Ken Myers on musical emotivism

Having survived a type of coronary event that has a 4% survival rate, I asked some hard questions about what I should be doing with a life given back to me. I concluded that I would spend more time thinking about what music is and how modernity had affected our understanding of music. I was baffled that many people assumed that music was somehow immune from the mistaken assumptions about how we relate to Creation and our Creator that affected every other aspect of life: our understanding and practices concerning food, farming, place, sex, marriage, family, history, language, reason, etc., etc. I know many people who would be unafraid to look askance at someone for having bad taste in beer or whiskey, or for preferring processed to fresh food, or Thomas Kinkade to Rembrandt. But questioning someone’s musical taste is insufferably offensive. Music is the site where emotivism—the assumption that all value judgments are only expressions of preference—has (if paradoxically) unassailable authority.

The claim that musical judgments are purely subjective is a very modern phenomenon, which doesn’t make it false, but does raise questions about its veracity, especially in light of other dubious modern assumptions about reality.

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