Musical works change. Bruckner revised his Eighth Symphony. Ella Fitzgerald and many other artists have made it acceptable to sing the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” without its original verse. If we accept that musical works genuinely change in these ways, a puzzle arises: why can’t I change Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony? More generally, why are some individuals in a privileged position when it comes to changing musical works and other artifacts, such as novels, films, and games? I give (...) a view of musical works that helps to answer these questions. Musical works, on this view, are created abstract objects with no parts. The paradigmatic changes that musical works undergo are socially determined normative changes in how they should be performed. Due to contingent social practices, Bruckner, but not I, can change how his symphony should be performed. Were social practices radically different, I would be able to change his symphony. This view extends to abstract artifacts beyond music, including novels, films, words, games, and corporations. (shrink)
Many philosophers think all abstract objects are causally inert. Here, focusing on novels, I argue that some abstracta are causally efficacious. First, I defend a straightforward argument for this view. Second, I outline an account of object causation—an account of how objects cause effects. This account further supports the view that some abstracta are causally efficacious.
We apply a familiar distinction from philosophy of language to a class of material artifacts that are sometimes said to “speak”: statues. By distinguishing how statues speak at the locutionary level versus at the illocutionary level, or what they say versus what they do, we obtain the resource for addressing two topics. First, we can explain what makes statues distinct from street art. Second, we can explain why it is mistaken to criticize—or to defend—the continuing presence of statues based only (...) on what they represent. Both explanations are driven by the same core idea: the significance of statues arises primarily from what they do, and not what they say. (shrink)
Abstract creationism about fictional characters is the view that fictional characters are abstract objects that authors create. I defend this view against criticisms from Stuart Brock that hitherto have not been adequately countered. The discussion sheds light on how the number of fictional characters depends on authorial intention. I conclude also that we should change how we think intentions are connected to artifacts more generally, both abstract and concrete.
I explain a tension between musical creationism (the view that musical works are abstract artifacts) and the view that there is no vague existence. I then suggest ways to reconcile these views. My central conclusion is that, although some versions of musical creationism imply vague existence, others do not. I discuss versions of musical creationism held by Jerrold Levinson, Simon Evnine, and Kit Fine. I also present two new versions. I close by considering whether the tension is merely an instance (...) of a general problem raised by artifacts, both abstract and concrete. I argue that on at least one defensible account of music the tension is especially problematic for abstracta. I focus on musical works, but much of the paper straightforwardly applies to other kinds of abstract artifacts. (shrink)
This paper is on the metaphysics and normativity of Jewish identity. It starts with a metaphysical question: “Can a Jewish person become non-Jewish?” This question and the related question “What is Jewishness?” are both ambiguous, because the word “Jewish” is ambiguous. The paper outlines five concepts of Jewishness: halachic, religious, ethnic, and cultural Jewishness, as well as being Jewish in the sense of belonging to the Jewish community. In some of these senses of “Jewish” a Jewish person is always Jewish. (...) In other senses a Jewish person can become non-Jewish. The paper closes with a normative question: Should a person who is Jewish, in the sense of belonging to the Jewish community, become non-Jewish? The paper explains reasons for and against staying in the Jewish community and in doing so highlights a tension, rather than telling anyone how they should identify. (shrink)
Beach's Gaelic Symphony is plausibly an abstract object that Beach created. The view that people create some abstract objects is called abstract creationism. There are abstract creationists about many kinds of objects, including musical works, fictional characters, arguments, words, internet memes, installation artworks, bitcoins, and restaurants. Alternative theories include materialism and Platonism. This paper discusses some of the most serious objections against abstract creationism. Arguably, these objections have ramifications for questions in metaphysics pertaining to the abstract/concrete distinction, time, causation, vague (...) existence, vague identity, and inadvertent creation. (shrink)
The question of how people change artworks is important for the metaphysics of art. It’s relatively easy for anyone to change a painting or sculpture, but who may change a literary or musical work is restricted and varies with context. Authors of novels and composers of symphonies often have a special power to change their artworks. Mary Shelley revised Frankenstein, and Tchaikovsky revised his Second Symphony. I cannot change these artworks. In other cases, such as those involving jazz standards and (...) folk songs, performers and ordinary folks have more power to change artworks. My preferred explanation of these facts is the created-abstract-simples view, according to which literary and musical works, unlike paintings and sculptures, are created abstract objects that have no parts. On this view, the way to change a literary or musical work is for an individual, empowered by social practices, to change rules about how a literary work should be published or a musical work should be performed. A. R. J. Fisher and Caterina Moruzzi object that the created-abstract-simples view doesn’t allow for literary and musical works to genuinely change, and Nemesio Garcia-Carríl Puy objects that the view doesn’t allow for these artworks to be repeatable. This paper clarifies the created-abstract-simples view and defends the view against these objections. -/- . (shrink)
In ‘Against fictional realism’ Anthony Everett argues that fictional realism leads to indeterminate identity. He concludes that we should reject fictional realism. Everett’s paper and much of the ensuing literature does not discuss what exactly fictional characters are. This is a mistake. I argue that some versions of abstract creationism about fictional characters lead to indeterminate identity, and that some versions of Platonism about fictional characters lead only to indeterminate reference. In doing so I show that Everett’s argument poses a (...) more pressing problem for abstract creationism than for Platonism. The general lesson is that fictional realists should think more about the ontology of fictional characters in order to discern whether they are committed to indeterminate identity. (shrink)
Nathan Salmon appeals to his theory of mythical objects as part of an attempt to solve Geach’s Hob–Nob puzzle. In this paper I argue that, even if Salmon’s theory of mythical objects is correct, his attempt to solve the puzzle is unsuccessful. I also refute an original variant of his proposal. The discussion indicates that it is difficult (if not impossible) to devise a genuine solution to the puzzle that relies on mythical objects.
Medicalization is the process by which conditions, for example, intellectual disability, hyperactivity in children, and posttraumatic stress disorder, become understood as medical disorders. During this process, the medical community often collectively assigns a label to a condition and consequently to those who would be said to have the disorder. We argue that there are at least two previously overlooked ways in which this linguistic practice may be wrongful, and sometimes, unjust: first, when the initial introduction of a medical label is (...) done without the participation of those individuals who are being labelled, and second, when attempts by those individuals to renegotiate the labels are thwarted or otherwise rendered ineffective. In both cases, we argue, individuals are unfairly excluded from a linguistic practice that would be valuable for them to participate in. Furthermore, we argue that their exclusion depends in part on the authority of the medical institution to ignore their demands for participation. In making this case, we will propose the more general claim that participating in the linguistic processes of determining and renegotiating the words that will be used to describe oneself is an exercise of linguistic agency, a capacity that has both instrumental and intrinsic value. (shrink)