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Phenomenology, music, nature

Livingston, John Robert 1999 , 'Phenomenology, music, nature', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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If one takes the preservation of non-human species seriously, one must
be prepared to ondertake a critical re-evaluation of many traditional, perhaps
even sacred, metaphysical constructs concerning how we are in the world
and the world in is in us - the questions central to ontology and
epistemology respectively. In particular, the developing field of
transpersonal ecology has assumed as basic that care and concern for Nature
can only be fostered by a radical re-definition of our sense of place, and of the
resourcist commodification of Nature whereby all living beings are defined
solely in terms of their extrinsic, utilitarian, economic yield . Against
resourcism, transpersonal ecology seeks to re-acquaint us with our
embodiment in the world, a world where selves and beings-in-the-world are
conceived as active processes which communicate in concrete contexts rather
than as subjects and objects that cohere conceptually and abstractly. It is
argued that such a metaphysical revision is necessary if we are to successfully
pursue and realize the transpersonal ecological goal of Self-realization! or
identification with others.
The philosophical framework for such an endeavour is supplied by a
detailed examination of the phenomenological nature of perception and
cognition. Why phenomenology is of particular value is that it begins where
transpersonal ecology leaves off, or what is basic to phenomenology is that
the world already exists right there, palpable and vibrant, replete with
significance and meaning in perceptual settings before its abstract
conceptualization. At all times we are immersed in a meaningful exchange
with others which is best understood as a series of dynamically evolving
contexts or Gestalts. Whether we be engaged in conversation, moving
quietly through a rainforest or embraced by a resonant soundscape, we are
always experiencing a process-based identification with other phenomena, be
they other people, other species or musical tones. Perceptually, they are
fundamentally the same: they all emerge, evolve and dissolve as focal points
which resolve onto the horizon in one seamless movement of Being. What
is most important for transpersonal ecological purposes is that nothing, no
species, no tonal cluster has importance in isolation, but only in harmonizing, communing with others in a fluid, ephemeral perceptual
The purpose of this dissertation is to phenomenologically describe the
similarity that exists between the perception of music and of Nature. What is
particularly stressed is that resourcism is deceitful in presenting nonhumans
solely in terms of presumed essential characteristics of economic
import, a view that grossly simplifies and distorts rich perceptual settings. It
is maintained that selves do not encounter a dead, neutral universe
inhabited by discrete, atomic objects. Rather, selves and beings-in-the-world
act as interlocutors in situations wherein an existential invitation is
proffered by an engaging presence and is accepted by an embodied self. The
meaning and significance of this encounter is shown to exist as a "steadfast
friendly" commitment to the creative expression and improvisitory play
which is forever at work in the delineating of any situation.
Music presents itself as an appropriate model for the elucidation of the
transpersonal ecological approach in that, in its phenomenological presence,
its real value rests with its immediate, situational, invitational aspect. As
with the experience of Nature, the perception of significance relies on the
capacity of a self to appreciate the temporary, evanescent disclosure of an
other's being in its context. Though clearly operating within different time
frames if one accepts an objective, linear conception of time, both species and
tones may be seen to be of a similar phenomenological nature when an
appreciation of their unfolding in virtual, existential time is acknowledged.
The meaning of a particular tone in a symphony or an individual being in
its setting requires the perceiver to adopt an at-tuned, anticipatory, listening
stance which allows for the moment of disclosure to occur. At that
epiphanous moment, past, present, and future fuse. The chord's or the
species' name ceases to be relevant once the carnal, resonant being is fully
appreciated within its historical, structured, sedimented context. And as the
tone decays or the species melts into its place, the residue of the epiphanous
contact remains as an appropriate, situationally grounded, commitment to
the value of the experience, with a forward looking anticipation of renewal
and re-acquaintance.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Livingston, John Robert
Keywords: Music, Music, Nature, Phenomenology, Nature, Human ecology
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1999 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

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