We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Understanding Music’s Theological Significance: A Kantian Approach

JIRTLE, JAMES,VERNON (2010) Understanding Music’s Theological Significance: A Kantian Approach. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Jeremy Begbie speaks of music as ‘theologically loaded’: as conveying a sense of intrinsic theological significance. This thesis explores the possibility that music is theologically loaded in an epistemological sense: that music is dependent on knowledge of God. Modern epistemologies, in which knowledge is constructed by the individual human mind, pose a challenge to such a conclusion, since even if divine knowledge is possible it would appear irrelevant for our understanding of objects, such as music, that can be known directly through experience. Because Immanuel Kant presents a particularly stringent theory of human-mind-dependent knowledge, we can use his aesthetic theory as an analytical tool both to assess the epistemological content of our aesthetic judgements as they relate to musical beauty, and to consider whether theological knowledge can be relevant to these judgements.

Applying Kant’s aesthetic theory to musical beauty, we find that from within, music seems sublime — defying our ability to understand its form or predict its structure — while from without it remains clearly intelligible. This unique construction makes our judgements of musical beauty particularly dependent on what Kant calls a ‘common sense’: a principle that, although outside our cognition, nevertheless plays a constitutive role in our aesthetic judgements by ensuring their universal validity. The dependence of our aesthetic judgements on this common sense allows for the possibility that musical beauty is dependent on knowledge of God — even when considered within a human-mind-dependent epistemology — and thus enables us to give an account of music’s theological significance that is consistent with modern theories of knowledge. Considered within a Christian perspective, this common sense forms the basis for a grammatical understanding of beauty, in which beauty represents the distance between our awareness of divine providence and our limited knowledge of God’s purposes.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:theology and music, aesthetics, Kant, beauty
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2010
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Jun 2010 09:47

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter