Philosophy’s Form and its Critique. A Workshop with Lydia Goehr

There are two kinds of philosophers: those with a consciousness of form and those without. This short and provocative judgement is an expression of how Lydia Goehr (Columbia University) engages with philosophy. The underlying thesis of this judgement is that to become critical of their own reifications and the entanglement of their thoughts with society philosophers have to understand philosophy’s form in a distinct way: not as an arbitrary bearer of content but as the medium through and in which content is materialized and specified. Therefore, philosophical concepts must not be understood as stable and identical units, rather they should be viewed as overturning themselves in historical experience. Consequently, the aesthetic and rhetorical aspects of philosophy no longer remain as marginalized as they are in the mainstream of today’s philosophy. Philosophy’s conceptual form is not formalized any longer. 

This dynamic understanding of philosophy’s form is at the center of Lydia Goehr’s thinking, which stretches from aesthetics in general and philosophy of music in particular to philosophy of history and critical theory. From her seminal “The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works” (1992) to “A Quest for Voice” (1997) and “Elective Affinities” (2008) she mediated her deep understanding of music with a unique grasp on philosophy, especially on Theodor W. Adorno and Arthur Danto, culminating in her “Red Sea – Red Square – Red Thread. A Philosophical Detective Story” (2021), a book as rich in thought as it is subtle in tone. This workshop will engage with central motives of Goehr’s own philosophy, her way of assimilating philosophy and art while keeping them distinguished at the same time and the critical and political effects of this endeavor. 

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