Although many of the world's musical traditions recognize the
positive value of music for ethical life, the Western philosophical
tradition has largely forgotten this idea. The dominance of
formalism in musical aesthetics has encouraged this abandonment of
the idea that music has an ethical dimension. Greater attention to
musical experience and to the way that context affects the meaning
that music has to performers and listeners helps to bring music's
ethical potential into focus. In The Music of Our Lives, Kathleen
Higgins argues that the arguments that Plato used to defend the
ethical value of music are still applicable today. Music encourages
ethically valuable attitudes and behavior, provides practice in
skills that are valuable in ethical life, and symbolizes ethical
ideals and the possibility of interpersonal harmony. In these ways
it develops our ability to live well and to think clearly about our
ethical situation. Music provides a model for the good human life.
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