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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 85, Issue 2, Spring 2011

Shane Drefcinski
Pages 287-296

What Kind of Cause Is Music’s Influence on Moral Character?

In Politics VIII, Aristotle contends that music has some influence over character and the soul. Nevertheless, it is not entirely clear what sort of influence music has. Does appropriate music cause someone to become virtuous, as Socrates seems to suggest (Rep. 401 d–402 a)? And if that is Aristotle’s claim, then is it not easily refuted by examples of vicious lovers of excellent music, such as the Nazi soldiers who forced imprisoned Jewish musicians to perform Mozart concertos? But if appropriate music is not the principal cause of moral virtue, what sort of formative role does Aristotle think it has? In this paper, I investigate what Aristotle says about music and the formation of character. I argue that, according to Aristotle, music is a universal, instrumental cause of moral virtue.

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