Missing the Wrong Target: On Andrew Bowie’s Rejection of the Philosophy of Music


  • Tomas McAuley Indiana University




Andrew Bowie rejects the philosophy of music. He does so because it (allegedly) objectifies music and because it (allegedly) only ever affirms the practitioner’s prior philosophical assumptions. I argue that Bowie’s rejection is illegitimate on two counts. First, he mischaracterises the philosophy of music. I show how. Second, even if his characterisation of the philosophy of music were a faithful representation of that discipline, his reasons for rejecting it would still not be sufficient. In particular, Bowie criticises the philosophy of music for not engaging properly with its ‘other’ (music), yet refuses to engage seriously with his own ‘other’ (the philosophy of music). Bowie aims for the wrong target – and misses anyway.

Author Biography

Tomas McAuley, Indiana University

[email protected]

Tomas McAuley is Post-Doctoral Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor of Musicology at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. His research centers on music and philosophy, and on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music. He is currently working on a monograph on the relationship between philosophy and musical thought in the late eighteenth century, investigating the links between changing conceptions of music and changing conceptions of ethics, knowledge, and time. Together with Nanette Nielsen and Jerrold Levinson, he is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Western Music and Philosophy. He is Chair of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group (www.musicandphilosophy.ac.uk).


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How to Cite

McAuley, Tomas. 2015. “Missing the Wrong Target: On Andrew Bowie’s Rejection of the Philosophy of Music”. Performance Philosophy 1 (1):59-64. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2015.1126.



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