A Humanistic Philosophy of Music

A Humanistic Philosophy of Music

A Humanistic Philosophy of Music

A Humanistic Philosophy of Music

Synopsis

In this revised version of his ground-breaking study, Professor Lippman looks at the vanishing world of humanism with compassion and concision. When it was originally published, it was the first book on musical aesthetics to examine music from the standpoint of society and culture. The traditional problems of the field were viewed in a new perspective that brought their solution clearly into view. Since that time, the field has exploded with investigations of many aspects of the subject, with varying degrees of distinction. Professor Lippman's revision is distinguished by the clarity of his language and the relevance of his analyses. In this study, the author's expertise in social science gives him an appropriately broad frame of reference for his illuminating discussions of the material, form, meaning, style, permanence, composites, context and conception of music.

Excerpt

Keats' thought that a thing of beauty is a joy forever expresses a platonic wish for something final and abstract, removed from the causal orders of the mutable world, in contemplation of which an unthreatened peace and pleasure may be found. Music, like mathematics, has always impressed the platonic imagination in just, these terms, as consisting in a set of ideal, timeless structures, perfect and pure, visitors in this world but from another finer space we may glimpse into through them, and momentarily escape our chains. Contemporary philosophy of art may in part be defined in contrast with this exalted attitude, for it considers the work of art ontologically inseparable from the institutional and historical circumstances the platonist would reject as irrelevant to its formal integrity, to be appreciated timelessly. History, for the contemporary aesthetician, is not something extrinsic, of merely academic concern, but rather penetrates the essence of the work which almost has no identifiable structure in separation from the contexts of its provenance and meaning.

This modernist perception, which must of course be independently argued, receives immense support from Edward Lippman's work on music. Indeed, I cannot think of a work in which philosophical informalism has been so systematically expression as in this deep study of music from a historical and cultural point of view. Lippman's book reminds me of nothing so much as Dewey's book on logic, for logic, too, is a candidate for platonic exaltation, and Dewey insisted on seeing it instead as rooted in human inquiry, of which it is the theory. Lippman has comparably sought to establish the continuities between music and conduct, as something with a natural history and a human meaning. It is a densely argued, densely illustrated study, ascending through a number of interconnected strata of musical reality, and it is a provocative and convincing piece of, of the greatest philosophical interest and significance.

Arthur C. Danto Department of Philosophy Columbia University . . .

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