Herbart and music


Armonia e contrappunto nel pensiero di J. F. Herbart

Milan: Unicopli, 2006
ISBN 88-400-1101-3

Der musikalische Herbart. Harmonie und Kontrapunkt als Gegenstände der Psychologie und der Ästhetik

Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2006
ISBN 3-8260-3478-3

Harmony and Counterpoint in J. F. Herbart’s Psychology and Aesthetics

The realist J. F. Herbart (1776‐1841), an original follower of Kant and chief opponent of German Idealism, was particularly concerned with music in his life as well as in his philosophy. Der musikalische Herbart is the conceptual reconstruction of his theoretical reflection, involving metaphysics, psychology, and aesthetics: it is by his multidisciplinary, relational approach that Herbart contributes his original philosophy of music. In contrast to Kant, he defends the possibility of scientific psychology, which he establishes upon metaphysics, mathematics, and experience.
Herbart investigates tone relations applying psychological laws and mechanisms: intervals, chords, melody, consonance, dissonance, and even equal temperament are analysed as psychological products and explained through the notions of the tone line (a kind of musical a priori) and “musical thinking”. At the same time, musical thinking can be seen as a principle of aesthetical legality, since Herbart’s account of tone relations forms the core of his rigorously formalistic aesthetics of music. His concept of music finally proves to be pivotal for later tone psychology.

Review: Maier, M. (2008). Die Musikforschung, 2, 164–165