Discovered, Not Created

Submitted by Benjamin B. Cohen on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 12:35 PM

I must admit that part of me agrees with Cameron's theory that abstract objects cannot be created.  In saying that there are no statues, only clay that can be arranged into something "statue-shaped", Cameron is eliminating another complicated metaphysical argument:  If statues are objects that can be created out of clay, at what point does a ball of clay become a statue, and at what point does a statue cease to exist as such?  While Cameron's hypothesis is frustrating semantically (we will never stop referring to statues as statues), I think that it applies well to an earlier argument discussed a few classes ago:  That works of music are discovered rather than created.  The chords, notes, and sonorities that constitute the general abstract sound structure from which to pull from are similar to apples on an apple tree.  On the one hand, to select an apple definitely implies agency and a certain creative aspect to the person selecting; on the other hand, this does not mean that the selector created the apples.  He/she is only selecting from an array of particulars already given.  A piece of music, then, can function as a manipulated sound structure, just as a statue is a manipulated ball of clay.

Cameron Response

Submitted by Spencer C. Russell on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 11:34 AM

One of the three propositions that Cameron starts with is 3. Abstract objects cannot be created.  Cameron argues that this claim is intuitively supported, yet I personally found (going into the article) that this claim was not intuitive.  I actually found the evidence that music, like a lot of art, is both abstract and created to be proof of the 3rd claim, not refuting it .  But, I think he does have a point as he explains the argument of why 3. is intuitive, although I do not think I completely understand it.   Also, I am a little bit confused about the distinction he draws between ontological statements and normal statements.  Ioanida begins to explain it in her response, which is helpful, but I still don't quite understand the difference between, say, #3, and the bolded #3a.  It seems to me that if one were to be true than so would the other, and vice versa, but I think I am just misunderstanding his argument more so than disagreeing with it.

Things don't exist ontologically

Submitted by Ioanida Costache on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 10:59 AM

I agree with Brian that Cameron's argument which is similar to Kivy's makes sense. When he says that there are no such things as statues he is saying that statues are not a fundamental "simple" that have always exists, I think. So in response to Hilary ontologically speaking there are no such things as cars but that doesn't mean that "cars exist" is a false English sentence. So I guess in Cameron's ontological language nothing can be created because when you're "creating" (english sentence) something you're really only rearranging simples or changing certain properties such as form. His boldface ontological language is another mode of expression that doesn't necessary deny our English sentences conception of creation and existence it's just simply that I think another mode of expression.

Cameron makes an important distinction between the thing that exists (say a statue) and the components that exist (ontologically). He says that "Michelangelo's David is not the marble from which it was sculpted" (CR 161). And later he emphasizes process: " so 'there are musical works' comes to be made true not by a change in what there is but by a change in the properties of certain things that exist throughout (that is, not by bringing a new entity--a work of music--into existence, but by changing certain properties of a thing--the abstract sound structure--that has been there all along" (164). Maybe we can say that creation ( in our English language) is equivalent I think to Cameron's notion of "changing certain properties of a thing" whether it be a sound structure or a mound of clay.

Statues Vs. Statuees-Shaped

Submitted by Christopher W. Payne on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 10:37 AM

I am going to agree with Tony when he challenges Cameron's claim that "statue-shaped" can exist without the existence of "statue". How can it be possible to liken an object to a noun that does not exist? I am completely confused with Cameron's statement and his explanation of this claim only confuses me further. I feel as though he constantly plays with the flexibility of language to prove these bold statements of his and thus perpetuates the absurdity of one claim after another. I believe that Cameron takes the world "Ontological" and uses the complexity of the word to speak in circles throughout the article and does not really give a solid justification anywhere in the article. I think its pretty evident that: "Statue-shaped" cannot not exist with the word "statue". Brian claims that "statue-shaped" can exist atemporality but there does not have to be an object fulfilling the role of "statue". This argument does not convince me as well. I would to talk more about this statement and if it holds any legitimacy. 

Can Creation Ever Occur?

Submitted by Julian Cullen Budwey on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 9:39 AM

While I agree with Cameron that musical "works" are not created, I am interested by how he seems to define creation, and thereby existence.

Cameron states that abstract objects cannot be created, which seems to be a solid claim, as abstracta must exist externally. So he seems to say that something is created when it is brought into existence. He also bars explanations where two things occupy the same place and time (the statue and the lump of clay, for example). Barring extraordinary fiat-lux-esque examples, we can't create something out of (literal) nothing. So is anything ever created? When we first began to discuss creation vs discovery in this class, I thought that, perhaps, only physical things could be created. But now it looks like that too is impossible, although Cameron claims that "the only things that can be created are things that stand in causal relations to other things."

And what exists? How simple must a simple thing be? Cameron says that statues do not exist. But then what about cars? Say, for example, I build a Mustang out of metal (and whatever else I'd need to build a car). Does the car exist? Or it is just a bunch of metal in the shape of a car? It seems that the car is in the same situation as the statue. In fact, as Cameron states, there are no [non-living] complex objects.

Brian and Anthony: As far as the statues and no statues thing goes, I think that what Cameron wants to say is that there are things shaped like the abstract idea of a statue, but that that abstract idea does not and has not come into physical existence. Does this make sense?

Pros and Cons

Submitted by Joseph T. Kelly on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 9:12 AM

On page 312, Cameron says, "the point for today is simply that fundamental ontology need not contain distinct entities with distinct powers to make these sentences of English true." I think Cameron is correct and astute in making this claim. In fact, I'm not convinced that a fundamental ontology need exist in order to make these sentences true. However, I fail to see how Cameron explains the jump from this point (that the ontological entity need not exist) to a confident assertion that such a musical entity does not exist. He admits the epistemic access worry on pages 307-8, but what about the epistemological basis worry? How could Cameron - someone who exists in the material world - come to know the nature of entities in the abstract, eternal world? And if this is beyond his capabilities, it seems awfully ridiculous that he suppose to speak the language and understand the logic of a space with which humans cannot causally interact.

On another note, there is one aspect of Cameron's article that I find particularly compelling. I think his system does a good job (or at least the best we've read so far) at capturing our everyday language and our intuitions about music. I want to say that musical works are created and he sustains that possibility. Also, by claiming that musical works are not ontological entities, Cameron leaves open the possibility that what counts as music can be a complicated web of entities (like Wittgenstein's game) and not something limited by arbitrary (necessary and sufficient) criteria.

Causal Chain

Submitted by Maxfield H. McKenna on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 8:53 AM

Early in Cameron's article, he writes that the "only things that can be created are things that can stand in causal relations to other things. but abstract objects cannot be the relata of causal relations--they can neither exert a causal influence or be causally acted upon; hence, abstract objects cannot be created." (Ross, p. 296).  This immediately seems a very odd claim to me, because I feel that the musical work, whatever it might happen to be, is causally responsible for its performances, at the very least.  It does not seem counter-intuitive or problematic at all to me to say that a musical work is abstract, but also causally determinant, and standing in causal relations to other things.

Cameron's is an error theory

Submitted by Farris D. Aurelius on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 3:47 AM

Sean writes, "It seems fitting... to say that Beethoven discovered the abstract sound structure that is instanced when Beethoven’s 9th symphony is played. Saying Beethoven discovered this abstract sound structure seems to make more sense as (1) Beethoven is not bringing anything into existence in any real sense."

I disagree. It seems most accurate to say that Beethoven is bringing into existence an activity—the activity of people referring to the abstract sound structure denoted by “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony”. What he is creating is an activity of awareness.

On another point, in his argument Cameron says that the English sentence “A statue exists” does not imply that a “a statue exists in an ontological sense (which would imply the existence of non-living composites)”. But many people do in fact believe in the existence of non-living composites; that is, many people are not nihilists like Cameron. Therefore, it seems they are saying “A statue exists in the ontological sense.”  To argue that they are not doing so, Cameron must assert that what they believe they have in mind when they said in English, “statues exist”, is not what they actually have in mind, or that they have no coherent, ontological idea in their mind when they assert “statues exist.”

It may help if I put this point in another form: A nihilist is someone who believes that there are ontologically no complex objects. Not everyone is a nihilist. In fact, a large portion of ordinary people are not nihilists. Hence, when state in English “A complex object (say a musical work) exists”, they must mean ontologically, “A complex object exists.” Therefore, Cameron is incorrect to say that English sentences like “a complex object exists” don’t mean in ontologese, “a complex object exists.” To speak correctly, he must say some English sentences have a nihilist claim about the world, some English sentences have an anti-Nihilist claim about the world, and the latter are false. False. He’s purporting a massive error theory.

Beyond "So What?"

Submitted by Samia K. Hesni on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 2:41 AM

It's easy to get frustrated with Cameron's ontological jargon and to read his assertion of " 'a exists' can be true without committing us to an entity that is a" as a precautionary measure against having to revamp the way we speak. But I think we can also critique Cameron on his own terms? Returning to the three propositions he lays out in his introduction gives us an idea of why Cameron resorts to his "meta-ontological view." As he tells us, he is trying to somehow acknowledge each of the three propositions -- for their intuitiveness, it seems -- while avoiding or reconciling the inconsistency within the three. To do so, he distinguishes ontological truths from regular statements: "ontology is concerned with what there is fundamentally..." (and later: "the fundamental existents together with their fundamental properties are all we need to do all our truthmaking work.")

Cameron's argument ultimately turns on the claim that the third proposition -- "abstract objects cannot be created" -- is ontologically motivated, and thus different from the first two sentences. This is because ontology deals with abstracta. But what keeps proposition 2 --which also deals with abstracta -- from being ontologically motivated? Cameron can't say that it is the part about creation that makes 3 ontological and 2 not, because then he would have to allow for 1 to be ontological. In section IV, he tells us not to worry about 1 and 2 in an ontological sense, because they are false, because there are no musical works. But is he not just begging the question?

Cameron and Musical Works

Submitted by Brian J. Kim on Tuesday, 3/29/2011, at 1:47 AM

I would like to respond to Anthony's claim that there cannot be anything that is statue-shaped if there are no statues. We might define "statue-shaped" as "having the shape of a statue," but I do not believe this is how Cameron wants us to think of it. Instead, it should be that the definition of "statue" is "something that is statue-shaped." (I should be more careful about using Ontologese and English, but I think this gets the point across). So, we should think of it as "if there were no statue-shapes, then there cannot be any statues" rather than "if there were no statues, there are no statue-shapes." Thus, it is possible to have statue-shapes without statues, though it is not possible to have statues without the statue-shape. This makes sense by Cameron's view, since statue-shapes can exist atemporally but there does not necessarily have to be an object fulfilling the role of a statue.

I think Cameron actually makes a compelling case. It does seem to be very close to what Kivy argues in his Platonism (as Zach commented on below) with some differences in what exactly we refer to*, and both views make sense intuitively for me. It doesn't seem to me all that worrying for a musical work to not exist if we accept that things like the Supreme Court or tables don't exist. There could be the worry that things might start to fall apart if we just start saying things don't exist, but that would be to argue about not just musical works, but all complex objects. If we accept Cameron's characterization of exist, I believe his view of the musical work is correct.


*For example, I don't think the musical work of Cameron is the same as Kivy's. This is evident in the example of two composers coming up with the same song; by Cameron's view, they are two different works, but by Kivy's they are the same. I think is merely a case of semantics rather than an actual inconsistency in their views. Kivy's "work" would be closer to Cameron's "sound structure," so the two actually are in agreement that there is only one.

How Can Something Be "Statue-Shaped" If There Are No Statues?

Submitted by Anthony John Andrews on Monday, 3/28/2011, at 11:29 PM

In His Article "There Are No Things That Are Musical Works", Ross P. Cameron differentiates between the English language and "Ontologese" - the language used to describe the world at its most fundamental level.  According to Cameron, statues do not exist on the most fundamental ontological level (because Cameron rejects composition as identity), but 'statues do indeed exist' for the purposes of the English language because, as Cameron asserts, "there are simples that are arranged statue shaped (as a result of the intentional actions of agents)".  Cameron goes on to use Ontologese to explain that musical works do not exist, but rather the abstract sound structures they refer to.  While Cameron bends the rules by creating his own language of basic absolutes, the flaw I see in his argument is that if there are no statues, then there cannot be anything that is statue-shaped, because statues do not exist and therefore the quality of being statue-shaped refers to nothing. In addition, Ontologese seems to me a tricky language because if it must be accepted that there are no musical works but musical works are abstract sound structures, then how can abstract sound structures exist at all? In addition, if these abstract sound structures truly exist atemporally, then how could it be possible for them to be instanced in, for example, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which exists in time and space? But I digress... Ultimately, my problem with Cameron's theory is that he seems not to allow for anything to exist at all, and the very words he writes (in both English and Ontologese) are rendered ironically meaningless. 

Does Cameron's argument allow him to maintain that "Musical Works are created" is a true English sentence

Submitted by Sean E. Doerfler on Monday, 3/28/2011, at 10:15 PM

In his essay “There are no things that are musical works” Cameron argues the following: (this is a paraphrase of his argument)

    When a composer creates a musical work he is not bringing into existence a new ontological entity but rather endowing new properties upon a previously existing entity, the abstract sound structure. Thus when Beethoven composed his 9th symphony he did not bring into existence a new entity but rather endowed new properties upon the abstract sound structure instanced when his 9th symphony is played. More specifically, the properties Beethoven endowed upon this abstract sound structure were the ability to be referenced to. Thus we can understand Beethoven as creating his 9th symphony in virtue of the fact that his actions make the English sentence “Beethoven’s 9th symphony exists” true, as prior to Beethoven’s actions there was no such abstract sound structure known that could be referred to as Beethoven’s 9th symphony.

It seems to me however that is unfair for Cameron to hold onto the claim that “Musical works are created” is a true English sentence (as opposed to a true Ontologese sentence). It seems more fitting in this instance to say that Beethoven discovered the abstract sound structure that is instanced when Beethoven’s 9th symphony is played. Saying Beethoven discovered this abstract sound structure seems to make more sense here as (1) Beethoven is not bringing anything into existence in any real sense according to Cameron, and (2) saying Beethoven discovered the work still allows for the fact that Beethoven’s actions endowed the property of being able to be referenced to to the pre-existing abstract sound structure.

Discovery entails no sense of bringing anything into existence whereas creation certainly does. Thus saying musical works are discovered rather than created is a more fitting English sentence as it avoids any sense of confusion and captures the entirety of what Cameron wants to claim Beethoven did when he composed his 9th symphony. Thus it seems to make much more sense to equate Beethoven’s endowing of the property of being able to be referenced to upon an abstract sound structure with the notion of Beethoven discovering the abstract sound structure rather than creating it (once again in the english sense rather than the ontolgese sense). Cameron’s argument that musical works do not exist is thus burdened by the fact that it leads to the counterintuitive conclusion that it makes more sense to say that musical works are discovered or created (in the English sense); that is of course if you think this is a problem at all which I’m sure many of you don’t based upon our previous classes.

What a Bizarre Paper

Submitted by Zachary I. Bleemer on Monday, 3/28/2011, at 8:12 PM

Cameron offers a at-first-sight-bizarre description on musical ontology in this paper, and I worry about what it actually answers. So he develops this idea that music doesn't exist in a sort of "ontologese" language when in fact music does exist, and this is not contradictory because, well, I think the easiest way to think about it is that the word music is used the same in each case, but the words exist and exist have two distinct meanings, the first defined as the independent ontological existence of music as an object not reliant on any other objects, and the second referring to music as merely a specific collection of objects combined in such a way to to create a new ontological object, but rather to be so named only in virtue of the sound structure's relative locations to each other. He is admittedly nihilistic in this regard, refusing to commit to creation in general as opposed to creation, so that statues are created and exist yet are not created and do not exist, since nothing is created and statues are statue-shaped marble, or whatever specific claim he wants to make. My worry is about whether or not any of this is actually interesting; or in other words, whether or not it solves any problems. I'll give him everything: that music doesn't actually exist, that it is music-like conglomerations of sound, et cetera. And then I'll ask the question: What is music? Because many possibilities of what music is--namely, all of the possibilities that involve music existing-- we know are wrong. But that still leaves exactly the same number of options that existed before, right? Goodman's argument for the set of all performances- that seems to work. Kivy's argument for extreme Platonism doesn't quite work, but a slight varient does: instead of music being an eternal abstract object instanced in the real world, it is the particular way in which sounds are organized such that a work sounds like it  should (such that it sounds of its particular music-type); and really, that sounds awfully close to exactly what Kivy was arguing for. The entire argument about tracks and works and scores, and so on, is exactly the same argument here, I think, except that instead of instancing an eternal object, it's instancing a earthly non-object. 

And so we get to the great message: that music is not an object. And therefore that it has no ontology. So, therefore, it is not the sort of thing that Cameron studies. Well, that's interesting. But it feels like the sort of paper in which the author is saying "I have thus conclusively proven that music is not in my particular field of study, and I thus leave it for others to determine its exact nature". Because in the end, why does it matter if music exists or not, just so long as music exists?