Is Musical Emotion An Illusion?

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Abstract
The power of music to arouse garden-variety emotions has attracted attention from musicians, psychologists, and philosophers over decades. Despite its widespread acknowledgement, there is no agreement on how pure music with no propositional content can induce such a wide range of emotions. Jenefer Robinson coined this 1 problemthepuzzleofmusicalemotion. Inthisessay,Iwillfirstdiscusswhymusical emotion is a puzzle. Then, Jesse Prinz’s perceptual theory of emotion and his solution 2 to the puzzle will be discussed. Prinz regards an emotion as an embodied appraisal, and a musical emotion as an illusory embodied appraisal which is a by-product of the adaptive emotion system. I argue that it is problematic to regard musical emotions as illusions for two reasons: 1) the bodily responses aroused by music are not specific enough to produce an illusion of a real emotion; 2) musical emotion is adaptive by itself in the sense that it is a mirroring-based simulation of the emotion represented by music, and such mirroring system plays an important role in interpersonal emotion communications.
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Archival date: 2019-07-31
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