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The Harvard Review of Philosophy

Volume 21, Fall 2014

Garry L. Hagberg
Pages 23-40

Wittgenstein, Music and the Philosophy of Culture

Wittgenstein’s scattered remarks on music, when brought together and then related to his similarly scattered remarks on culture, show a deep and abiding concern with music as a repository and conveyer of meaning in human life. Yet the conception of meaning at work in these remarks is not of a kind that is amenable to brief or concise articulation. This paper explores that conception, considering in turn (a) the relational networks within which musical meaning emerges, (b) what he calls a discernible “kinship” between composers and styles, (c) the embodied character of musical content, (d) the close and too-little-appreciated intricate connections between our capacity to make sense in music and in language (and the frequent dependence of the former on the latter) and the interaction of the musical theme with spoken language, and (e) music as a culturally-embedded phenomenon that is, as he said of language, possible only in what he evocatively, if too briefly, called “the stream of life.”

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