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Philosophy of the performing arts

Philosophy of the performing arts

Davies, David, 1949-

This title provides an accessible, yet sophisticated, introduction to the significant philosophical issues concerning the performing arts

Paperback, Hardback, Book. English.
Published Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011

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Statement of responsibility: David Davies
ISBN: 1405188022, 1405188030, 9781405188029, 9781405188036
Intended audience: Specialized.
Physical Description: 224 p.
Series: Foundations of the philosophy of the arts
Subject: Performing Arts.; Performing arts Philosophy.; Performing arts.
Series Title: Foundations of the philosophy of the arts.


  1. Part I: Performance and the Classical Paradigm.
  2. The Nature of Artistic Performance.
  3. I Introduction.
  4. II What is a performance?
  5. III ‘Institutional’ theories of artistic performance.
  6. IV ‘Aesthetic’ theories of artistic performance.
  7. V Artistic performance and ‘artistic regard’.
  8. VI Overview.
  9. The Classical Paradigm I: The Nature of the Performable Work.
  10. I Introduction: Berthold and Magda go to the symphony.
  11. II The ‘multiple’ nature of performable works.
  12. III Performable works as ‘types’.
  13. IV Varieties of ‘type’ theories: sonicism, instrumentalism, and contextualism.
  14. V Other theories of the performable work.
  15. a/ Performable works as ‘indicated’ types.
  16. b/ Performable works as ‘continuants’.
  17. c/ Performable works as indicatings of types.
  18. d/ Fictionalism about performable works.
  19. The ‘Classical Paradigm’ II: Appreciating Performable Works in Performance.
  20. I Introduction: talking appreciatively about performable works.
  21. II Can performable works share artistic properties with their performances?
  22. III The ‘Goodman argument’ .
  23. IV Answering the ‘Goodman argument’.
  24. Authenticity in Musical Performance.
  25. I Introduction.
  26. II ‘Authenticity’ in the arts.
  27. III Three notions of historically authentic performance.
  28. a/ Authenticity defined in terms of composer’s intentions.
  29. b/ Authenticity defined in terms of the ‘sound’ of the work.
  30. c/ Authenticity defined in terms of performance practice.
  31. Challenges to the Classical Paradigm in Music.
  32. I Introduction: The classical paradigm in the performing arts.
  33. II The scope of the paradigm in classical music.
  34. III Jazz, rock, and the classical paradigm.
  35. a/ Jazz.
  36. b/ Rock.
  37. IV Non-Western music and the classical paradigm.
  38. The Scope of the Classical Paradigm: Theatre, Dance, and Literature.
  39. I Introduction: Berthold and Magda go to the theatre.
  40. II Theatrical performances and performable works.
  41. III Challenges to the classical paradigm in theatre.
  42. IV Dance and the classical paradigm.
  43. V The novel as performable work?
  44. Part II: Performance as Art .
  45. Performances as Artworks.
  46. I Introduction: spontaneous performance in the arts.
  47. II The artistic status of performances outside the classical paradigm.
  48. III The artistic status of performances within the classical paradigm.
  49. Elements of Performance I: Improvisation and Rehearsal.
  50. I Introduction.
  51. II The nature of improvisation.
  52. III Improvisation and performable works: three models.
  53. a/ Improvisation on a theme.
  54. b/ Improvisational composition.
  55. c/ Pure improvisation.
  56. IV Improvisation and recording.
  57. V The place of rehearsal in the performing arts.
  58. Elements of Performance II: Audience and Embodiment.
  59. I Can there be artistic performance without an audience?
  60. II Audience response.
  61. III The embodied performer and the ‘mirroring’ receiver.
  62. ‘Performance Art’ and the Performing Arts.
  63. I Introduction.
  64. II Some puzzling cases.
  65. III What is ‘performance art’?
  66. IV When do works of ‘performance art’ involve artistic performances?
  67. V Performance as art: a final case.
  68. Bibliography.
  69. Index .

Author note

David Davies is Associate Professor of Philosophy at McGill University. He is the author of Art as Performance (Blackwell, 2004), Aesthetics and Literature (2007), and the editor of The Thin Red Line (2008). He has published widely in the philosophy of art on topics relating to the nature of art, artistic value, literature, film, music, theatre, and the visual arts.


“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)

"David Davies' Philosophy of the Performing Arts is a long-awaited book. For not since Paul Thom's For an Audience has a book in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition focused so clearly, exclusively, informatively and fairly on all of the performing arts. I will use David Davies' The Performing Arts in my classes."
James Hamilton, Kansas State University, author of The Art of Theater

"In this outstanding philosophical study, David Davies subjects the different, conflicting literatures characterizing works, performances, and their relationships to critical review en route to developing his own integrated theory. Covering classical music to jazz, Shakespeare to Brecht, dance to performance art, this is essential reading for anyone interested in the performing arts."
Stephen Davies, University of Auckland, author of The Philosophy of Art

Back cover copy

Philosophical inquiry on the performing arts has tended to focus on music; specifically classical music, which is assumed to provide a model for approaching the performing arts as a whole. This book engages with this belief and explores the ways in which the ‘classical paradigm’ might be extended to other musical genres, to theatre, and to dance.

Taking in the key components of artistic performance - improvisation, rehearsal, the role of the audience, the embodied nature of the artistic performer – the book examines the similarities and differences between the performing art forms and presents the key philosophical issues that they bring into play. These reflections are then applied to the traditionally difficult issue of contemporary artworks usually classified as ‘performance art’.

Assuming no prior knowledge of the subject matter, this book provides an accessible, yet sophisticated, introduction to the field and a comprehensive framework for thinking about the performing arts.