Original Research

Music, personhood, and eudaimonia: Implications for educative and ethical music education

David Elliott
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 10, No 2 | a99 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v10i2.99 | © 2014 David Elliott | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 February 2016 | Published: 30 November 2014

About the author(s)

David Elliott, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University, United States

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This paper proposes that educative and ethical music making and teaching, which is based on a praxial philosophy of music education (Elliott and Silverman, 2014), can be carried out in a variety of ways that create places and spaces, in schools and community settings, for a variety of human values or “goods” that include, but go beyond, making and listening to classical instrumental music, or any other kind of music, for “the music itself.”

One premise of this philosophical discussion is that music does not have one value; music has numerous values, depending on the ways in which it is conceived, used, and taught by people who engage in specific musical styles. For example, when music education is ethically guided—when we teach people not only in and about music, but also through music—we achieve what Aristotle and many other philosophers consider the highest human value—eudaimonia—which is a multidimensional term we explain the body of this paper.

Following an examination of three community music settings that exemplify educative and ethical musical interactions, the paper provides a brief explanation of the nature of personhood that draws from embodied, enactive, empathetic, and ecological concepts put forth by several contemporary cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind nature. This sections leads to an examination to main constituents of eudaimonia: happiness and well- being as conceived by various scholars during the last 2500 years.

The discussion ends by integrated the above themes with a discussion of a praxial philosophy of music education and its implications for school and community music education.


School music; community music; ethics; praxis; personhood; well-being


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