Music and Reality

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In the study of musical signification, the semiotic theories of the American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce have been a touchstone. This chapter outlines the role of the Peircean categories in understanding musical signification, arguing that Peircean thought should lead us to place special emphasis upon a mind-independent reality. The difficulties encountered in tracing musical meaning to real things and events is then addressed through a consideration of Raymond Monelle’s Peircean analysis of musical topics (the pianto and the sarabande). It is argued that a full understanding of musical signification will recognise a causal underpinning for musical events and behaviours but will, nevertheless, also grant a vital disconnect between the space of musical meanings and the causal nexus that is the ultimate reality of the world. In developing this picture this chapter draws heavily on the thought of the highly influential American neo-pragmatist philosopher Wilfrid Sellars.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Companion to Musical Signification
EditorsEsti Sheinberg, William Dougherty
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018


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