This is entry #72 in our ongoing 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.
Philosopher: L.A. Paul, Yale University
Artwork: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major, Op. 27 “Quasi una fantasia”, No. 1, second movement, as performed by Glenn Gould. (Note: This is not the moonlight sonata (no. 14), but its lesser-known companion.)
Words: Ordinarily, I prefer Bach. But the second movement of this Beethoven piece has always had a special hold on me.
It’s the relationship between the notes that I find especially appealing, both tone and temporal. There is something about the qualitative character of the sounds juxtaposed with the speeding up and slowing down of the piece: it evokes the image of slow water, gathering speed, then moving quickly around stones in a brook.
It’s a piece I listen to when I’m excited by a project and feeling like I have philosophical insight about something. First there is the faltering confusion and the stumbling difficulty, and then, suddenly, I’m dancing with a new idea, a new way to think about world and self. The movement perfectly captures this feeling of freedom, exhilaration, and pure unfettered joy.