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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsA Treatise On Government - BOOK VIII - Chapter VI
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A Treatise On Government - BOOK VIII - Chapter VI Post by :eagle75 Category :Nonfictions Author :Aristotle Date :January 2011 Read :2423

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A Treatise On Government - BOOK VIII - Chapter VI

ill now determine whether it is proper that children should be
taught to sing, and play upon any instrument, which we have before
made a matter of doubt. Now, it is well known that it makes a great
deal of difference when you would qualify any one in any art, for the
person himself to learn the practical part of it; for it is a thing
very difficult, if not impossible, for a man to be a good judge of
what he himself cannot do. It is also very necessary that children
should have some employment which will amuse them; for which reason
the rattle of Archytas seems well contrived, which they give children
to play with, to prevent their breaking those things which are about
the house; for at their age they cannot sit still: this therefore is
well adapted to infants, as instruction ought to be their rattle as
they grow up; hence it is evident that they should be so taught music
as to be able to practise it. Nor is it difficult to say what is
becoming or unbecoming of their age, or to answer the objections which
some make to this employment as mean and low. In the first place, it
is necessary for them to practise, that they may be judges of the art:
for which reason this should be done when they are young; but when
they are grown older the practical part may be dropped; while they
will still continue judges of what is excellent in the art, and take a
proper pleasure therein, from the knowledge they acquired of it in
their youth. As to the censure which some persons throw upon music, as
something mean and low, it is not difficult to answer that, if we will
but consider how far we propose those who are to be educated so as to
become good citizens should be instructed in this art, (1341a) and
what music and what rhythms they should be acquainted with; and also
what instruments they should play upon; for in these there is probably
a difference. Such then is the proper answer to that censure: for it
must be admitted, that in some cases nothing can prevent music being
attended, to a certain degree, with the bad effects which are ascribed
to it; it is therefore clear that the learning of it should never
prevent the business of riper years; nor render the body effeminate,
and unfit for the business of war or the state; but it should be
practised by the young, judged of by the old. That children may learn
music properly, it is necessary that they should not be employed in
those parts of it which are the objects of dispute between the masters
in that science; nor should they perform such pieces as are wondered
at from the difficulty of their execution; and which, from being first
exhibited in the public games, are now become a part of education; but
let them learn so much of it as to be able to receive proper pleasure
from excellent music and rhythms; and not that only which music must
make all animals feel, and also slaves and boys, but more. It is
therefore plain what instruments they should use; thus, they should
never be taught to play upon the flute, or any other instrument which
requires great skill, as the harp or the like, but on such as will
make them good judges of music, or any other instruction: besides, the
flute is not a moral instrument, but rather one that will inflame the
passions, and is therefore rather to be used when the soul is to be
animated than when instruction is intended. Let me add also, that
there is something therein which is quite contrary to what education
requires; as the player on the flute is prevented from speaking: for
which reason our forefathers very properly forbade the use of it to
youth and freemen, though they themselves at first used it; for when
their riches procured them greater leisure, they grew more animated in
the cause of virtue; and both before and after the Median war their
noble actions so exalted their minds that they attended to every part
of education; selecting no one in particular, but endeavouring to
collect the whole: for which reason they introduced the flute also, as
one of the instruments they were to learn to play on. At Lacedaemon
the choregus himself played on the flute; and it was so common at
Athens that almost every freeman understood it, as is evident from the
tablet which Thrasippus dedicated when he was choregus; but afterwards
they rejected it as dangerous; having become better judges of what
tended to promote virtue and what did not. For the same reason many of
the ancient instruments were thrown aside, as the dulcimer and the
lyre; as also those which were to inspire those who played on them
with pleasure, and which required a nice finger and great skill to
play well on. What the ancients tell us, by way of fable, of the flute
is indeed very rational; namely, that after Minerva had found it, she
threw it away: nor are they wrong who say that the goddess disliked it
for deforming the face of him who played thereon: not but that it is
more probable that she rejected it as the knowledge thereof
contributed nothing to the improvement of the mind. Now, we regard
Minerva as the inventress of arts and sciences. As we disapprove of a
child's being taught to understand instruments, and to play like a
master (which we would have confined to those who are candidates for
the prize in that science; for they play not to improve themselves in
virtue, but to please those who hear them, and gratify their
importunity); therefore we think the practice of it unfit for freemen;
but then it should be confined to those who are paid for doing it; for
it usually gives people sordid notions, for the end they have in view
is bad: for the impertinent spectator is accustomed to make them
change their music; so that the artists who attend to him regulate
their bodies according to his motions.
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We are now to enter into an inquiry concerning harmony and rhythm;whether all sorts of these are to be employed in education, or whethersome peculiar ones are to be selected; and also whether we should givethe same directions to those who are engaged in music as part ofeducation, or whether there is something different from these two.Now, as all music consists in melody and rhythm, we ought not to beunacquainted with the power which each of these has in education; andwhether we should rather choose music in which melody prevails, orrhythm: but when I consider how many things have been well
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respect to music we have already spoken a little in a doubtfulmanner upon this subject. It will be proper to go over again moreparticularly what we then said, which may serve as an introduction towhat any other person may choose to offer thereon; for it is no easymatter to distinctly point out what power it has, nor on what accountsone should apply it, whether as an amusement and refreshment, as sleepor wine; as these are nothing serious, but pleasing, and the killersof care, as Euripides says; for which reason they class in the sameorder and use for the same purpose all
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