Values in the Air: Musical Contagion, Social Appraisal and Metaphor Experience

Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics 15:328-343 (2023)
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Music can infect us. In the dominant approach, music contaminates listeners through emotional mimicry and independently of value appraisal, just like when we catch other people’s feelings. Musical contagion is thus considered fatal to the mainstream view of emotions as cognitive evaluations. This paper criticizes this line of argument and proposes a new cognitivist account: the value metaphor view. Non-cognitivism relies on a contentious model of emotion transmission. In the competing model (social appraisal), we catch people’s emotions by appraising value through their emotional expressions. Social appraisal debunks the main motivation for non-cognitivism and offers fruitful insights into musical contagion. Combining it with metaphor theory, I claim that musical contagion involves experiencing the music as a metaphor for emotions and values. Just like people infect us as we appraise value through their emotional expressions, music contaminates listeners because they hear it metaphorically-as some emotional expression and hereby appraise it metaphorically-as some value. As infectious music “sounds like” emotions and values, cognitivism is safe.



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Federico Lauria
University of Lisbon

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References found in this work

The emotions: a philosophical introduction.Julien A. Deonna & Fabrice Teroni - 2012 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Fabrice Teroni.
Metaphor.Max Black - 1955 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 55:273-294.
Moved by Music Alone.Tom Cochrane - 2021 - British Journal of Aesthetics 61 (4):455-470.

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