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Opera and the Limits of Philosophy: on Bernard Williams's Music Criticism

Identifieur interne : 000020 ( Istex/Corpus ); précédent : 000019; suivant : 000021

Opera and the Limits of Philosophy: on Bernard Williams's Music Criticism

Auteurs : Guy Dammann

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RBID : ISTEX:670D0641873BB6A9D131DF0CA0F9AC9D30E9F63C

Abstract

This paper provides a reading of the opera criticism of Bernard Williams in the light of his philosophical writings. Beginning with the observations that his philosophical writing lacks engagement with musical and aesthetic issues, and his operatic writing appears to present no particular philosophy of the subject, I try to draw together certain themes by mapping Williams's operatic concerns onto his philosophical project more generally. I argue that the 'excessive' nature of the artformthe idea that opera tends to exceed its musico-dramatic functionswas of particular interest to Williams, partly because it resonated with his dislike of easy theoretical solutions to thorny practical issues. More specifically, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte is related, via the way the way its emotional register exceeds its dramatic context, to the issues examined by Williams in his work on moral luck. Similarly, I discuss the way Williams's essay on Debussy's Pellas et Mlisande seems to hint at an account of the emotions which is otherwise missing from Williams's oeuvre.

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DOI: 10.1093/aesthj/ayq038

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