'Pure Showing' and Anti-Humanist Musical Profundity

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In this paper I argue that Peter Kivy’s contention that music is incapable of profundity is correct only in a limited sense. So long as we associate profundity with depth of subject matter, even the revisions proposed by Stephen Davies and Julian Dodd are incapable of delivering an account of musical profundity which has the correct scope. Theories of profundity based on criteria of exemplification and non-denotational expression of content remain vulnerable to Kivy’s well-chosen counter-examples of non-profound artworks which meet these criteria. However, the established debate presumes that profundity is only possible through a depth of subject matter; I argue that there is an alternative form of profundity which music does exhibit, relating to its formal complexity. This profundity (which does not achieve its depth through resonance with human themes or achievement) I term ‘anti-humanist’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-210
Number of pages15
JournalBritish journal of aesthetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

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