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The Morality of Musical Imitation in Jean-Jacques Rousseau
King's College London.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1070-0193
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis analyses the relation between Rousseau’s musical writings and elements of his moral, social and linguistic philosophy. In particular, I am concerned to demonstrate: (i.) how the core of Rousseau’s theory of musical imitation is grounded in the same analysis of the nature of man which governs his moral and social philosophy; (ii.) how this grounding does not extend to the stylistic prescriptions the justification of which Rousseau intended his musical writings to offer. The central argument draws on Rousseau’s analysis of the origin of man as distinctively human. This origin extends to the awareness of moral and aesthetic value, and to communication in speech and song. Rousseau’s moral analyses of social and political life usually take the form of relating contemporary practice to the original structure in which man’s awareness of his own good is commensurate with that of the good of others. The analysis of music follows a similar model: music is to be considered good in so far as it replicates, or faithfully reflects, the original model of communication. The value of music is thereby understood to extend to moral as well as aesthetic goodness. Given the subtlety of Rousseau’s understanding of the ‘origin’, I argue that this analysis of music’s aesthetic value is powerful and far‐ reaching in its relevance for contemporary musical aesthetics. However, I also argue that while the analysis in general is good in this way, it does not entail the specific kind of musical‐stylistic preferences which Rousseau sought to use it to advance. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2006. , 258 p.
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-294033OAI: diva2:928577
Available from: 2016-05-31 Created: 2016-05-16 Last updated: 2016-05-31Bibliographically approved

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