26. October 2021

Prof. John Muniz

Prof. John Muniz

Prof. John Muniz (University of Arizona) will give a talk entitled "We Say What We Mean and We Mean What We Say: Cognitivist Realism about Analytical Utterances"



The New Musicology was driven in part by influential arguments for anti-realism about the work concept (Goehr 1992) and for skepticism about our epistemic access to intrinsic properties of works (Korsyn 2003, Dell’Antonio 2004, et al.). These positions, if well founded, spell trouble for analytical utterances, since the latter seem to ascribe intrinsic properties to existing works. Scholars friendly to analysis have attempted to salvage it from philosophical shipwreck, most recently by construing analytical utterances as expressing attitudes or endorsements rather than facts: that is, by taking a non-cognitivist view of analytical utterances. This project is explicitly conceived on the analogy of ethical non-cognitivism (Parkhurst 2013, Walls 2014), a similar attempt to rescue moral utterances from the challenge of moral anti-realism.

            I show that this project is misconceived. Non-cognitivism in ethics is problematic, in music analysis even more so, since important arguments for ethical non-cognitivism are inapplicable in the musical domain. The most tenable theory of analytical utterances is a cognitivist one. This is not as big a problem as it appears: while some of the New-Musicological arguments for ontological and epistemic skepticism have force, others are fallacious or at least not rationally compelling. The remainder of the critique can be met by adopting “promiscuous realism” (Dupré 1993), a view developed in philosophy of science that allows apparently inconsistent ontological frameworks to be simultaneously true without contradiction. The resulting cognitivist position is not “positivist” in any harmful sense. I argue finally that, even on a plausible form of anti-realism about musical works, cognitivism is the best contender among theories of analytical utterances.