The central ontological puzzle concerning works of music is this. It is overwhelmingly intuitive – to the point, I think, of being a datum that any successful theory must account for – that an utterance of ”Beethoven’s ninth exists” says something true if uttered at a time after that at which Beethoven completed composing his ninth, and that an utterance of the same sentence type says something false if uttered at a time before Beethoven had any thoughts about his ninth or had started any of the work that led to its composition. It seems to follow either that some entity – Beethoven’s ninth – exists now but didn’t exist before Beethoven was born, or that there is some entity that is now Beethoven’s ninth but that wasn’t always Beethoven’s ninth. The latter sounds odd: it seems that Beethoven created a musical work, not that he took something that wasn’t a musical work and made it into one. But Beethoven’s ninth doesn’t appear to be identical with any of the ordinary concrete objects of everyday acquaintance or empirical scientific discovery, and so it seems it must be an abstract entity. But abstract entities do not appear to be the kind of entities that can exist at some times and not at others, and so we have a puzzle.
Solutions to the puzzle tend to bite one of two bullets: they either deny the commonsense intuition that Beethoven’s ninth exists after the composition but not before, or they complicate our ontology with abstract entities which can be brought into existence by the actions of humans. I suggest that the puzzle is best solved by denying that musical works are needed in our ontology to account for the truth of sentences proclaiming their existence and/or attributing features to them. In that case we can agree that ”Beethoven’s ninth exists” says something true at time t and false at time t* but deny that the truth of ”Beethoven’s ninth exists” brings an ontological commitment to some thing that is Beethoven’s ninth, thus allowing us to resist the troublesome conclusion that the ontology of the world includes an abstract entity that exists at t but not at t*.
Håller du med Cameron i denna musikala nihilism? Jag finner den märkligt tilltalande. Om du inte håller med, hur föreslår du att dilemmat ska lösas? Under tiden du tänker, lyssna på ett utdrag ur Beethovens nia (om den nu existerar).