Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Classics & Archaeology (CLAR)

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew Dillon


Music has always been an important part of humanity, and with the advent of the Axial Age, the period between the 8th and 3rd centuries BC where new ways of thinking emerged in a wide range of cultures, two of humanity’s greatest thinkers in Plato and Confucius, would apply their thoughts and theories to music. By examining their opinions of music in their written texts, especially Confucius’ Analects and Plato’s Republic, as well as modern scholarship on the subject like the work of philosopher Mark Muesse, one can gain an insight into the general thinking of these two men, as well as an increased appreciation for the effects of music even in modern times. Both were similar in that they believed that listening to and studying music would cultivate virtue: in Analect 3.3, Confucius links vice in humans to a lack of music; likewise in Republic 401d, Plato states that the rhythm and harmony present in music imparts grace on the soul. While both men valued music and believed in its positive effects, they differed in that Confucius was accepting of most music and emphasized the harmonious combination of many differing instruments in musical composition, while Plato believed that music should be restricted to a limited range of modes and instruments so as to exclude those that he believed promoted bad behavior. An examination of this difference shows that it is reflective of both men’s broader thinking-Plato emphasized individual virtue, while Confucius focused on the coming together of a community.