Historical Individuals Like Anas platyrhynchos and 'Classical Gas'

In Christy Mag Uidhir (ed.), Art and Abstract Objects. Oxford University Press. pp. 108 (2013)
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In this paper, I explore and defend the idea that musical works are historical individuals. Guy Rohrbaugh (2003) proposes this for works of art in general. Julian Dodd (2007) objects that the whole idea is outré metaphysics, that it is too far beyond the pale to be taken seriously. Their disagreement could be seen as a skirmish in the broader war between revisionists and reactionaries, a conflict about which of metaphysics and art should trump the other when there is a conflict. That dispute is a matter of philosophical methodology as much as it is a dispute about art. I argue that the ontology of works as individuals need not be dunked in that morass. My primary strategy is to show, contra Dodd's accusation, that historical individuals are familiar parts of the world. Although the ontological details are open to debate, it is the standard opinion of biologists is that biological species are historical individuals. So there is no conflict here between fidelity to art and respectable metaphysics. What suits species will fit musical work as well.

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P. D. Magnus
State University of New York, Albany


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