Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Xunzi

Volume 7 of the series Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy pp 269-289


Xunzi on Music

  • Eric L. HuttonAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Utah Email author 
  • , James HaroldAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Mount Holyoke College

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Similar to the situation in ancient Greece, ancient Chinese thinkers carried on a lively philosophical debate about music. The discussions of music in the Xunzi, especially chapter 20 of the text, constitute a high point in that debate, and they remain philosophically interesting in their own right, even today. Here we provide an overview of Xunzi’s ideas about music and their relations to some of the surrounding historical context, and end by presenting a few issues for further reflection, based on comparisons with the views of Allan Bloom, Roger Scruton, and other contemporary thinkers who have theorized about the effects and importance of music.