Interpreting music: Beyond Platonism

Central to the philosophical understanding of music is the status of musical works. According to the Platonist, musical works are abstract objects; that is, they are not located in space or time, and we have no causal access to them. Moreover, only a particular physical occurrence of these musical works is instantiated when a performance ofthe latter takes place. But even if no performance ever took place, the Platonist insists, the musical work would still exist, since its existence is not tied to spatiotemporal constraints (Kivy [1993], and Dodd [2007]). In this paper, I offer a critical assessment of the Platonist view. I argue that, despite some benefits, Platonism faces significant difficulties in the interpretation of music. In spite ofthe Platonist’s attempt to overcome the problem, the view ultimately doesn’t mesh well with the way we actively respond to performances and fail to respond, in any way similar, to abstract patterns. Platonism also makes knowledge of music something extremely mysterious, given that we have no access to the abstract objects that, according to the Platonist, characterize the musical works. The ability to understand how we respond to musical works is, of course, central to any interpretation of music. This ability is also crucial in explaining the role music plays in various aspects of our culture, Rom bounding with others to music therapy. Given the problems faced by Platonism, it makes more sense to adopt an altemative, non-Platonist view. I conclude the paper by sketching such a non-Platonist proposal
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