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Philosophy of the Performing Arts


This book provides an accessible yet sophisticated introduction to the significant philosophical issues concerning the performing arts.

  • Presents the significant philosophical issues concerning the performing arts in an accessible style, assuming no prior knowledge
  • Provides a critical overview and a comprehensive framework for thinking about the performing arts

  • Examines the assumption that classical music provides the best model for thinking about artistic performance across the performing arts

  • Explores ways in which the ‘classical paradigm’ might be extended to other musical genres, to theatre, and to dance

  • Applies the thinking on performing arts to the issue of ‘performance art’

Preface and Acknowledgments.

Part One Performance and the Classical Paradigm.

1 The Nature of Artistic Performance.

1 Introduction.

2 What is a Performance?

3 Institutional Theories of Artistic Performance.

4 Aesthetic Theories of Artistic Performance.

5 Artistic Performance and Artistic Regard.

6 Overview.

2 The Classical Paradigm I: The Nature of the Performable Work.

1 Introduction: Berthold and Magda Go to the Symphony.

2 The Multiple Nature of Performable Works.

3 Performable Works as Types.

4 Varieties of Type Theories: Sonicism, Instrumentalism, and Contextualism.

5 Other Theories of the Performable Work.

3 The Classical Paradigm II: Appreciating Performable Works in Performance.

1 Introduction: Talking Appreciatively about Performable Works.

2 Can Performable Works Share Artistic Properties with Their Performances?

3 The Goodman Argument.

4 Answering the Goodman Argument.

4 Authenticity in Musical Performance.

1 Introduction.

2 Authenticity in the Arts.

3 Three Notions of Historically Authentic Performance.

5 Challenges to the Classical Paradigm in Music.

1 Introduction: The Classical Paradigm in the Performing Arts.

2 The Scope of the Paradigm in Classical Music.

3 Jazz, Rock, and the Classical Paradigm.

4 Non-Western Music and the Classical Paradigm.

6 The Scope of the Classical Paradigm: Theater, Dance, and Literature.

1 Introduction: Berthold and Magda Go to the Theater.

2 Theatrical Performances and Performable Works.

3 Challenges to the Classical Paradigm in Theater.

4 Dance and the Classical Paradigm.

5 The Novel as Performable Work?

Part Two Performance as Art.

7 Performances as Artworks.

1 Introduction: Spontaneous Performance in the Arts.

2 The Artistic Status of Performances Outside the Classical Paradigm.

3 The Artistic Status of Performances Within the Classical Paradigm.

8 Elements of Performance I: Improvisation and Rehearsal.

1 Introduction.

2 The Nature of Improvisation.

3 Improvisation and Performable Works: Three Models.

4 Improvisation and Recording.

5 The Place of Rehearsal in the Performing Arts.

9 Elements of Performance II: Audience and Embodiment.

1 Can There Be Artistic Performance Without an Audience?

2 Audience Response.

3 The Embodied Performer and the Mirroring Receiver.

10 Performance Art and the Performing Arts.

1 Introduction.

2 Some Puzzling Cases.

3 What is Performance Art?

4 When Do Works of Performance Art Involve Artistic Performances?

5 Performance as Art: A Final Case.



“This is a remarkable and remarkably useful book, and for much the same reason … The other result is that professionals in the philosophy of art will have to rise to the challenge. Davies has set the bar very high.”  (Oxford Journals Clippings, 4 May 2012)

"Philosophy of the Performing Arts is a careful and detailed study in analytic philosophical aesthetics ... Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students through professional/practitioners." (Choice, 1 January 2012)