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The Cambridge Companion to Lacan. Philosophy of the Performing Arts.

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David Davies. The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. Berys Gaut. The Arts and the Definition of the Human. Joseph Margolis. Ed White.


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Music, art, and metaphysics : essays in philosophical aesthetics

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One difficulty with appealing to a solution to the paradox of fiction is that it is not clear that our emotional responses to the expressiveness of music are the same as those to emotionally expressive characters. For instance, the standard example of an emotional response to music is being made sad by a funeral march, while the standard example of emotional response to fiction is something like to feel pity for a sad character. If the former is to be explained in the same way as the latter, we would expect listeners to feel pity in response to the funeral march pity for the persona imagined to be expressing herself through it.

See also imagination, section 5. While this sort of reasoning may play a role, it cannot be a complete solution, since for most pieces that elicit negative responses there are many others that elicit fewer or less intense negative responses for the same positive payoff. More sophisticated versions of the same suggestion argue for a more intimate link between the negative emotional response and the payoff. One such is that we cannot understand the work we are engaging with without understanding its expressiveness, which brings the negative response with it Goodman —51; S.

Davies —20; Goldman 68; Robinson — Closely related is the benefit of an aesthetic or artistic appreciation of the expressiveness responsible for the negative response.

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A question that must be answered by any defender of this kind of response is the extent to which it explains, first, our persistence in seeking out music that elicits negative emotional experiences and, second, the enjoyment we seem to take in these negative responses, as opposed to putting up with them for their related benefits.

A different kind of solution to the problem argues that responses such as sadness that are evoked by expressive music are not really negative. Hume argues, with respect to tragedy, that the pleasure we take in the mode of presentation of the content of an artwork does not simply counterbalance the negative emotion evoked, but rather subsumes and transforms it into a pleasurable feeling. Kendall Walton argues also with respect to tragedy that sadness is not in itself negative. Rather, it is the situation to which sadness is the response that is negative.

Similarly, we cannot affect the sadness of a musical work by not listening to it, and so we welcome our sorrowful response to it as appropriate. A difficulty for both, however, is the extent to which they accord with our emotional experience in rejecting the characterization of our sadness as negative. Stephen Davies —20 argues that the kinds of solutions given above construe the problem too narrowly. Though he agrees that we accept the negative responses some music elicits because we are interested in understanding it, he points out that this gives rise to the further question of why we should be so interested in understanding something that brings us pain.

However, he points out that human life is suffused with activities that people willingly engage in despite, or indeed partially because of, the difficulties they bring about. Many things, from watching the news, through mountain-climbing, to raising children, are fraught with well-known difficulties, including negative emotional responses. Yet we enthusiastically engage in such activities because that is the kind of creature we are. Regarding the first point, our emotional responses to music lack many of the behaviors characteristic of the supposedly felt emotion. Some take our responses instead to be weaker versions of ordinary emotions Davies — , others take them to share some aspects of ordinary emotions, such as their characteristic affective states, but to lack others, such as a specific intentional object Levinson —22; Radford Apart from debate over which of these proposals most closely matches our experience, there is the question of how well each of them fits with the various solutions discussed above to the problem of our negative responses to music, and with empirical work on the emotions, which leads me to the second point: There is growing interest in both the variety of emotions and affective states more broadly, and non-cognitive aspects of, or alternatives to, cognitive theories of the emotions e.

Davies a,b; Young A central topic in the understanding of paradigmatically representational art forms, such as literature and film, is what constitutes an acceptable interpretation of a work.