A Debate on the Function of Music
In ancient China, music was a trinity of arts mingled with poetry and dance. It would be performed not simply as part of ceremonial rites to worship ancestors and divinities, but also as a kind of entertainment at banquets in sumptuous surroundings to honor the powerful. Historically, Mozi judged music in terms of a negative utilitarianism that was anti-aesthetic in principle. In his view, the entire process of composing, performing, and appreciating music is useless. It is conducive to wastefulness and deprives social production of time and energy. In contrast, Xunzi argued in terms of a positive utilitarianism that explicitly favors music and is pro-aesthetic. To his mind, music is a composite art that encompasses a full range of positive functions. Music is effective not merely morally for personal cultivation and socially for harmonizing human relations, but also politically in enhancing communal morale and cohesion for national defense.