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Philosophical Studies

, Volume 155, Issue 1, pp 45–64 | Cite as

Methodology in aesthetics: the case of musical expressivity

  • Erkki Huovinen
  • Tobias Pontara
Article

Abstract

A central method within analytic philosophy has been to construct thought experiments in order to subject philosophical theories to intuitive evaluation. According to a widely held view, philosophical intuitions provide an evidential basis for arguments against such theories, thus rendering the discussion rational. This method has been the predominant way to approach theories formulated as conditional or biconditional statements. In this paper, we examine selected theories of musical expressivity presented in such logical forms, analyzing the possibilities for constructing thought experiments against them. We will argue that philosophical intuitions are not available for the evaluation of the types of counterarguments that would need to be constructed. Instead, the evaluation of these theories, to the extent that it can succeed at all, will centrally rely on inferential, non-immediate access to our subjective musical experiences. Furthermore, attempted thought experiments lose their methodological function because no proper distinction can be drawn between the persons figuring in the thought-experimental scenario and the evaluator of the scenario. Consequently, some of the central contributions to what is generally understood to be analytic philosophy of art are shown to represent a form of aesthetic criticism, offering much less basis for rational argumentation than is often thought.

Keywords

Intuition Evidence Thought experiments Aesthetics Philosophy of music Expressivity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Jussi Haukioja, Elina Packalén, Giuliano Pontara, and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Minnesota/School of MusicMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of MusicologyÅbo Akademi UniversityTurkuFinland

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