Peter Kivy, Sacred Music, and Affective Response

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This article explores an issue at the interface between the philosophy of religion and aesthetics: sacred music’s capacity to arouse religious emotions. In investigating this topic, I use as a springboard Peter Kivy’s view that ‘music alone’ can only arouse emotions about itself. This view, I suggest, has a counterintuitive consequence: the music in sacred works would play no part in arousing emotions with religious objects. In contrast, I develop an account of how music combines with religious factors to arouse such emotions. I argue, against Kivy, that music arouses objectless affects. I then argue that these can acquire extra-musical objects; my account centres on the phenomenology of musical and extra-musical emotions. Applying this account to sacred music and religious emotion, I show how musically aroused affects can be imbued with specifically religious content. I conclude with two consequences for how music can facilitate understanding between religious and non-religious outlooks.
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Archival date: 2021-06-09
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