Indication, Abstraction and Individuation

  • Jerrold Levinson University of Maryland


Roughly thirty years ago, as part of an exploration of the ontology of art, I suggested that musical works (and implicitly, also literary works) were not pure abstract structures, like geometrical forms, but instead impure indicated structures. However, what exactly does that mean? In the present paper I revisit that old idea of mine in the hope of clarifying it somewhat, before then using it as a springboard to discussion of artistic indication as a singular psychological act, of the individuation of indicated objects that results from such indication, of the relation between artistic indication and neighboring sorts of action – what we might call actions of simple indication – and finally, of the indication that musical and literary artworks effect, as opposed to the indication by which they are created.