NDPR review of Peter Kivy’s Antithetical Arts

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Antithetical Arts: On the Ancient Quarrel Between Literature and Music

NDPR has published a review, written by Peter Rinderle (University of Tübingen), of Peter Kivy’s new book of essays on the philosophy of music, entitled Antithetical Arts: On the Ancient Quarrel between Literature and Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009). To read the whole review, click here. Here is an excerpt:

At the end of the day, the major issue that is really at stake between the formalist [like Kivy] and the narrativist [like Jerrold Levinson] seems to be a fundamentally different approach towards our human existence. Kivy sides with Schopenhauer at least on this issue: our everyday lives are either painful or boring, and only music, by providing us with ecstatic, mystical experiences, is able to make us forget, at least for a short while, the dull, miserable and lonely existence here on earth. The narrativist takes a much more pedestrian approach: music enables us to put some distance between us and our everyday emotions, not to escape them and leave them behind. It allows us to try out, in imagination, a variety of affective states and to make acquaintance with many new and potentially interesting imaginary people. From this perspective, listening to music can even be understood and appreciated as a kind of socializing. Both of these attitudes surely are respectable, but the aim of the former approach — the wish to finally transcend ourselves — just simply depends on a much more controversial conception of human life than the aim of the latter — the ambition to clarify, extend and educate ourselves.

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