Research Article

Frontiers of Philosophy in China

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 284-297

First online:

The ontology of musical works: A philosophical pseudo-problem

  • James O. YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Victoria Email author 


A bewildering array of accounts of the ontology of musical works is available. Philosophers have held that works of music are sets of performances, abstract, eternal sound-event types, initiated types, compositional action types, compositional action tokens, ideas in a composer’s mind and continuants that perdure. This paper maintains that questions in the ontology of music are, in Rudolf Carnap’s sense of the term, pseudo-problems. That is, there is no alethic basis for choosing between rival musical ontologies. While we have no alethic basis for choosing any ontology of music, pragmatic reasons can be given for favoring certain ontologies of musical works over others.


ontology pseudo-problem ontological relativity phplosophy of music