I croaked: “I feel just like a dog that has been run over.” He was disgusted: “You don’t know what a dog that has been run over feels like.”That's quoted in Harry G. Frankfurt's book "On Bullshit." Frankfurt aptly wonders if that really happened like that:
It seems extraordinary, almost unbelievable, that anyone could object seriously to what Pascal reports herself as having said. That characterization of her feelings — so innocently close to the utterly commonplace “sick as a dog” — is simply not provocative enough to arouse any response as lively or intense as disgust. If Pascal’s simile is offensive, then what figurative or allusive uses of language would not be?Pascal needs to be more appreciative of having a friend like Wittgenstein. I'd say. But Frankfurt credits her with having this friendship and therefore with an aptitude for discerning whether Wittgenstein is cranky or nice. He decides to take her report as "sufficiently true to her idea of Wittgenstein to have made sense to her" and to "accept Pascal’s report at face value, supposing that when it came to the use of allusive or figurative language, Wittgenstein was indeed as preposterous as she makes him out to be." That is, Pascal — who might lack a sense of humor — now gets credit for having portrayed Wittgenstein as ridiculous, as if she'd made a joke rather than not getting the joke.
So perhaps it did not really happen quite as Pascal says. Perhaps Wittgenstein was trying to make a small joke, and it misfired. He was only pretending to bawl Pascal out, just for the fun of a little hyperbole; and she got the tone and the intention wrong. She thought he was disgusted by her remark, when in fact he was only trying to cheer her up with some playfully exaggerated mock criticism or joshing. In that case the incident is not incredible or bizarre after all.
But Frankfurt's agenda is talking about bullshit, not analyzing the quality of a joke. She was bullshitting about how she felt by carelessly likening it to something overly specific — how a run-over dog feels. So Wittgenstein was essentially saying: That's bullshit. The key point — for "On Bullshit" purposes — is that Pascal doesn't care about the truth with respect to how the dog feels. So then Wittgenstein could be disgusted because of the way she didn't care about how the dog felt.
But it's not as though there were any real dog that had been run over. Pascal wasn't being callous toward an actual suffering being. The suffering being was Pascal, and the callousness, if any, was Wittgenstein's. On this theory, which hurt Pascal's feelings, he was saying, essentially, let's not talk about your mundane little tonsil surgery and its predictable after-effects. Let's talk about something philosophical, and the first thing that springs to mind is that dog you just mentioned. And he introduces the new topic. Ironically, the distraction into the random issue of animal feelings was much more likely to alleviate Pascal's pain that going on about the details of the surgery.
In Frankfurt's view — the context of bullshit — Wittgenstein is disgusted by bullshit, the laxity about what is true. I sidetracked the discussion into the question of concern about suffering. But the original topic — and the theme of the day here on the blog — is joking.
Joking has a lax connection to truth and to suffering.