Ancient History & Civilisation



This chapter addresses itself to the first two of the three questions asked at the end of Book VII: (a) Should we have some system of education? And (b), should responsibility for education be public or private? The first hardly needs answering, and the second too is soon disposed of. The rearing and education of the children of citizens should indeed be a matter of public concern, since they are the future citizens, the future rulers of the state and one needs to learn to be a citizen, just as a craftsman needs to be trained in his particular skill. Moreover, the education of the potential citizen will depend largely on the type of state and on the kind of life which it is desired to lead; Aristotle himself has in mind especially the intellectual, artistic, cultivated life which the Greeks called scholē,usually translated ‘leisure’. No citizen, therefore, ‘belongs to himself’: he is part of the state, and is not entitled to be educated privately in private tastes and standards. All these remarks Aristotle makes very swiftly, and naturally does not pause over certain questions a modern critic may wish to ask: (i) Is the doctrine totalitarian, allowing nothing to private discretion? (ii) Does it allow for anything approaching a ‘mixed’ society? (iii) Is there to be no debate about the ends of education?

It is not until the second chapter that Aristotle turns to the actual subject-matter of education; and a great deal of the rest of this final book is concerned with no more than music and singing. But we do not know how much of the book is lost; it certainly now appears to be unfinished, as the thirteenth-century translator William of Moerbeke saw.

1337a11 No one would dispute the fact that it is a lawgiver’s prime duty to arrange for the education of the young. In states where this is not done the quality of the constitution suffers. Education must be related to the particular constitution in each case, for it is the special character1 appropriate to each constitution that set it up at the start and commonly maintains it, e.g. the democratic character preserves a democracy, the oligarchic an oligarchy. And in all circumstances the better character is a cause of a better constitution. And just as there must also be preparatory training for all skills and capacities, and a process of preliminary habituation to the work of each profession, it is obvious that there must also be training for the activities of virtue. But since there is but one aim for the entire state, it follows that education must be one and the same for all, and that the responsibility for it must be a public one, not the private affair which it now is, each man looking after his own children and teaching them privately whatever private curriculum he thinks they ought to study. In matters that belong to the public, training for them must be the public’s concern. And it is not right either that any of the citizens should think that he belongs just to himself; he must regard all citizens as belonging to the state, for each is a part of the state; and the responsibility for each part naturally has regard to the responsibility for the whole. In this respect the Lacedaemonians will earn our approval: the greatest possible attention is given to youth in Sparta, and all on a public basis.

VII ii

In this chapter Aristotle first describes briefly the variety of assumptions about the purpose of education that prevailed in his day. One view, then as now, is that education should be utilitarian; and so in the second paragraph he indicates how far free men should engage in ‘useful’ activities. If his requirements seem unrealistic, we should remind ourselves that he is thinking of the education of a ‘free’ man, who will in due course become a citizen and ‘statesman’, living among a non-citizen population of artisans and slaves. We may find Aristotle’s views prejudiced and objectionable, but unrealistic they are not: they reflect views common among the ancient Greeks, and certain economic features of Greek states. Interestingly, he believes that even ‘liberal’ activities can, if pursued too zealously, do harm similar to that done by mechanical and menial work. He has something of the feeling for the gentleman-amateur which is still detectable in our own society, particularly (as is sometimes claimed) in the higher grades of the British civil service.

1337a33 It is clear then that there should be laws laid down about education, and that education itself must be made a public concern. But we must not forget the question of what that education is to be, and how one ought to be educated. For in modern times there are opposing views about the tasks to be set, for there are no generally accepted assumptions about what the young should learn, either for virtue or for the best life; nor yet is it clear whether their education ought to be conducted with more concern for the intellect than for the character of the soul. The problem has been complicated by the education we see actually given; and it is by no means certain whether training should be directed at things useful in life, or at those conducive to virtue, or at exceptional accomplishments. (All these answers have been judged correct by somebody.) And there is no agreement as to what in fact does tend towards virtue. For a start, men do not all prize the same virtue, so naturally they differ also about the training for it.

1337b4 Then as to useful things: there are obviously certain essentials which the young must learn; but it is clear (a) that they must not learn all useful tasks, since we distinguish those that are proper for a free man and those that are not, and (b) that they must take part only in those useful occupations which will not turn the participant into a mechanic. We must reckon a task or skill or study as mechanical if it renders the body or intellect of free men unserviceable for the uses and activities of virtue. We therefore call mechanical those skills which have a deleterious effect on the body’s condition, and all work that is paid for. For these make the mind preoccupied,1 and unable to rise above lowly things. Even in some branches of knowledge worthy of free men, while there is a point up to which it does not demean a free man to go in for them, too great a concentration on them, too much mastering of detail – this is liable to lead to the same damaging effects that we have been speaking of. In this connection the purpose for which the action or the study is undertaken makes a big difference. It is not unworthy of a free man to do something for oneself or for one’s friends or on account of virtue; but he that does the same action on others’ account may often be regarded as doing something typical of a hireling or slave. The established subjects studied nowadays, as we have already noted,2 have a double tendency.

VIII iii

The chief aim of a gentleman’s, that is, a citizen’s education is to enable him to employ his intellectual and artistic faculties to the full, to live a life of ‘virtue’ and of ‘leisure’. The following chapter is one of the best sources for understanding what Aristotle meant byscholē and his discussion ofmousikē, ‘music’, makes it clear that the good life should have a high cultural and artistic content. Rather abruptly, the final paragraph then resumes a theme broached in VII xv, and asserts the necessity of gvmnastikē, physical training, to which Chapter iv is then devoted, the treatment of music being resumed at greater length in VIII v. On the meaning of the term mousikē, see the introduction to that chapter.

1337b23 Roughly four things are generally taught to children, (a) reading and writing, (b) physical training, (c) music, and (d), not always included, drawing. Reading and writing and drawing are included as useful in daily life in a variety of ways, gvmnastic as promoting courage. But about music there could be an immediate doubt. Most men nowadays take part in music for the sake of the pleasure it gives; but originally it was included in education on the ground that our own nature itself, as has often been said,1 wants to be able not merely to work properly but also to be at leisure in the right way. And leisure is the single fundamental principle of the whole business, so let us discuss it again.

1337b33 If we need both work and leisure, but the latter is preferable to the former and is its end, we must ask ourselves what are the proper activities of leisure. Obviously not play; for that would inevitably be to make play our end in life, which is impossible. Play has its uses, but they belong rather to the sphere of work; for he who toils needs rest, and play is a way of resting, while work is inseparable from toil and strain. We must therefore admit play, but keeping it to its proper uses and occasions, and prescribing it as a cure; such movement of the soul is a relaxation, and, because we enjoy it, rest. But leisure seems in itself to contain pleasure, happiness and the blessed life. This is a state attained not by those at work but by those at leisure, because he that is working is working for some hitherto unattained end, and happiness is an end, happiness which is universally regarded as concomitant not with pain but with pleasure. Admittedly men do not agree as to what that pleasure is; each man decides for himself following his own disposition, the best man choosing the best kind of enjoyment from the finest sources. Thus it becomes clear that, in order to spend leisure in civilized pursuits, we do require a certain amount of learning and education, and that these branches of education and these subjects studied must have their own intrinsic purpose, as distinct from those necessary occupational subjects which are studied for reasons beyond themselves.

1338a13 Hence, in the past, men laid down music as part of education, not as being necessary, for it is not in that category, nor yet as being useful in the way that a knowledge of reading and writing is useful for business or household administration, for study, and for many of the activities of a citizen, nor as a knowledge of drawing seems useful for the better judging of the products of a skilled worker, nor again as gvmnastic is useful for health and vigour – neither of which do we see gained as a result of music. There remains one purpose – for civilized pursuits during leisure; and that is clearly the reason why they do introduce it, for they give it a place in what they regard as the civilized pursuits of free men. Thus Homer’s line, ‘to summon him alone to the rich banquet’; and after these words he introduces certain other persons, ‘who summon the bard whose singing shall delight them all’. And elsewhere Odysseus says that the best civilized pursuit is when men get together and ‘sit in rows up and down the hall feasting and listening to the bard’.2

1338a30 Clearly then there is a form of education which we must provide for our sons, not as being useful or essential but as elevated and worthy of free men. We must on a later occasion3 discuss whether this education is one or many, what subjects it embraces, and how they are to be taught. But as it turns out, we have made some progress in that direction: we have some evidence from the ancients too, derived from the subjects laid down by them – as the case of music makes clear.

1338a37 It is also clear that there are some useful things, too, in which the young must be educated, not only because they are useful (for example they must learn reading and writing), but also because they are often the means to learning yet further subjects. Similarly they must learn drawing, not for the sake of avoiding mistakes in private purchases, and so that they may not be taken in when buying and selling utensils, but rather because it teaches one to be observant of physical beauty. But to be constantly asking ‘What is the use of it?’ is unbecoming to those of broad vision4 and unworthy of free men.

1338b2 Since it is obvious that education by habit-forming must precede education by reasoned instruction, and that education of the body must precede that of the intellect, it is clear that we must subject our children to gymnastics and to physical training; the former produces a certain condition of the body, the latter its actions.


Physical training for military and athletic purposes was a prominent feature of Greek education, and criticisms of excessive enthusiasm for it, and of an extreme admiration for athletes, are fairly frequent in Greek literature (see e.g. Xenophanes, frag. 2, J. M. Edmonds, Elegy and Iambus (Loeb Classical Library, 1931)). Aristotle links his own attack with a renewal of his oft-repeated criticism of Sparta for cultivating only one virtue, courage. His distinction between courage and mere ferocity is well taken, but we may wonder about his view that strenuous mental and strenuous physical exertion ought not to be combined in one and the same period of life (cf. Plato, Republic 537b): has it any real empirical or physiological basis? The critical and negative side of this chapter is stronger than the positive recommendations, which are very brief. His main point is that training should be kept within the natural capacity of the body: as a teleologist, he believes that the body has certain natural limits to its development and strength, and that attempts to exceed them can only harm it.

1338b9 In our own day some of those states which have the greatest reputation for looking after their youth aim at producing an athlete’s condition, to the detriment of both the appearance and the growth of the children’s bodies; while the Spartans, who have avoided that error, nevertheless by severity of exercise render them like wild animals, under the impression that this is particularly conducive to courage. But, as has often been pointed out,1 the care of the young must not be directed to producing one virtue only, nor this one more than the rest. And even if courage should be the aim, they do not manage to secure even that. For neither among animals nor among foreign races do we find courage to be a characteristic of the most fierce, but rather of the gentler and lion-like dispositions. And there are many foreign races that think nothing of slaughter and the consumption of human flesh, Achaeans and Heniochians among those around the Euxine Sea, and some other mainland races equally or in some cases even more prone to it. Raiders they may be, but they are not endowed with courage.

1338b24 And of the Lacedaemonians themselves too we know that so long as they alone went in for strenuous exercises, they were superior to the rest, but nowadays they fall short of others in the struggles of war and of athletics. For their former superiority was due not to their drilling of their young in this way, but to the fact that they alone trained and their opponents did not. The first place, therefore, must be taken not by any animal quality but by nobility.2 One cannot imagine a wolf or any other wild animal engaging in a struggle against noble2 danger; but that is what a good man will do. Those who permit their young to indulge in excessive physical training, leaving them without education in essentials, are effectively turning them into mechanics,3 making them useful for one function only4 of statesmanship, and even for that, as our argument shows, less useful than others. We should judge the Spartans by their present-day performance, not by what they used to do. They now have rivals in the field of education, which formerly they did not have.

1338b38 There is, then, general agreement about the need to employ gymnastic training, and about the methods to be used. Up to puberty the exercises prescribed should be on the light side; nothing should be done that would interfere with the body’s growth, no hard dieting or punishing exertion; for these clearly have just that ill-effect, as is shown by the fact that it is rare to find the same people successful in the Olympic games both as boys and as men: their severe gymnastic training as boys has caused them to lose their strength. But when for the three years after puberty they have been engaged in learning other things, then the subsequent period of life may properly be devoted to strenuous exercise and compulsory hard dieting. Vigorous exercise of intellect and body must not be combined; each naturally works in the opposite direction from the other, bodily toil interfering with the mind, intellectual toil with the body.


While the needs of the body are straightforward, the needs of the mind are not; and so Aristotle returns again to music. It was shown in VIII iii that learning music was not an essential in the same way as learning to read and write, but that it was traditionally a subject of a liberal education. But to learn the rudiments of music in childhood is one thing: it is quite another in manhood to cultivate, understand and perform. A gentleman should enjoy and appreciate music, but not become a mere mechanic by devoting time and effort to reaching a high standard of performance (cf. VIII vi, and introduction to VIII ii, on gentlemen-amaleurs).

Music, Aristotle argues, is something more than amusement; yet one of its great merits is that it gives pleasure, so that it is a powerful instrument of moral formation: by learning to associate the admirable and virtuous characters depicted in music with the pleasure given by its performance, the audience is encouraged to imitate what it sees and hears, and so become virtuous itself Aristotle’s view of the matter is thus substantially that of Plato in Book III of the Republic and Book II of the Laws; and common to them both is the belief that since mankind is essentially imitative, particularly in childhood, the arts are not merely ‘entertainment’ but exercise a crucial influence in education, and need therefore to be controlled by what we should call ‘censorship’. In brief, a man’s taste in music (or dress or anything else) is worth training; for it is part of his character.

I have allowed ‘music’ as a translation of (hē) mousikē (technē), ‘the skill presided over by the muses’, though it is not entirely satisfactory, as the meaning of the Greek term varies somewhat. Aristotle uses it chiefly in a fairly restricted sense, to describe performances which make their primary appeal to the ear, and which are given on musical instruments, with or without sung words. ‘Mousikē’ covered also performances which included dancing, and it could be used in the even wider sense of ‘the arts’ in general; indeed, it is noticeable how towards the end of this chapter Aristotle broadens his discussion of mousikē so as to include painting and sculpture, arts whose appeal is visual. For a summary of the meanings of mousikē, see S. Michaelides, The Music of Ancient Greece, An Encyclopaedia (London, 1978), pp. 213–16; Aristotle’s views on music in general are discussed in W. D. Anderson, Ethos and Education in Greek Music (Cambridge. Mass., 1966), ch. IV.

In this chapter the concept of diagōgē becomes prominent. Translation is very difficult: what English word conveys ‘that special way of life appropriate to a leisured and cultivated citizen-gentleman-statesman’? I have opted for ‘civilized pursuits’.

1339a11 We have already discussed1 some of the questions that arose about music, but we should do well to resume the subject and carry it further, so as to provide a sort of keynote to any future discussions about it. To begin with, it is not easy to define either what the effect of music is or what our object should be in engaging in it. Is it for our amusement and refreshment, like having a sleep or taking a drink? These things are not in themselves of serious importance, though they are pleasant and help us to forget our worries, as Euripides says.2 (This is in fact what causes some people to put all three on the same level, sleep, drink, and music, and to use them all in the same way; and dancing is also added.) Must we not rather regard music as a stimulus to virtue, capable of making a certain kind of character (in just the same way as gymnastic training produces a body of a certain type), by accustoming men to be able to enjoy themselves in the right way? Third on this list of possibilities must be that it has a contribution to make to civilized pursuits and practical wisdom.

1339a26 It is clear then that we are not to educate the young with a view to their amusement. Learning brings pain, and while children are learning they are not playing. Nor yet are children of such age-groups fit to be assigned civilized pursuits, because what is complete3 does not belong to the incomplete. Still, one might perhaps suppose that serious activity in childhood may have for its aim the amusement of the complete and adult man. But if this is so, what need is there for them themselves to learn music? Why not do as kings of Persians and Medes do, have others to make music for them, so that they may learn and enjoy it in that way? For surely those who have perfected their skill in the job of making music will give better performances than those who have devoted to music only such time as will enable them to learn it. But if we must ourselves work hard at such things, does it follow that we must also busy ourselves with preparing high-class meals? Certainly not.

1339a41 The same question arises when we ask whether music has the power to improve the character. Why learn these things oneself and not rather do as the Lacedaemonians do – learn to judge and to be able to enjoy oneself in the right way through listening to others? Without actually learning music, they are capable, they say, of distinguishing correctly wholesome tunes from unwholesome. The same argument applies again, when we ask whether music ought to be performed as a contribution to the cheerful and civilized pursuits worthy of free men. Why must they learn to perform themselves, instead of simply enjoying the performances of others? We may in this connection refer to our conception of the gods; the poets do not depict Zeus as playing the lyre and singing in person. In fact we call the performers ‘mechanics’ and think that a man should not perform except for his own amusement or when he has had a good deal to drink.

1339b10 Perhaps this question should be postponed till later;4 our chief inquiry now is whether or not music is to be included in education, and what it can achieve. To take the three things we have canvassed, does music promote education, or amusement, or civilized pursuits? It is reasonable to reply that it is grouped with, and apparently forms part of, all three. Amusement is for the purpose of relaxation, and relaxation must necessarily be pleasant, since it is a kind of cure for the ills we suffer in working hard. As to civilized pursuits, there must, as is universally agreed, be present pleasure as well as nobility,5 for happiness consists of both these. Now we all agree that music is among the most pleasant things, whether instrumental or accompanied by singing (at any rate the poet Musaeus6 says ‘singing is man’s greatest joy’, so because it can make men cheerful, it is properly included in social intercourse and civilized pursuits) – so that one might from that fact too infer that the young should be taught it. For things that are pleasant and harmless as well rightly belong not only to the end in view but also to relaxation by the way. But since it rarely happens that men attain their goal, and they frequently rest and indulge in amusements with no other thought than the pleasure of them, there is surely a useful purpose in periodic refreshment in the pleasures derived from music.

1339b31 On the other hand, men have come to make amusements an end in themselves. No doubt there is something pleasant about the end too, but it is a very special kind of pleasure, and men in seeking pleasure mistake the one kind for the other. For there is indeed a resemblance to the end of their actions: for the end is not to be chosen for the sake of anything that may accrue thereafter, and similarly these pleasures of recreation are not for purposes in the future but arise from what is past, e.g. labour and pain. This would seem to be a reasonable explanation of why men try to get happiness through these pleasures. But men take up music not for this reason alone, but also, it seems, because it is useful in providing relaxation.

1339b42 Nevertheless we must ask whether, though this has been the incidental result, the true nature of music is not something of greater value than filling the need we have described. Music certainly gives a certain natural pleasure: all ages and all types of character like to engage in it. But we must do more than merely share in the general pleasure which all men feel in it; we must consider whether music has also some effect on the character and the soul. We could answer this question if we could say that we become of such and such a character through music. And surely it is obvious from many examples that we do, not least from the tunes composed by Olympus.7 These are well known to put souls into a frenzy of excitement – an excitement which is an affection of the character of the soul. Again, when listening to imitative performances all men are affected in a manner in keeping with the performance, even apart from the tunes and rhythms employed. And since it so happens that music belongs to the class of things pleasant, and since virtue has to do with enjoying oneself in the right way, with liking and hating the right things, clearly there is no more important lesson to be learned or habit to be formed than that of right judgement and of delighting in good characters and noble5 actions.

1340a18 Now in rhythm and in tunes there is the closest resemblance to the real natures of anger and gentleness, also of courage and self-control, and of the opposites of these, indeed of all the other kinds of character; and the fact that hearing such sounds does indeed cause changes in our souls is an indication of this. To have the habit of feeling delight (or distress) in things that are like reality is near to having the same disposition towards reality itself. I mean if a man enjoys looking at a likeness of someone for no other reason than the actual shape of it, then inevitably he will enjoy looking at its original too, whose likeness he is at the moment contemplating. Now it so happens that other objects perceived by the senses, e.g. those touched or tasted, do not present any similarity to characters – except that perhaps objects seen present a faint similarity, since postures suggest character, but only to a small extent; and not all people are sensitive enough to notice. Moreover the postures and colours that are produced are not strictly representations of character but indications rather, and these indications are particularly conspicuous when emotion is felt.8 It does, however, even here, make some difference what it is we look at; and the young ought not to contemplate the works of Pauson but rather those of Polygnotus9 and of other painters and sculptors who have a concern for character. In music, however, character is present, imitated in the very tunes we hear. This is obvious, for to begin with there is the natural distinction between the modes, which cause different reactions in the hearers, who are not all moved in the same way with respect to each. For example, men are inclined to be mournful and solemn when they listen to that which is called Mixo-Lydian; but they are in a more relaxed frame of mind when they listen to others, for example the looser modes. A particularly equable feeling, midway between these, is produced, I think, only by the Dorian mode, while the Phrygian puts men into a frenzy of excitement. These are the excellent results of work which has been done10 on this aspect of education; the investigators have drawn evidence from the sheer facts, and have based their conclusions on them. The same is true also of the different types of rhythm: some have a steadying character, others an unsettling, and of these latter some give rise to vulgar movements, some to those more worthy of free men.

1340b10 It follows from all this that music has indeed the power to induce a certain character of soul, and if it can do that, then clearly it must be applied to education, and the young must be educated in it. And the teaching of music is particularly apt for the nature of the young; for because of their youth they do not willingly tolerate anything that is not made pleasant for them, and music is one of those things that by nature give spice to life. Moreover there seems to be a certain affinity between us and music’s harmonies and rhythms; so that many experts11 say that the soul is a harmony, others that it has harmony.12


Aristotle postpones consideration of the more technical side of music until Chapter vii, and digresses to discuss more fully how far free men, eleutheroi, should themselves learn to play musical instruments. He takes the view that in the interests of acquiring ‘correct’ musical taste and judgement, such skills should certainly be learned; but they must not be studied to a very high level of competence, which requires excessive application making the performer into a mere ‘mechanic’ (banausos), and so injuring his ability to attain a citizen’s ‘virtue’ (aretē). With the polemic against ‘low’ or ‘popular’ music in the final paragraph, compare Plato, Laws II in general, and II 700a ff. The chapter contains also a brief but interesting history of the chief Greek wind instrument, the auloi, the twin pipes; see S. Michaelides, The Music of Ancient Greece, An Encyclopaedia(London, 1978), pp. 42–6. (Note that the common translation of aulos, ‘flute’, is incorrect.)

1340b20 We must now return to a question raised earlier:1 must they learn music by singing themselves and playing instruments with their own hands, or not? Clearly, personal participation in playing is going to make a big difference to the quality of the person that will be produced, because it is impossible, or at any rate difficult, to produce sound judges of musical performances out of those who have never themselves played. (At the same time learning an instrument will provide children with a needed occupation. Archytas’2rattle must be reckoned an excellent invention, for children cannot remain still, and they are given this toy to play with, so that they may be kept from smashing things about the house. Of course it is only suitable for the very young: for older children education is their rattle.) Such considerations thus make it clear that musical education must include participation in actual playing.

1340b33 It is not difficult to decide what is appropriate and what is not for different ages, or to find an answer to those who assert that to perform is the concern of a mechanic. First, since to join in the playing is needed to make a good judge, they should play the instruments while young and later, when they are older, give them up; they will then, thanks to what they have learned in their youth, be able to judge fine music and enjoy it in the right way. As for the objection, brought by some, that music makes them into mechanics, this can easily be answered if we consider to what extent persons who are being educated to exercise the virtue of a citizen ought to take part in the playing, what tunes and with what rhythms they are to play, and on what instruments they are to learn, for that too will probably make a difference. On the answers to these questions will depend the answer to the objection, since it is by no means impossible that certain styles of music do have the effect mentioned.3

1341a5 It is clear, then, that learning music must not be allowed to have any adverse effect on later activities, nor to turn the body into that of a mechanic, ill-fitted for the training of citizen or soldier – ill-fitted, that is, both for the lessons in youth and for the application of them in later years. Such a result can be avoided if the pupil does not struggle to acquire the degree of skill that is needed for professional competitions, or to perform those peculiar and sensational pieces of music which have penetrated the competitions and thence education. Musical exercises should not be of this kind, and should be pursued only up to the point at which the pupil becomes capable of enjoying fine melodies and rhythms, and not just the feature4 common to all music, which appeals even to some animals, and also to a great many slaves and children.

1341a17 From these considerations we can also see what kinds of musical instruments ought to be employed. We must not permit the introduction of pipes into education, or of any other instrument that requires the skill of a professional, the lyre and such-like, but only such as will make good students, whether in their musical education or in their education in general. Furthermore, the pipes are not an instrument of ethical but rather of orgiastic5 effect, so their use should be confined to those occasions on which the effect produced by the show is not so much instruction as a way of working off the emotions.6 We may add to the educational objections the fact that playing on the pipes prevents one from employing speech.

1341a26 For these reasons our predecessors were right in prohibiting the use of the pipes by the young and by free men, though at an earlier period it was permitted. This is what took place: as resources increased, men had more leisure and acquired a loftier pride7 in standards of virtue; and both before and after the Persian wars, in which their success had increased their self-confidence, they fastened eagerly upon learning of every kind, pursuing all without distinction; and hence even playing on the pipes was introduced into education. At Sparta there was a chorus-leader8 who himself piped for his chorus to dance to, and at Athens playing the pipes took such firm root that many, perhaps the majority, of the free men took part in it. Thrasippus, who acted as chorus-trainer for Ecphantides, dedicated a tablet9 which makes that clear. But at a later date, as a result of actual experience, the playing of pipes went out of favour, as men became better able to discern what tends to promote virtue and what does not. Many of the older instruments were similarly rejected, for example the plucker, the barbitos, and those which merely titillate the ear, the heptagon, triangle, sambuca, and all those that require manual dexterity.10 There is sound sense too in the story told by the ancients about the pipes – that Athena invented them and then threw them away. It may well be, as the story adds, that the goddess did this because she disliked the facial distortion which their playing caused. But a far more likely reason is that an education in playing upon the pipes contributes nothing to the intellect; to Athena, after all, we ascribe knowledge and skill.

1341b8 We reject then a professional11 education in the instruments and their performance – professional in the sense of competitive, for in this kind of education the performer does not perform in order to improve his own virtue, but to give pleasure to the listeners, and vulgar pleasure at that. We do not, therefore, regard such performing as a proper occupation for free men; it is rather that of a hireling. The consequences are to degrade the players into mechanics, since the end towards which the performance is directed is a low one. The listener is a common person and usually influences the music accordingly, so that he has an effect both on the personality of the professionals themselves who perform for him, and, because of the motions which they make, on their bodies too.

VIII vii

The effects of listening to the various kinds of music were touched on in Chapter v, but not specifically in relation to education. Melē, melodies or tunes, are of three kinds: (A)ethical, i.e. expressive of ēthos, character; (B) active, praktika, encouraging us to perform certain actions; (C) producing in us certain powerful excitements, emotions or inspirations (enthousiasmos). Music can confer three benefits; (a) to promote education; (b) to ‘purify’ or ‘purge’ emotion; (c) to provide relaxation in leisure.

Kind (A) is obviously linked to (a), and (C) to (b); but (B)and (c), which seem not to be connected, are not discussed at any length. The differences between (A), (B)and (C) are perhaps less sharp than may appear at first sight: in (A), the characters portrayed by the music affect our own, and so indirectly and ultimately affect our actions; in (B), we are presumably likewise stimulated to action, but immediately (e.g. to march, by a marching tune); and in (C) the emotions aroused in us can lead to movements and actions of the body, as in ‘orgiastic’ ritual dancing. In fact, all three kinds of tune lead or can lead to action.

The final paragraph, rather unexpectedly, introduces the further consideration that different age-groups require different harmoniai, modes. A harmonia is a ‘way of fitting together’, an ‘ordered combination or construction of notes’, in effect a particular ‘style’ or ‘mode’ of music (see S. Michaelides, The Music of Ancient Greece, An Encyclopaedia, London, 1978, pp. 127–9). Since Aristotle’s remarks on the modes in this paragraph are not entirely easy to square with what he has said earlier in this chapter and in others, this paragraph has sometimes been suspected of being by another hand (see C. Lord, ‘On Damon and music education’, Hermes, 106 (1978), pp. 32–43, esp. 38ff.). However that may be, it is here that his discussion of education tails off, leaving a great many topics unexamined. On this ragged ending of the Politics, E. Barker well remarks (The Politics of Aristotle, Oxford 1946, p.352), ‘Aristotle’s notes stopped at this point. This is just what happens to a set of notes or a course of lectures, as many lecturers can testify; and there is no more to be said. We cannot apply the standards of a printed book to the manuscript of a set of notes.

1341619 That being so, we must investigate further this matter of modes and rhythms. Are we, for educational purposes, to make use of all the modes and rhythms or should we make distinctions? And will the same basis of classification serve for those who work at music for educational purposes, or must we lay down some other? Certainly music is, as we know, divided into melody-making and rhythm, and we must not omit to consider what effect each of these has on education, and whether we are to rate more highly music with a good melody, or music with a good rhythm. We believe that these topics are well and fully dealt with both by some modern musicians, and by others whose approach is philosophical but who have actual experience of musical education; so we shall leave those who want detailed treatment of the several questions to seek advice in that quarter. Here let us give a generalized1 account and simply refer to the usual typology.

1341b32 We accept the classification of melodies as given by some philosophers: ethical, active, and exciting; and they regard the modes as being by nature2 appropriate to each of these – one to one melody, one to another. But we say that music ought to be used to confer not one benefit only but many: (i) to assist education, (ii) for cathartic3 purposes (here I use the term cathartic without further qualifications; I will treat it more fully in my work on Poetics),4 and (iii) to promote civilized pursuits, by way of relaxation and relief after tension. Clearly, then, we must make use of all the modes, but we are not to use them all in the same manner: for education we should use those which are most ethical, whereas for listening to others performing we should accept also the most active and the most emotion-stirring. Any feeling which comes strongly to some souls exists in all others to a greater or less degree – pity and fear, for example, but also excitement. This is a kind of agitation by which some people are liable to be possessed; it may arise out of religious melodies, and in this case it is observable that when they have been listening to melodies that have an orgiastic5 effect on the soul they are restored as if they had undergone a curative and purifying3 treatment. Those who are given to feeling pity or fear or any other emotion must be affected in precisely this way, and so must other people too, to the extent that some such emotion comes upon each. To them all inevitably comes a sort of pleasant purgation3 and relief. In the same way ‘active’ melodies bring men an elation which is not at all harmful.

1342a16 Hence these are the modes and melodies whose use ought to be permitted to those who enter contests in music for the theatre. Now in the theatre there are two types of audience, the one consisting of educated free men, the other of common persons, drawn from the mechanics, hired workers and such-like. For the relaxation of this latter class also competitions and spectacles must be provided. But as their souls have become distorted, removed from the condition of nature, so also some modes are deviations from the norm, and some melodies have high pitch and irregular colouring.6 Each group finds pleasure in that which is akin to its nature. Therefore permission must be given to competitors before this class of audience to use the type of music that appeals to it.

1342a28 But for educational purposes, as we have said, we must use tunes, and modes too which have ethical value. The Dorian mode, as we mentioned earlier.7 is in that category, but we must also admit other modes if they have passed the scrutiny of those who combine the pursuit of philosophy with a musical education. It is to be regretted that Socrates in the Republic8 singled out the Phrygian mode to be added to the Dorian – and this in spite of having rejected altogether, from among the instruments, the use of the pipes. Yet among the modes the Phrygian has exactly the same effect as the pipes among instruments: both are orgiastic5 and emotional, for all Bacchic frenzy and all similar agitation are associated with the pipes more than with other instruments, and such conduct finds its appropriate expression in tunes composed in the Phrygian mode more than in those composed in other modes. (This is shown by poetry: the dithyramb, for example, is universally regarded as Phrygian. Experts in this field point to numerous examples, notably that of Philoxenus,9 who tried to compose The Mysians in the Dorian mode, but could not do so: the very nature of his material forced him back into the Phrygian, the proper mode.) But about the Dorian mode all are agreed that it is the steadiest, and that its ethical character is particularly that of courage. Further, since we approve of that which is midway between extremes and assert that that is something to be aimed at, and since the Dorian, in relation to the other modes, does by nature possess this characteristic, it is clear that Dorian tunes are more suitable than the others for the education of the young.

1342b17 Two things we keep constantly in view – what is possible and what is appropriate; and it is possible and appropriate action that every set of men must undertake. But these two categories of things also are different for different ages. For instance, those who go through age have grown weary do not find it easy to sing in the high-pitched modes; but for such men nature offers the low-pitched ones. Hence once again some of the musical experts rightly take Socrates to task because he rejected the low-pitched modes as useless for education; he regarded them as having the same effect as drink, not as intoxicating them but as lacking energy. (Intoxication produces, rather, a Bacchic frenzy.) So looking to future years too, when we are older, we must go in for that kind of mode and that kind of melody – as well as any other mode of a type which, because of its power to combine orderliness with educative influence, is suitable for the age of childhood (the Lydian would seem to be a case in point). It is clear, then, that we have these three goals to aim at in education – the happy mean, the possible, and the appropriate.

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