The Musicality of Speech

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It is common for people to be sensitive to aesthetic qualities in one another’s speech. We allow the loveliness or unloveliness of a person’s voice to make impressions on us. What is more, it is also common to allow those aesthetic impressions to affect how we are inclined to feel about the speaker. We form attitudes of liking, trusting, disliking or distrusting partly in virtue of the aesthetic qualities of a person’s speech. In this paper I ask whether such attitudes could ever be legitimate. This is a microcosm of the broader issue of whether people’s aesthetic qualities in general can justify the interpersonal valuing-attitudes that they so often cause. I draw from recent discussions of body aesthetics to articulate a pair of challenges. One challenge says that aesthetic judgements of speech are reliant on unjustifiable prejudices. The other holds that a person’s aesthetic qualities are irrelevant to whether they should be liked. Against these challenges I argue that some speech can bear aesthetic qualities which are not reliant on prejudice and which are relevant to whether the speaker should be liked. I develop this argument through an analysis of the concept of lyricism.



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James H. P. Lewis
University of Birmingham

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References found in this work

Principia Ethica.George Edward Moore - 1903 - Dover Publications.
Utilitarianism.John Stuart Mill - 1863 - Cleveland: Cambridge University Press.
Critique of the Power of Judgment.Immanuel Kant - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
Love as a Moral Emotion.J. David Velleman - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):338-374.
The Authority of Pleasure.Keren Gorodeisky - 2021 - Noûs 55 (1):199-220.

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