Monday, October 30, 2006

The Urge to Music

Arendt's Life of the Mind is really tiresome at times. She claims that "no speechless thought can exist" (p. 100), and that language is "the only medium through which mental activities can be manifest not only to the outside world but also to the mental ego itself" (p. 102) and so on. Did she really stop and think before pursuing this line of argument? There's little evidence that she did. She makes no mention of music, dance, sculpture or any other medium besides language. A certain kind of logocentrism may be justified by her topic, but her extreme position is unwarranted.

I often talk about music because it's a part of my day-to-day reality. I don't expect everybody to feel the same urge to music that I feel. I do expect that it won't seem strange to readers that I sometimes have musical thoughts. Thinking about musical thinking can be discursive, which is kind of startling if you think about it. It doesn't have to be discursive though. I can and often do think about musical thinking musically. Is this a shocking claim? I don't think so.

Update. Arendt is fond of the example of flute-playing as an activity that is an end in itself. There's no sense that she considers it a mental activity or sees its mental aspects at all. I find this an egregious oversight on her part precisely because she has gone to great pains to distinguish thinking from (mere) cognition. If the fundamental question for her is the search for meaning rather than truth, then she should at the very least take notice of the diverse modalities of the human quest for meaning, i.e., the arts.

posted by Fido the Yak at 2:25 PM.


Post a Comment

Fido the Yak front page