Xunzi on Music

Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 7)


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.


Moral Development Musical Performance Popular Music Moral Cultivation Myriad Thing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank P.J. Ivanhoe, <Emphasis Type=”SmallCaps”>Wang</Emphasis> Kai 王楷, and Springer’s reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this essay.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyMount Holyoke CollegeSouth HadleyUSA

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