Types, Tokens, and Talk about Musical Works

Julian Dodd, Philip Letts

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It has recently been suggested that the type/token theorist concerning musical works cannot come up with an adequate semantic theory of those sentences in which we purport to talk about such works. Specifically, it has been claimed that, since types are abstract entities, a type/token theorist can only account for the truth of sentences such as “The 1812 Overture is very loud” and “Bach's Two Part Invention in C has an F-sharp in its fourth measure” by adopting an untenable semantic claim: namely, that the predicates in such sentences, once applied to musical works, undergo a systematic shift in their meanings. This article is a sustained explanation of why our talk about musical works in fact provides no problem for the type/token theorist. First, we demonstrate that the aforementioned “meaning shift” approach to the sentences’ predicates is well motivated and very credible. Second, we explain how the type/token theorist can adopt the best available version of an alternative, generic quantificational approach to such sentences. Third, we establish that other semantic theories, presented as undermining the type/token theory by giving us a reason for adopting eliminativism about types, are much less theoretically virtuous than the two theories that a type/token theorist can freely adopt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-263
JournalJournal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
Issue number3
Early online date8 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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