On the Ancient Idea that Music Shapes Character

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Ancient Chinese and Greek thinkers alike were preoccupied with the moral value of music; they distinguished between good and bad music by looking at the music’s effect on moral character. The idea can be understood in terms of two closely related questions. Does music have the power to affect the ethical character of either listener or performer? If it does, is it better as music for doing so? I argue that an affirmative answers to both questions are more plausible than it might seem at first.
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