Music Matters: A New Philosophy of Music Education

By David J. Elliott | Go to book overview
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2
Toward a New Philosophy

What is music? The question is more difficult than any within its scope. Yet some systematic answer must be given. A philosophical concept of music is the logical prerequisite to any philosophy of music education.

But where do we begin to say what music is? And how do we proceed? In Chapter 2 I attempt to answer these questions in five steps. Step 1 reviews three basic problems facing anyone who wants to develop a philosophical concept of anything. Step 2 clarifies what we need to say about music. Step 3 considers alternate ways of saying what music is. Step 4 examines the way past music education philosophers have said what music is. Finally, Step 5 explains this book's starting point and procedure.


1. Three Problems

Ideally, the process of developing a philosophy should be regulated by a strict concern for comprehensiveness, objectivity, and methodological purity. But these ideals are problematic in several ways.

First, no philosophy can be comprehensive in the omnipotent sense of providing the whole truth and nothing but the truth. A philosophy can never say all there is to say about something. At the same time, however, a philosophy can and should explain what something is all about. What this means in the present case is that the professional practice of music education ought to rest upon a philosophical concept of music that is constructed from as many logically related perspectives as possible. If such a concept were to be developed, it would have an important advantage: it would take priority over narrower concepts of music and over the philosophies of music education built upon them. This does not mean that all disputes about music and music education would automatically dissolve. Being more comprehensive (and therefore logically prior to something else) is not a guarantee of superiority. It is only an assurance that the concept includes as many considerations as it is reasonable to include.

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