Aristotle and Musicologists on Three Functions of Music

A Note on Pol. 8, 1341b40-1

In: Greek and Roman Musical Studies
Pierre Destrée Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium

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In Pol. 8, we find two rather different threefold divisions of the aims, or usages, of music. At the very beginning of his analysis, Aristotle first lists (1339a11-26): amusement and relaxation; moral education; leisure . Strikingly enough though, when it comes up again at the end of the treatise on musical education, this threefold division has undergone a few remarkable changes. Now, the division comes up between moral education, emotional purgation/purification, and “thirdly”, Aristotle says, “leisure, rest and relaxation of one’s tensions (τρίτον δὲ πρὸς διαγωγὴν πρὸς ἄνεσίν τε καὶ πρὸς τὴν τῆς συντονίας ἀνάπαυσιν)” (1341b36-41). The main difficulty that this new enumeration creates is notable: how to explain that now the third aim of music seems to consist in the ensemble of leisure, repose and relaxation, while leisure and relaxation were first introduced as two distinct aims? I argue that πρὸς διαγωγὴν should be best considered a gloss.

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