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ERIC Number: EJ1002464
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0021-8510
Music and Pedagogy in the Platonic City
Bourgault, Sophie
Journal of Aesthetic Education, v46 n1 p59-72 Spr 2012
That Plato regarded music as an extremely powerful means to cultivate morality and good citizenship is well-known. And yet, it is highly improbable that music advocates would turn to Plato's oeuvre--largely because Plato's name is commonly associated with ascetic otherworldliness and with much loathing for artistic creativity and innovation. These associations are not simply alive and well in the popular psyche; they can also be found in some scholarly discussions of Plato's musical thought. In his "La musique dans l'oeuvre de Platon," for instance, Moutsopoulos concludes by observing that Plato's musical aesthetics is at base "conservative and traditionalist," a conclusion partially embraced by two well-known commentators of Plato's "Laws," Terry Saunders and R. F. Stalley. Quite similarly, James Urmson affirms, in his study of Plato's treatment of poetry, "though philosophically an innovator, [Plato] was in practical matters a committed conservative. He was trying desperately to shore up the old ways, the old morality, the old patriotism, or what seemed such to his nostalgic eyes." Warren Anderson (author of two monographs on ancient musical thought and of the "Grove Dictionary's" entry on Plato) goes further. He affirms not only that Plato was a conservative "out of touch with his own times" but also that the philosopher was quite uninterested in the music of mortals. Moreover, in his entry for the "Grove," Anderson claims that Plato has a "narrow" and "incoherent" conception of musical pleasure (in part because Plato seemingly discounts pleasure as "irrelevant" while simultaneously making it the basis for musical judgment). This article seeks to offer correctives to these interpretative claims. These correctives matter partially because in various social sciences today, Plato's thought is still quickly dismissed because it is said to be too otherworldly and ascetic, or because it is thought to entail a conservative aesthetics and politics. Paradoxically, one set of accusations (that Plato is ultimately indifferent to pleasure and to this world) tends to locate his thought completely "outside" of history, while the other (that Plato is an aristocratic conservative) tends to locate his thought completely "in" history and tradition. The author argues that Platonic thought has in fact a foot in both history and eternity, and that it represents an important intellectual resource for those interested in reclaiming the social and political importance of an aesthetic education. More specifically, the author would like to show that Plato had a coherent and positive conception of musical pleasure; that he was always concerned with the music of the city; and, finally, that using the label "conservative" to characterize Plato's musical thought is imprecise. (Contains 49 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A