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Music and the MusesThe Culture of Mousike in the Classical Athenian City$
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Penelope Murray and Peter Wilson

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199242399

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199242399.001.0001

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Catharsis: The Power of Music in Aristotle’s Politics

Catharsis: The Power of Music in Aristotle’s Politics

(p.309) 11 Catharsis: The Power of Music in Aristotle’s Politics
Music and the Muses

Andrew Ford

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on book 8 of Aristotle's Politics and its discussion of mousike in education or paideia. It argues that in this context we should understand the term in the strict sense of music without words. Aristotle is concerned not so much with poetry and its place in society, but with the natural powers of music — of tunes, harmoniai, and rhythms — and how they affect ordinary people. According to this argument music is a leisure activity providing relaxation from labour and freedom from care, not a means of communicating deeper truths and values. Similarly, catharsis should be understood as a harmless release of the emotions (however that worked) rather than as an intellectual refinement which educated audiences in the proper use of the emotions.

Keywords:   catharsis, music, mousike, paideia, Aristotle's Politics

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