Religious Music for Godless Ears

Mind 119 (476):999-1023 (2010)
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The discussion in this paper sets out from two thoughts, one a straightforward empirical observation, the other a worry. The observation is that many who do not believe in God nevertheless regard certain pieces of religious music, such as Bach’s B minor Mass, as among the greatest works of art. The worry is that there must be something compromised or incomplete in the atheist’s experience of such works. Taken together, these thoughts would seem to point to the sceptical conclusion that the high regard in which many atheists hold works such as the B minor Mass must itself be compromised, or in some way unwarranted. The majority of the paper is devoted to clarifying the initial worry through the investigation of a series of (failed) attempts to avoid the sceptical conclusion, before — at the end of the paper — we argue that, for at least one sort of atheist, there is, after all, a mode of engagement with great religious music that might afford an experience of it which would underwrite his judgement that the work is, indeed, great



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Aaron Ridley
University of Southampton

Citations of this work

VI—Aesthetic Beautification.Andrew Huddleston - 2022 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 122 (2):119-139.
Qur'anic Recitation and The Aesthetics of Piety.Rita Elizabeth Risser - 2018 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 76 (3):309-318.

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