Philosophical Research Paper
Philosophy of Ancient Philosophers that appears timeless
Name: Hor Zhi Li, Daryl
Student Number: NS8728864A
The reason of this paper is to discuss the Philosophies of Ancient Philosopher from the Western, Plato (428 BC – 348 BC) and Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) and Eastern, Mozi (470 BC – 391 BC), Xunzi (313 BC – 238 BC) views and issues raised towards music and music education are still relevant to us today. Their Philosophical ideas, views and problems towards music and music education that remains unchanged and unresolved over 2,500 years. In this paper, we will be discussed in sections on some of the philosophies from each of the philosophers mentioned above and how these philosophies impact the current world and impact me in my past experiences in music making and music education as a student and educator.
Western Philosophers Music and Music Education
Plato (428BC – 348BC) Lived 80 years
Plato defines Education as “pleasure and liking, pain and hatred, become correctly arranged in the souls of those of those who are not yet able to consonance with the reason affirm that they have been correctly habituated in the appropriate habits” (law,653b,p.32). He believes that music education, which includes melody, poetry and dance is important as the rhythm and harmony has a strong influence into nurturing one’s inmost soul. With accordance to the Laws, “man enjoys to which he is accustomed” (Stamou, L. 2002) which Plato regards the teaching of appropriate songs are curial, to prevent the child from accustomed to feelings opposing the law. He also mentioned that males and females should listen to different types of songs as music cultivates our inmost soul. In this section, Plato believes in strangely in good music cultivates good character. This brings us to our local context during the time in the 1970’s where because of government censorship, many bars and clubs were closed because of the music played there was associated with hedonism, sexual promiscuity and drug abuse, this was classified under the influence to bad behaviours (Zubillaga-Pow, J., & Ho, C. 2014). Which Plato’s clearly mentions that good music cultivates good inmost soul. Which Singapore I believe have placed his words in place.
Music is not music if not accompanied by poets (harmony accompanied by words). To Plato, music instruments that hinder one’s speech does is not regarded as playing music. That’s why to Plato, playing a wind instrument is wrong as it does not create “music” and condemns solo instrumental music as useless and harmful and no value (Stamou, L. 2002). To him, music is utilitarian as he believes music is able to suppress all evil-doing in a child by the music master (Mark, M. L. 2013).
Judging of musical works as Plato suggest is a high-level task as he believes “music must be judged by pleasure, but not the pleasure of any chance listener” (Laws, 658e8-9). He believes that “fine music” is defined as music that pleases the “best man” and “adequately educated man”. He believes music should be judged by the audiences and not by one individual as he admires the past where musical exhibitions in Athens were judged by the others with whistling, clapping, and rude noises (Stamou, L. 2002).
Plato’s idea towards Education in the early stages of life consist primarily of Music and Gymnastics. He believes, Gymnastics develops civic virtues of disciplined courage, self-control, team work and this is ideal, where Music develops the child’s inmost self (Mark, M. L. 2013). Plato emphasized that Music education should start since infancy with the mother singing and light dancing while carrying the infant. As Plato says “nursing and motion should be as continuous as possible” (Laws 790c8-9) which will be beneficial when mothers “don’t provide stillness but the opposite, motion; they rock them constantly in their arms, and not with silence but with some melody” (Laws 790d9-790e2). Plato also recognizes the important of developing the child at different stages of their life. Which was revisited by Jean Paiget. on his Stages of Development, Sensorimotor stage (Birth through 18 – 24 month), Preoperational Stage (18-24 months to age 7), Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 12 years old), Formal Operational Stage (12 years old to Adulthood) (Piaget, J. 1970). Which currently many studies are still on going on this concept. However, many did not realize that this theory was originally from Plato.
After going through Plato’s view towards music and music education, I would like to relate and respond to his view. Good Music cultivate good values, I do agree to this to some extend as Plato emphasizes that good music to be companied by good poet to develop good values. In the current pop music, children have been exposed to music that has unappropriated words in them. Although, children may not understand the meaning to the song, just by reciting them will allow them to create a habit, which Plato suggest that children at young age learn through habit (Stamou, L. 2002). With just reciting blindly, creates a habit which follows by building of character and inmost soul. Therefore, I do agree in Good and Bad music.
Music and Gymnastics is inseparable. Let’s look from a point of learning music. With the aid of movement, musical concepts are put across much simpler. Having the knowledge of Gymnastics helps an instrumentalist to understand their body better. For example, a gymnast and wind player both needs to understand the concept of deep and correct breathing in order to, gymnast to get step right, wind player to produce a correct tone on the instrument. Both activities require rhythm.
Judge of Music, this bring to a topic of music exams. Since Plato suggested that music should be judged by the audience and not by a fine individual. Why do parents want students to go through competitions and examination? Music should be enjoyed and appreciated by others. Is winning competitions and getting high grades important?
Aristotle (384BC – 322BC) Lived 62 years
Aristotle believes that education should have the four main branches, 1. Reading and writing, 2. Gymnastic exercises 3. Music 4. Drawing. The reason for ranking music as where it below gymnastics is because he believes that the exercises develops courage and music at that time was cultivated for pleasure and the main purpose of music is leisure (Mark, M. L. 2013). We bring this though to our current time where academics and sports are always priority as compared to music classes. Though we live the 21st century, it seems like Aristotle’s thoughts are floating around in our society. Spoken to some of the parents on their priorities, they find that music can only be a form of hobby and enjoy as leisure. As Aristotle says, music is not necessity or utility, unlike reading and writing, that is useful in money making, management of house, aid to acquire knowledge and useful in political life. Drawing that is good for developing judgment. Gymnastics that develops health and strength (physically) (Mark, M. L. 2013). Music can never achieve any of the values above. Aristotle believes that human use music is for intellectual enjoyment in leisure. Music is all about enjoying it, leisure and pleasure to people.
Aristotle also compares music to sleep and drinking, he says “like sleep and drinking, which are not good in themselves, but are pleasant, and at the same time “make care to cease”,” and says that it contributes leisure enjoyment and mental cultivation. He believes that learning has no enjoyment, but pain (Mark, M. L. 2013). Which to me is not through as in my own teaching I always believed in “fun learning” learning through play. However, in the learning process, there must be times of fun and also pain learning. For example, practicing of a passage of 2 bars for an hour, would this classify as pain? To me it would be painful and fruitful during this process as one may learn more than what they are supposed to learn. Learning is growing of knowledge. In learning music, we gain musical knowledge. To Aristotle, it’s a waste of time.
He also mentioned that since music is to be enjoyed, why should one learn it? True pleasure should be obtained from hearing others. From the saying he have, it seems like Aristotle did not learnt or played a musical instrument. Playing a musical instrument would be an enjoy with pleasure as you are immersed with your own music by themselves.
Aristotle also mentioned that Professional performers are vulgar, the main two reasons of him in saying this is 1. A person who judges must also be performer, they should start practice in their early years even though they may not use in the future. This will help them to appreciate what is good and pleasure in it. 2. Music has a vulgarizing effect when exercised. To a freeman that is trained in politics, knowledge enough to equip them in allow what type of music, what music instruments should to put across to the public so that people are nurtured “correctly” (Aristotle. 1987). He feels that professional performers practice to improve themselves for improvement but to improve to give more pleasure to others, which he thinks is vulgar.
Aristotle also mentions on the modes of in music like, Dorian, help to relax the mind and enfeeble the mind where Mixolydian is for grave and sadness. Allowing oneself to be expose to various mode will develop different feelings.
In the current times, music is only taken seriously when music is taken as an academic/examination base subject. According to Aristotle, reading and writing is the most useful. I would believe from Aristotle’s practical point view, if music was to be in this context, he would agree that music is useful. However, parent’s do not understand that music does plays a very big part in character building as stated by Aristotle and Plato (Mark, M. L. 2013).
Conclusion of Western Philosophers Music and Music Education
Plato and Aristotle may have very different views to Music as art and also Music education.
To Plato, Music is not music when there is no sing and poets are together with lyre it is not music as music to him cultivates good character and the words that comes together is the main source of knowledge to humans. Whereas for Aristotle, he thinking that the tone of the instrument plays a part in giving different emotions that links to building of character, for example he mentions that the sound of the flute creates excitement to people, which could be negative to humans.
Plato’s approach is more ideal where Aristotle’s is from the practical view. However, both Plato and Aristotle have a common mind set of improving the one’s life through music and not using music as a money-making tool.
Plato believes that music is the source to building character. Good music cultivates good man and vice versa. Where Aristotle be different modes of music cultivate different inner self. Nevertheless, both music is to nurture the innermost self.
Eastern Philosophers Music and Music Education
Mozi (470 BC – 391 BC) Lived 79 years
“Making Music is wrong!”
Xunzi (313BC – 238BC) Lived 75 years
According to Xunzi, music is joy in many ways, 1. The use in word, ? have two meanings depending of pronunciation. ? (Yue) Music and ?(Le) Joy (Wang, K. 2009). 2. Listening to music together unites people (Tan, L. 2013). 3. Music is an essential part of human emotions as it brings joy. He associates whenever there is joy with singing and movement hence when music is played, it’s only natural to move to the groove (Tan, L. 2013). 4. Music is sufficient to nurture good in human’s heart and to keep evil away. No evil means not hatred that leads to joy and harmony among people (Tan, L. 2013).
? (Yue) Music and ? (Le) Joy , this Chinese charter shares the same form but different pronunciation which show the bond relationship between Music ? (Yue) and Joy ? (Le). According to Xunzi, humans expresses joy by a forms of vocal sounds (music) and body movements (Dance) accompanied by music. He believes that the sounds, melody, rich and pure tones of the instruments, and the rhythm and meters of music would be enough to cultivate good in one’s heart and keeping them away from evil. Which Xunzi is unable to tolerate Mozi condemning music even though the Ancient kings have good intentions on the use of music.
How does this reflect in reality? Looking at our world today, Singapore. Every year, a new national day song will be created and lyric used is always about bonding the nation and country. According to Xunzi, using music in this manner will bring joy for the people. It does bring joy to people during the time of celebration regardless of what skin color you are during national day. Which music has not only brought joy to people but also harmony. Which the word harmony can have various meaning harmony (music) and harmony (among people), this word is also worth exploring. This point covers point 2 of listening to music together unites people. In the context of politics, according to Xunzi is music can also use to fix social orders and harmonizing the three main groups, Government officials, Family members and community. He added with the integration of martial dances would be an important service to the safety of the state and to improve the people’s character and behavior as well which he himself questions how is that possible (Wang, K. 2009).
He too like Plato and Aristotle believes in good music, music that builds good character for humans in a psychological affective and morally constructive (Wang, K. 2009). He describes that when humans listen to singing of an Odes and Hymns, their minds broadens, aspiration will increase, his manner will be refine and their hearts will be good and practical conduct will be perfected. Xunzi also states that Music has a magical effect as it has the of the power and charm that it works on improving the human soul morally and influencing deeply into them to help in reforming to their custom in the most natural way.
However, Xunzi has an idealistic expectation towards music. he believes that the entire world is made peaceful and enjoys the beauty and goodness together. He further clarifies the interaction between music and rite in this way “Music embodies the unchanging harmony, while rites represent unalterable reason, Music joins together what is common to all, while rites distinguish what is different; and through the combination of rites and music human heart is governed” (Wang, K. 2009). Music should be appreciated and enjoyed freely and willingly and it acts as a role to guide emotions to meet the rational side to integrate to a wholesome being.
Music is Joy to for everyone. We have a few scenarios to show that music joy. 1. Making music together. For example, Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), putting aside that this is a professional job, people in the SSO comes from different parts of the world, Singapore, China, America, Japanese and many others. Does this nationality hinder them from making music together and being friends? It is because of music that brought them together to be sitting in one orchestra making music and building friendship. Let’s see how music can bring joy to the community. During one of the People’s Association Community Center’s national day events, there was a section on mass group Cajon learning session. During this time, I observed people of different ages, races and cultures were all smiling and engaging with each other and teaching and learning from each there. Xunzi’s explanation and definition of joy does revolve around us even this this current time.
However, Music at many times does not bring us joy. As I believe that we humans are emotionally tag to Music/sound. A happy song may be sad to another. Which bring us to a question “Music is Joy”? Does it mean when enemies are putted together to listen/play music they will become friends after doing so? According to Xunzi this will work.
Xunzi also mention “Man cannot do without music” (Tan, L. 2013). This is true even in our times. Can we humans not be expose to sounds? To me sounds of the morning birds chirping, wind rustling the trees, cars driving pass, honks in the traffic jam, humans walking and talking, etc. are various types of sounds and depending how we appreciate them it is defined as music. Even if is this sound are classified as noise, as drivers, we bound to have the radio(Music) accompanying us to from destination to destination. we human/man cannot do without Music as Music is all around us anywhere and anytime.
Conclusion of Eastern Philosophers Music and Music Education
Mozi negative(practical) utilitarian, Xunzi Positive(ideal) utilitarian
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