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093 - Dissolving dualities in mind, music and mechanism


Dualities of a similar nature feature in traditional interpretations of mental, musical and computational processes. They relate respectively: to the perceived duality between 'consciousness' and 'content' to which William James alludes in [1]; to the distinction between a musical composition as a formal pattern in sound, and as an affective experience [2]; and to the connection between a computation as a reliable mechanical process and as a meaningful external state-changing activity that mediates human interaction in the world [3]. All three dualities concern the relationship between what is perceived as content-free, potentially formal, and as content-laden, potentially hermeneutic, in character.

Empirical Modelling (EM) [4] is an approach to model-building, typically computer-based, with particular relevance to understanding how formal and hermeneutic perspectives on mechanism are related. EM endorses a view of mental processes that is aligned with that of James [1,5] and Edelman [6] rather than a computational conception of mind; builds on thinking about the use of instruments in the spirit of Polanyi [7]; and embraces the vision for computing and modelling for the humanities identified by McCarty [8,9]. This paper discusses how an EM perspective on mechanism may help to inform our understanding of making, analysing and modelling music, and of music in its relation to mind.


1. William James, Does Consciousness Exist? in Essays in Radical Empiricism (first published 1912), University of Nebraska Press 1996
2. Ian Cross, Music Analysis and Music Perception, Music Analysis, 1998, 17(1), 3-20
3. Brian Cantwell Smith, Two Lessons of Logic, Computational Intelligence, 3 (1987); pp. 214-218
4. The Empirical Modelling website at the URL:
5. W M Beynon, Radical Empiricism, Empirical Modelling and the nature of knowing (to appear in Pragmatics and Cognition, 2005)
6. Gerald Edelman, Wider than the Sky: a Revolutionary View of Consciousness, Penguin Books, 2005
7. Michael Polanyi, Knowing and Being, Mind, New Series, 70 (280), October 1961, 458-470
8. Willard McCarty, Humanities Computing, Palgrave MacMillan, September 2005
9. W M Beynon, S B Russ and W McCarty, Human Computing: Modelling with Meaning in ACH/ALLC 2005 Conference Abstracts, Humanities Computing and Media Centre, University of Victoria, 138-145


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