Vol. 10 No. 2 (2017): Italian Aesthetics / Estetica italiana (1861-1945)

Problems with Musical Signification: Following the Rules and Grasping Mental States

Marianela Calleja
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina
Published December 28, 2017
  • Musical signification,
  • Musical Language,
  • Wittgenstein,
  • Ahonen
How to Cite
Calleja, M. (2017). Problems with Musical Signification: Following the Rules and Grasping Mental States. Aisthesis. Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi dell’estetico, 10(2), 151-162. https://doi.org/10.13128/Aisthesis-22416


The reflections on music are crucial in the philosophy of language and the mind of the second Wittgenstein. These reflections go around the comparisons Wittgenstein did between meaning and understanding language, and meaning and understanding music. Musical passages show a language as independent from reality, i.e. objects, events or mental states, centered instead in intonations, conclusions, parenthesis, confirmations, questions and answers, a phenomenon enough studied in musicology.
Two interpretations on the signification of musical meaning are analyzed: Ahonen’s formalist view [2005], based in the following of rules, and Scruton’s expressive view [2004], based on the comparison between the intuitive recognition of a mental state “hidden” behind the facial expressions. As a conclusion we arrive to a mixed argument: Either of the alternatives whether annulling the other, are possibly telling about Wittgenstein’s conception but do not elucidate the problem itself.


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