Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Scruton on Metaphorical Perception

The Soul of the World:

In describing the music, you are not describing sounds heard in a sequence; you are describing a kind of action in musical space, in which things move up and down in response to each other and against resisting fields of force. These fields of force order the one-dimensional space of music, in something like the way gravity orders the spatiotemporal continuum. In describing pitched sounds as music, we are situating them in another order of events than the order of nature. (pp. 37-38)

German Idealism and the Philosophy of Music (there is a very similar passage in The Soul of the World, p. 147):

I argue that nothing literally moves in musical space, but that in some way the idea of space cannot be eliminated from our experience of music. We are dealing with an entrenched metaphor – but not a metaphor of words, exactly, for we are not talking about how people describe music; we are talking about how they experience it. It is as though there is a metaphor of space and movement embedded within our experience and cognition of music. This metaphor cannot be ‘translated away’, and what it says cannot be said in the language of physics – for example, by talking instead of the pitches and timbre of sounds in physical space. Yet what it describes, the musical movement, is a real presence – and not just for me: for anyone with a musical ear.


[Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ: 2014).]