thales after he tumbles into a well while contemplating the sky is portrayed as a portentous instance of the kind of ridicule that the "multitude in general" – the masses, or what Nietzsche would derisively call "the herd" – would direct at those who "pass their lives in philosophy", and who seem incurably awkward as a result. And yet derisive laughter is also what Plato directs at the demos – the masses – who, in their ignorance and impotence, believe themselves capable of self-governance.

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