Another go at musical profundity: Stephen Davies and the game of chess

British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (4):401-411 (2003)


I have argued previously that the art of absolute music, unlike, for example, the art of literature, is not capable of profundity, which I characterized as treating a profound subject matter, at the highest artistic level, in a manner appropriate to its profundity. Stephen Davies has recently argued that there is another way of being profound, which he calls non-propositional profundity, and for which chess provides his principal example. He argues, further, that absolute music also exhibits this non-propositional profundity. I argue in the present paper that Davies's attempt to rescue profundity for absolute music will not work, because it does not allow what I take to be the crucial distinction between great works of absolute music that are profound and great works of absolute music that are not. In other words, it has the unwelcome implication that all great works of absolute music are profound works.

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Citations of this work

The Philosophy of Music.Andrew Kania - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Musical Profundity: Wittgenstein's Paradigm Shift.Eran Guter - 2019 - Apeiron. Estudios de Filosofia 10:41-58.
Looking for Profundity (in All the Wrong Places).Bence Nanay - 2021 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 79:344-353.
Introduction: The Peter Kivy Prize Symposium.Aaron Meskin - forthcoming - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

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