Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Philosophy of Music Part II

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

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Over the last few decades no area of aesthetics has grown and expanded as rapidly as the philosophy of music, producing new insights into one of humanities most beloved art forms. In this second part of the course we will cover contemporary theories in psychology, cognitive science and music education. Philosophers in contemporary theory of music are reconsidering the connection between music and the emotions, imagination, and spirituality. We will also consider the different areas of music such as Opera, Jazz, pure music, Rock and film music. Opera will be a focus for discussions of music’s relationship to narrative, and also to Opera’s political interconnections. Some composers considered are: Mozart, Wagner, Puccini, Benjamin Britten and John Adams’s Nixon in China. Music in films allows us to explore the relationship between sound, dialogue and image: how do these three elements work together to form a unified aesthetic whole.

This course does not require Philosophy Course: Philosophy of Music Part I as a prerequisite.

Course Content

  • New theories in the psychology of music. The social aspects of music, songs and dancing are important issues here.
  • Music and cognitive science. Issue in cognitive science concern how the brain ‘understands’ music and why do we respond to it in the ways we do.
  • Music and Emotion: expression theories; arousal theories; association theories.
  • Music Religion and Spirituality. Most music of human history was connected to religious ceremonies; we will look at some contemporary theorists who believe that the ‘spiritual’ element of music is part of its essential character, even in a secular world.
  • Education theories: What are the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument; what are the attributes of ‘talent’; and can almost anyone be taught to play music at some level.
  • Opera: historical development and character.
  • Opera: narrative structure and meaning.
  • The politics of Opera: Mozart, Wagner, Puccini, Benjamin Britten and John Adams’s Nixon in China.
  • Jazz/ Rock: The nature of improvisation; the ascendance of beat; the politics of social revolt.
  • Film Music: What are the functions of music in film; how does music, dialogue and image work together to form a unified aesthetic whole.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion