Imagination, Music, and the Emotions

A Philosophical Study

By Saam Trivedi

Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology, Aesthetics, Music
Paperback : 9781438467160, 205 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438467177, 205 pages, September 2017

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Table of contents


I. Emotions, Moods, and Feelings

1. Introduction
2. What are Emotions?
3. Emotions, Beliefs, and Moods
4. Other Views: Martha Nussbaum’s Neo-Stoic Cognitivism
5. Paul Griffiths’s Theory
6. Jesse Prinz’s Somatic View
7. A Concluding Concession

II. Expression Theories and Arousalism

1. Introduction
2. Bruce Vermazen’s Expression Theory
3. Jerrold Levinson’s Persona Theory
4. Jenefer Robinson’s Theory
5. Contra Simple Arousalism
6. Aaron Ridley’s Moderate Arousalism
7. Derek Matravers’s Moderate Arousalism
8. Charles Nussbaum’s View
9. Conclusion

III. Metaphors and Metaphorism

1. Introduction
2. Against Metaphorism (Part 1)
3. Metaphorical Meaning and Paraphraseability
4. Against Metaphorism (Part 2)
5. Metaphors, Resemblance, and Imagination
6. Against Metaphorism (Part 3)
7. Conclusion

IV. Resemblance-Based Theories

1. Introduction
2. Resemblance-Based Views
3. Criticisms
4. Objections and Replies
5. Conclusion

V. Imagination

1. Introduction: Different Kinds of Imaginings
2. Imaginative Perceptions and Perceptual Imaginings
3. Children’s Imaginings
4. Gregory Currie’s View
5. Imagination, Music Perception, and Musical Culture
6. Conclusion

VI. Imaginationism

1. Introduction
2. Against Formalism about Music
3. How We Imagine in Relation to Music
4. Why We Imagine in Relation to Music
5. Musical Arousal
6. Objections and Replies
7. Conclusion

Summary and Conclusion

Articulates an imaginationist solution to the question of how purely instrumental music can be perceived by a listener as having emotional content.


Both musicians and laypersons can perceive purely instrumental music without words or an associated story or program as expressing emotions such as happiness and sadness. But how? In this book, Saam Trivedi discusses and critiques the leading philosophical approaches to this question, including formalism, metaphorism, expression theories, arousalism, resemblance theories, and persona theories. Finding these to be inadequate, he advocates an "imaginationist" solution, by which absolute music is not really or literally sad but is only imagined to be so in a variety of ways. In particular, he argues that we as listeners animate the music ourselves, imaginatively projecting life and mental states onto it. Bolstering his argument with empirical data from studies in neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science, Trivedi also addresses and explores larger philosophical questions such as the nature of emotions, metaphors, and imagination.

Saam Trivedi is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.


"…Trivedi's book remains a thought-provoking and up-to-date reading for anyone interested in the problem of musical expressiveness. " — British Journal of Aesthetics

"…a well-written book on a subject that is more complex than one might think. " — CHOICE