[lit-ideas] Re: The Philosophy of Music

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 7 Jul 2011 17:58:55 +0100 (BST)

This new title thread contains points by JLS of very unequal merit, some quite 
off-track imo.

--- On Wed, 6/7/11, Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx> wrote:

> "even if we consider music as it is played, as perforce
> physically  
> embodied qua sounds, we can consider the content of that
> music in ways that are  
> independent of its embodiment."
> Perhaps 'embodiment' is a metaphor. 

No more a metaphor than saying something is matter, or material or physical. 
When we say a lump of clay is matter we do not mean it metaphorically, i.e. 
that it is merely like matter. We mean it is matter. Of course, we may also say 
that it is not merely matter - it can make a striking sculpture.

>"Body" and "corpus" and
> Greek "soma"  
> are TERRIFICALLY complex words. People should avoid using
> them. "I saw a 
> corpse  in a cemetery" is NOT redundant to a Roman.

Why should they avoid using them because of some complexities? Are these 
complexities avoidable? It is also unclear how these alleged complexities 
affect the simple point that when we say music qua sound is physically embodied 
- i.e. it is something that has physical presence, indeed a presence that it 
measurable in physics - we are not just speaking metaphorically.

> McEvoy continues:
> "The content of a musical theme may stand in a
> [quasi-logical?] relation to 
>  some counterpoint or 'answering' theme, and aspects of
> this relation may 
> be  independent of whether the theme is played loud or
> soft, or independent 
> of which  instrumentation is used."
> In the same vein (figuratively), Dame Joan Sutherland used
> to say that she  
> rehearsed most of the time "mentally".

I put my post in terms of music qua sound in order to show that, even when 
considering music as something physically embodied, we can still distinguish a 
World 3 content within what is embodied: so that a piece of played music qua 
sound is a World 3.1 object, that exists in both World 3 and World 1 and has 
content in both realms. We can measure its World 1 content by using the 
techniques of a physicist but its World 3 content is not reducible to these 
measurements, even if it may be expressed by way of these specific physical 
properties and may be said to be (in some sense) "supervenient" on them.

But we can also refer to 'music' in a way that is not embodied as physical 
sound - such as the music playing in the imagination or that is rehearsed 
"mentally". For Popper these World 2 contents are not reducible to World 1 
anymore than the World 3 content of played sounds is reducible to World 1: in a 
case of music playing in Beethoven's imagination, or rehearsed "mentally" by 
Sutherland, we are referring to music as a World 2.1 object, that has content 
in the realm of World 2 and also perhaps content in World 1, insofar as that 
World 2 content is embodied in World 1 brain states.

In addition to 'music' as "mentally" existent yet non-existent as physical 
sound, there is also 'music' that is physically embodied in a soundless score. 
If we were to discover a lost work by Bach in some manuscript, we would be 
discovering an object that might have no existence any longer in anyone's head, 
or as "sound", but which had been left to us as a soundless World 3 object 
encoded in the form of musical notation. A World 3.1 object.

Though Popper does not pursue this very far, in his Schilpp volume he makes 
clear that as well as these sorts of W3.1 and W2.1 objects [that is objects 
whose respective World 3 and World 2 content is simultaneously embodied in 
World 1] and of W3.2.1 objects where the content is simultaneously in each 
realm, he also would defend the view that there are World 3.3 objects and that 
these indeed can have a causal affect on the mental and physical worlds. He 
describes these W3.3 objects as a kind of shadow-world. 

My comment:- of course, we cannot give an example of a World3.3 object without 
thereby rendering it in World 2 [as an object of conscious thought] or in World 
1 [insofar as that content is embodied physically]. But we could give examples 
of 'creative discoveries' in art and science where we might plausibly see these 
as discoveries of some pre-existing and as yet unthought and unembodied 
World3.3 object. 

Popper's standard examples here include odd and even numbers and prime 
numbers:- 'prime numbers' may be said to have existed as World3.3 objects to be 
discovered once we had invented the sequence of natural numbers (they do not 
exist, for Popper, prior to the invention of such a sequence). That is, once we 
have invented our sequence of natural numbers, then primes do not require 
invention but are there to be discovered within the sequence (what may require 
'invention' is the World 2 'thought' to look for these inbuilt and ineradicable 
and invariant properties of our number system); and insofar as a mathematician 
develops a way of identifying primes and theorising about their properties, we 
may say the mathematician is being affected by the W3.3 object, 'the prime', 
that is there to be discovered prior to be being identified or consciously 
thought as such.

The affect of this W3.3 may be seen as the explanation for why, when knowledge 
has developed to a certain specific level of problem, the solution to a 
specific problem will be the subject of a race between competitors who rightly 
believe that if they do not get the solution soon enough then others apprised 
of the same problem-situation will get there; they may be right to believe this 
because that solution is there to be discovered in W3.3. This may make W3.3 
appear somewhat less shadowy than it might otherwise seem.

> "even though these may greatly alter the physical content
> of the music, the 
>  _abstract_ content or 'meaning' of the music may be
> largely unaltered."
> Once we start talking 'mean' we are in Griceian territory:

Depending on what we mean by meaning, we might be able to avoid that territory, 
with its excessive taxes and heavy-handed border patrols.

JLS raises the important and interesting relation of 'supervenient'. By 
mentioning W3.3 objects, we are indicating objects that are not 
straightforwardly supervenient on World 1 or World 2. For some indication of 
Popper's views on the role of 'supervenience' in explaining the relation of 
mind and body, there is his work in "The Self and Its Brain", and in particular 
his criticisms of so-called 'identity' theories. Popper seems to be of the view 
that the way philosopher's typically use 'supervenience' is either 
unsustainable when used in a strict sense or is used so loosely that it puts 
very little, if any, limit on the character and downward causal affect of what 
is posited as 'supervenient'. 

It is also Popper's view that World 3, though it emerges from World 2, has some 
autonomony from World 2; and that World 3 has downward causal affect on World 2 
(as the prior existence of a 'prime number' has a causal affect in producing 
the human thought that discovers it, by being, as it were, that object in the 
dark that the conscious mind then is able to bring to light). This autonomy and 
downward causation of World 3 greatly limits the sense in which we can say 
World 3 is merely supervenient on World 2 and World 1.   


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