Vague Music

Philosophy 86 (2):231-248 (2011)
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Is listening to music like looking through a kaleidoscope? Formalists contend that music is meaningless. Most music theorists concede that this austere thesis is surprisingly close to the truth. Nevertheless, they refute formalism with a little band of diffusely referential phenomena, such as musical quotation, onomatopoeia, exemplification, and leitmotifs. These curiosities ought to be pressed into a new campaign against assumptions that vagueness can only arise in the semantically lush setting of language. Just as the discovery of extremophilic bacteria led biologists to revise their opinions about the scope and preconditions of life, the marginal forms of reference that survive in the semantic desert of absolute music should lead philosophers to revise their assumptions much about scope and preconditions of vagueness.



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Roy Sorensen
University of Texas at Austin

Citations of this work

Vagueness.Roy Sorensen - 2012 - In Peter Adamson (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts.Kendall L. Walton - 1990 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 (2):161-166.
The Aesthetics of Music.Roger Scruton - 1997 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
A Generative Theory of Tonal Music.Fred Lerdahl & Ray Jackendoff - 1987 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 46 (1):94-98.
Vagueness.Bertrand Russell - 1923 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):84 – 92.

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