Roger Scruton has recently written that, ‘the ways of poetry and music are not changed anywhere without change in the most important laws of the city.” So wrote Plato in theRepublic (4.424c). Music, for Plato, was not a neutral amusement. It could express and encourage virtue— nobility, dignity, temperance, chastity. But it could also express and encourage vice—sensuality, belligerence, indiscipline.
Plato’s concern was not so very different from that of a modern person worrying about the moral character, and moral effect, of Death Metal, say, or musical kitsch of the Andrew Lloyd Webber kind. “Should our children be listening to this stuff?” is the question in the mind of modern adults, just as “should the city permit this stuff?” was the question in the mind of Plato. Of course, we have long since given up on the idea that you can forbid certain kinds of music by law. Nevertheless, it is still common to believe that music has—or can have—a moral character, and that the character of a work or style of music can “rub off” in some way on its devotees.’ For more of this article click here.