Monday, March 25, 2013

You mean, it's not just a matter of personal taste?

Music and the Objectivity of Aesthetics

Are preferences in music purely a matter of personal taste? Can you say that certain music is objectively better than other music? Can music be evil? And if so, is it only the words that make such a verdict possible? Can any style of music be written for the glory of God? 

In order to address these questions, lets go upstream a bit. Our era tends to give unquestioning acceptance to the truism that beauty exists in the eye of the beholder. Even Christians who would resist relativism very strongly in ethics (“what is good for you might not be good for me”) or truth (“what is true for you might not be the same as what is true for me”) nevertheless collapse into relativism when it comes to aesthetics (“what is beautiful to you might be different to what is beautiful for me.”)

One alternative to this aesthetic relativism is to say that beauty is an objective quality that describes how things truly are in God’s creation. From this standpoint, saying that a certain symphony is beautiful or that something else is ugly music is just as true as making accurate statements about what key it is in, what its time signature is, and so on. 

If we are to be consistent with our Christian worldview, it does seem that we are committed, at least in principle, to predicating some degree of objectivity to both beauty and aesthetic judgments.

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