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Platonism vs. Nominalism in Contemporary Musical Ontology
Art and Abstract Objects
  • Andrew Kania, Trinity University
Document Type
Contribution to Book
Publication Date
Ontological theories of musical works fall into two broad classes, according to whether or not they take musical works to be abstract objects of some sort. I shall use the terms 'Platonism' and 'nominalism' to refer to these two kinds of theory. In this chapter I first outline contemporary Platonism about musical works—the theory that musical works are abstract objects. I then consider reasons to be suspicious of such a view, motivating a consideration of nominalist theories of musical works. I argue for two conclusions: first, that there are no compelling reasons to be a nominalist about musical works in particular, i.e. that nominalism about musical works rests on arguments for thoroughgoing nominalism; and, second, that if Platonism fails, fictionalism about musical works is to be preferred to other nominalist ontologies of musical works. If you think in terms of realism vs. anti-realism about musical works, then one way of putting this is to say that realism about musical works stands or falls with Platonism about musical works. That's because, for methodological reasons I discuss below, a theory according to which musical works are concrete objects of some sort is not a realist theory of musical works, properly understood. This chapter is thus a contribution to the debate over the fundamental ontology of works of Western classical music, broadly construed, though its conclusions could be applied to other musical (or artistic or cultural) practices that are sufficiently similar, if such there be.
Christy Mag Uidhir
Oxford University Press
Citation Information
Kania, A. (2013). Platonism vs. nominalism in contemporary musical ontology. In C. M. Uidhir (Ed.), Art and Abstract Objects (pp. 197-212). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.