Laughter, Social Norms, and Ethics in Cicero's Works

Abstract : Among Latin authors, Cicero is our most important source on the top-ic of laughter. Cicero views laughter as a defining feature of human sociability, and tackles it with four different uses and contexts in mind: the enhancing of human relationships, the enforcing of the norms shared by the community, the strengthening of one’s public figure, and the maintaining of the ethical agent’s individual coherence. By offering a synthesis of these various views, which Cicero ex-pounds both in a rhetorical (De oratore, 55 BCE) and a philosophical (De officiis, 46 BCE) context, this paper shows that these approaches stem from a unified understanding of laughter, and that there is no real difference between Cicero’s rhetorical and ethical approach to the topic. The proper and improper uses of laughter, in Cicero’s views, il-lustrate perfectly what’s at stake in the relationship between the moral agent and the community he belongs to.
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Book sections
Complete list of metadatas
Contributor : Charles Guérin <>
Submitted on : Saturday, November 9, 2019 - 2:08:54 PM
Last modification on : Monday, November 11, 2019 - 1:24:42 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-02357084, version 1


Charles Guérin. Laughter, Social Norms, and Ethics in Cicero's Works. Destrée, Pierre; Trivigno, Franco. Laughter, Humor, and Comedy in Ancient Philosophy, ⟨Oxford University Press⟩, pp.122-144, 2019. ⟨hal-02357084⟩



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