A Platonist Theory of Musical Works

Lydia Goehr

in The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works

Published in print October 1994 | ISBN: 9780198235415
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597503 | DOI:
A Platonist Theory of Musical Works

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The limitations of the analytic approach are further explored through a consideration of Jerrold Levinson's modified Platonist view of musical works and performances. Levinson's account of musical works as initiated types seems to be more sensitive to our pre‐ontological and aesthetic understanding of works. The debate between Goodman and Levinson largely turns on which pre‐ontological and/or aesthetic conditions they are willing either to accommodate or dispense with in their theories. Several disputes are considered: Do notationally identical pieces that are produced nonetheless by different composers count as ‘the same’ work? Are works created or discovered? Is the specification of instrumentation essential to the identity of a work? The cases are used to demonstrate that no satisfactory decision between pre‐ontological and ontological claims can be reached within the theoretical limits provided by current strategies of analysis.

Keywords: external compliance; internal compliance; Jerrold Levinson; ontology; platonism

Chapter.  10503 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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