Musing on Music

Chapter
Part of the The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 75)

Abstract

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (ca. 480–524) would have been most puzzled by what Shakespeare’s Lorenzo says. The reasons for his supposed perplexity lie in the background views on music that he appropriates from ancient Greek philosophy. Boethius’ compendium on music, De institutione musica (The Fundamentals of Music), along with similar texts on arithmetic, geometry and astronomy, formed the medieval quadrivium. It is surprising that the scholastic philosophers, who were often deeply concerned with logical consistency and order, were unperturbed by the inconsistencies running rampant throughout De institutione musica. On the one hand, the work’s first part is Pythagorean: music was inseparable from numbers, which governed the universe. Music exemplified the cosmic order. On the other hand, the work’s latter sections contain anti-Pythagorean sentiments; music is not necessarily anything that expresses universal orders. So, it is difficult to say precisely what Boethius thought about music. Further complicating this is the fact that, with respect to music, Boethius was not always a terribly original thinker. He often borrowed from a (now lost) treatise on music by Nicomachus and from the first book of Ptolemy’s Harmonics. Still, in the most original section of the book, the opening chapters, Boethius expresses a view of music that is relevant to the historical development of music and how thinkers addressed problems in the philosophy of music.

Keywords

Representative Function Musical Representation Instrumental Music Formalist View Individual Thing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Bibliography

  1. Beardsley, M. C. (1981). Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism. Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis.Google Scholar
  2. Bicknell, J. (2002). Can music convey semantic content? A Kantian approach. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 3:153–261.Google Scholar
  3. Critchley, M. (1977). Musicological epilepsy. In Critchley, M. and Henson, R. A., editors, Music and the Brain. Heineman Medical Books, London.Google Scholar
  4. Davies, S. (2005). The ontology of musical works and the authenticity of their performances. In Themes in the Philosophy of Music, pages 1–26. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  5. Goodman, N. (1976). Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis, IN, Second Edition.Google Scholar
  6. Greaves, M. (2002). The Philosophical Status of Diagrams. CSLI Publications, Standford.Google Scholar
  7. Grout, D. J. and Palisca, C. V., editors (1963). A History of Western Music. W.W. Norton, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  8. Hanslick, E. (1963). Music Criticism, 1846–99. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.Google Scholar
  9. Hardy, G. H. (1969). A Mathematician’s Apology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  10. Hilbert, D. (1991). On the infinite. In Benacerraf, P. and Putnam, H., editors, Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected Readings. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, second edition.Google Scholar
  11. Hindemith, P. (1961). A Composer’s World. Anchor Books, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  12. Kivy, P. (1990). Music Alone: Philosophical Reflections on Purely Musical Experience. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.Google Scholar
  13. Kivy, P. (1993). The Fine Art of Repetition: Essays in the Philosophy of Music. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  14. Kivy, P. (1997). Philosophies of Art: An Essay in Differences. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  15. Kristeller, P. O. (1992). The modern system of the arts. In Kivy, P., editor, Essays on the History of Aesthetics. University of Rochester Press, Rochester, NY.Google Scholar
  16. Machlis, J. (1970). The Enjoyment of Music. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, NY, 3rd edition.Google Scholar
  17. Menuhin, Y. (1972). Theme and Variations. Stein and Day, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  18. Powell, B. B. (2004). Homer. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.Google Scholar
  19. Putnam, H. (1983). Models and reality. In Realism and Reason: Philosophical Papers, Volume 3, pages 1–26. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  20. Quine, W. V. O. (1969). Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. Columbia University Press, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  21. Robinson, J. (1994). Music as a representational art. In Anderson, P., editor, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Music. Pennsylvania State Press, University Park.Google Scholar
  22. Sacks, O. (1981). Awakenings. Pan Books, London, revised edition.Google Scholar
  23. Schopenhauer, A. (1966). The World as Will and Representation, volume 1. Dover Books, New York, NY. transl. E. F. Payne.Google Scholar
  24. Shapiro, S. (2000). Thinking About Mathematics. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  25. Smith, N. D. (2001). Some thoughts about the origins of Greek ethics. The Journal of Ethics, 5:3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wittgenstein, L. (1961). Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London. transl. David F. Pears and Brian F. McGuinness.Google Scholar
  27. Yewdale, M. S. (1928). The metaphysical foundations of pure music. The Musical Quarterly, 14(3):397–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St Paul UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations