Skip to content

Top 40 Philosophy Flashback: Boston, “More Than a Feeling”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

Kurt Cobain thought of “Smells Like Teen Spirit’s” chord progression as a rip-off of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” Nirvana even introed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with “More Than a Feeling” at least once (see this video). So, since we did “Smells Like Teen Spirit” yesterday, let’s do “More Than a Feeling” today (which was released in 1976 and made it to #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100).

That is, without a doubt, one of the greatest rock songs ever. The vocals are divine. The riffs are perfect. The song structure is inventive and intricate. It’s just an absolutely amazing song.

(If you don’t hear the similarity to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” that’s okay. The first two chords of the chorus are played in a similar rhythm in both songs, and are “the same” two chords, but in two different keys. Other than that, the songs are completely different.)

We talked about angst yesterday, and whether or not it is legitimate. We asked whether or not angst was revelatory of reality.

(Audience

[sarcastically]: “Big words there, Tillman! Oh you fancy huh? How ’bout you TALK NORMAL.”)

That is, we were wondering if teens are mistaken to be angsty about the world. Is angst, perhaps, an overreaction — or is the world actually an angsty place?

In “More Than a Feeling,” Brad Delp “looked out this morning, and the sun was gone.” I assume it was a cloudy — we might say, “sad” or “depressing” — day.

“But days don’t get depressed,” you say. “People get depressed in response to days.”

True enough. But look at it this way. When you see a yellow leaf, you are seeing yellow. The leaf isn’t seeing yellow, of course. The leaf just is yellow. You, on the other hand, are seeing yellow. And you are seeing yellow because you are seeing the leaf, and the leaf is yellow. Your “seeing yellow” is the appropriate response to the leaf, because the leaf is itself actually yellow.

Now, take a sad day. Your “feeling sad” is like your “seeing yellow.” And the day’s being sad is like the leaf’s being yellow. The day isn’t feeling sad. (Days don’t have feelings; people do.) But the day is sad, like the leaf is yellow. And that means when you feel sad about the day, you are feeling the appropriate thing. You are feeling the day as it is (like you were seeing the leaf as it is). It is a sad day, and you are feeling it as a sad day.

That’s my theory anyway. Most philosophers would disagree with me. They’d say “it’s all in your head.” But with Boston I say it’s “more than a feeling.” That is, if you’re feeling things the way they actually are, it’s not just an emotion in your head. Your emotion is your feeling reality as it is.

“But don’t people ever make mistakes?” you ask. “Don’t they ever feel the wrong thing?”

Alas, yes. We sometimes see the wrong color, just like we sometimes feel the wrong emotion. In fact, I’d say we often make mistakes about which emotion is appropriate.

Some people, furthermore, might be “emotion blind,” like some people are “color blind.” They might consistently feel inaccurate emotions, just like a color blind person consistently sees at least some colors inaccurately. But just because people make mistakes, or are systematically deceived, doesn’t mean no one ever has an accurate emotional response to things.

I think one of our jobs as humans is to work toward having accurate emotions: emotions that genuinely reflect the things we encounter, without overreacting or misinterpreting.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *