Music and ethics: Pythagoras, Schopenhauer, and Iris Murdoch

Osmond, Justin (2011) Music and ethics: Pythagoras, Schopenhauer, and Iris Murdoch. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis develops a historical and conceptual framework for a future consideration of the question of the ethical effect of music, in relation to metaphysical accounts of music in the thought of Pythagoras and Schopenhauer, and through careful examination of Iris Murdoch's ethics of attention. First, I describe the Pythagorean rationalist ontology and discuss its influence on Greek musical practise and ethical life. Music is here explained as a sensuous, practical encounter with abstract laws governing the whole cosmos. Second, I lay out the voluntarist ontology of Arthur Schopenhauer and discuss how he privileges music, over the other arts, as a direct manifestation of the inner nature of the world. The link between Pythagoras and Schopenhauer is that they both conceive of music as a mimetic art form which represents deep ontological structure. They both consider music to provide a vision of the ontological structure of the world. Since this envisioning is what Iris Murdoch calls attention, I am able to move from Pythagoras and Schopenhauer to situate music within Murdoch's claim we are initiated into the good life when art, i.e., any envisioning process, interrupts self-attention thus promotes attention toward others. Finally, using Lewis Rowell's more recent theory of ontology and mimetic music, I clarify how to approach music from a Murdochian standpoint, i.e., how to consider music as a mode of attention. I claim that music orients us towards others in a way which corresponds to the ontological vision represented in the music, and that the ethical effect of music must be further studied by outlining how music shapes our understanding of the structure of the world.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 9541
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 77-79.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 2011
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Pythagoras; Schopenhauer, Arthur, 1788-1860. Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. English; Murdoch, Iris; Music--Moral and ethical aspects; Metaphysics; Ontology

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