The Philosophy of Music

The philosophy of music is the study of fundamental questions (metaphysics and aesthetics) regarding music, such as: “What is the definition of music?”, “What is the relationship between music and mind?”, “What is the connection between music and emotions?”, etc.

In the 18th century, the focus of the philosophy of music was on the experience of a person of hearing music, and thus to questions about its beauty and human enjoyment. In the 2000s, philosophers have tended to emphasize issues besides beauty and enjoyment, the central issue has now shifted to the capacity of music to express emotion. It is a common knowledge that music has the ability to affect our emotions, intellect, and psychology; it can ease our loneliness or incite our passions. Plato, in his book The Republic, suggests that music has a direct effect on the soul, therefore, he proposes that in the ideal regime music would be closely regulated by the state.

Stephen Davies, one of the most influential philosophers in the aesthetics of music suggests that music expresses emotion without feeling it; he terms it appearance emotionalism. Objects can convey emotion because their structures can contain certain characteristics that resemble emotional expression. The observer can not emotions from the listener’s posture, gait, gestures, attitude, and comportment. Davies further claims that associations between musical features and emotion differ among individuals, and that expressiveness is an objective property of music and not subjective in the sense of being projected into the music by the listener. Skilled listeners very similarly attribute emotional expressiveness to a certain piece of music, thereby indicating that the expressiveness of music is somewhat objective because if the music lacked expressiveness, then no expression could be projected into it as a reaction to the music.