Problems with Musical Signification: Following the Rules and Grasping Mental States

Marianela Calleja


The reflections on music are crucial in the philosophy of language and the mind of the second Wittgenstein. These reflections go around the comparisons Wittgenstein did between meaning and understanding language, and meaning and understanding music. Musical passages show a language as independent from reality, i.e. objects, events or mental states, centered instead in intonations, conclusions, parenthesis, confirmations, questions and answers, a phenomenon enough studied in musicology.
Two interpretations on the signification of musical meaning are analyzed: Ahonen’s formalist view [2005], based in the following of rules, and Scruton’s expressive view [2004], based on the comparison between the intuitive recognition of a mental state “hidden” behind the facial expressions. As a conclusion we arrive to a mixed argument: Either of the alternatives whether annulling the other, are possibly telling about Wittgenstein’s conception but do not elucidate the problem itself.


Musical signification; Musical Language; Wittgenstein; Ahonen; Scruton

Full Text:



Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY- 4.0)

Firenze University Press
Via Cittadella, 7 - 50144 Firenze
Tel. (0039) 055 2757700 Fax (0039) 055 2757712