Frontiers of Philosophy in China

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 284–297

The ontology of musical works: A philosophical pseudo-problem

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11466-011-0139-1

Cite this article as:
Young, J.O. Front. Philos. China (2011) 6: 284. doi:10.1007/s11466-011-0139-1


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.


ontologypseudo-problemontological relativityphplosophy of music

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada