Jeffrey Armbruster wrote: ↑
Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:50 pm
I haven't yet read the article that Rasputin mentions, but I have a question. It's stated that everyone agrees that the 'more visceral' aspects of emotion can be conveyed by music
I'm not sure we can go that far - my impression is that it is a majority view among those who accept this distinction in the first place, but I am sure there are people who would reject it, and it's a while since I've looked at this in any detail.
, but more complex emotions require a particular object in order to be known and so can't be expressed by music, which is abstract and object-less. So...how do we know the visceral, object-less emotions that music supposedly CAN convey? Being object-less in music, like the other emotions, wouldn't they also remain unknown? And what exactly are these emotions?
The way I understand it is not so much that there are two different categories of emotion, but that an emotion has a raw feel which is filled out by an understanding of what gives rise to it and what its object is. If you strip out the understanding, i.e. the cognitive aspect, you get a feeling that is powerful but hard to put into words. It's like waking up from a dream you can't remember feeling good somehow, but not knowing whether it's contentment, or relief, or pride, or what. I wouldn't say the emotion is unknown, even though it has slipped anchor and no longer has an object - it's just more generalised and harder to pin down. If you could only remember the dream you would be able to fill in the details, and the idea is that the emotion would then take more definite shape. The more sophisticated the emotion, the more important it may be to have the cognitive side. So I am not sure that, on this view, any emotion can be completely represented without the cognitive side - it's more that if we can express the visceral side, we can gesture towards a general emotional response like happiness, sadness or fear, even if something will always be missing. We know of course that music has a far richer palette than this, hence the mystery. It may just be that the importance of cognition has been overstated.
Thomas Aquinas writes about 'the reversion to the phantasm', which means that our knowledge of abstract realities always reverts to an image, something concrete. This is a quasi-Kantian position. Perhaps music presents us with something abstract that each listener then understands by reverting to a series of known emotions that are drawn from life experience. This would be the emotional reversion to the phantasm.
Well, this still leaves the question of how we relate a particular piece of music to a particular known emotion, which for me is the main issue. Kivy made a good start on this when he asked (borrowing I think from Langer) why the St Bernard's face expresses sadness - but because he was unable to explain how music could convey a bearing or gait (due to the impoverished theoretical framework we have all inherited) he had to postulate another mechanism based on simple association, and thus turned to the dark side.