Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Benedict XVI and Plato on Music in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Here is a fascinating paper by Dr Tom Larson of St Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, entitled Man, Music and Catholic Culture; he presented it at the Institute of St Anselm Studies, an annual symposium which takes place the college campus each summer. It has just been published in the proceedings and is now online.

Dr Larson examines first the place of music in Greek philosophical tradition and compares this with accounts of two modern commentators. The first is a non-Christian philosopher, Allan Bloom, whose thoughts he presents as a foil to a modern Christian view, that of Pope Benedict XVI.

Larson’s discussion clearly applies to sacred music and reinforces all that has been said by many others on the importance of music in the liturgy. But he extends this also to the profane and considers the place of music in the wider culture and in general education.

Here is the abstract for the paper:
The topic of this paper is the place of music within the Catholic intellectual tradition. The paper discusses the dignity of music, its relationship to man, and its place in education. The paper begins with the pagan classical treatment of music. The classical account of music is bound up with certain claims about human psychology, education, and culture, as well as certain claims about the universe. Allan Bloom’s discussion of music in the Greek philosophic tradition is examined as a foil to the Catholic vision discussed in the second part of the paper. The second part presents Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI’s understanding of music’s place in Catholic culture. Music, along with laws of beauty and order, has its source in God; it contributes to the re-integration of Man and directs him toward union with God in prayer; it has an intimate relationship with the human longing for transcendence; as a universal language, it has a role in evangelization and facilitating inter-cultural dialogue; in its beauty we are enabled to experience the presence of Ultimate Beauty; and in its own and very powerful way, the beauty of the music that has grown out of Christian culture serves as a kind of verification of the Christian faith.
Read the rest of the paper here.

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