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[655a] and a cowardly soul by troubles identical and equal, are the postures and utterances that result in the two cases similar?

How could they be, when even their complexions differ in color?

Well said, my friend. But in, fact, while postures and tunes do exist in music,1 which deals with rhythm and harmony, so that one can rightly speak of a tune or posture being “rhythmical” or “harmonious,” one cannot rightly apply the choir masters metaphor “well-colored” to tune and posture; but one can use this language about the posture and tune of the brave man and the coward, [655b] and one is right in calling those of the brave man good, and those of the coward bad. To avoid a tediously long disquisition, let us sum up the whole matter by saying that the postures and tunes which attach to goodness of soul or body, or to some image thereof, are universally good, while those which attach to badness are exactly the reverse.

Your pronouncement is correct, and we now formally endorse it.

Another point:—do we all delight equally [655c] in choral dancing, or far from equally?

Very far indeed.

Then what are we to suppose it is that misleads us? Is it the fact that we do not all regard as good the same things, or is it that, although they are the same, they are thought not to be the same? For surely no one will maintain that the choric performance of vice are better than those of virtue, or that he himself enjoys the postures of turpitude, while all others delight in music of the opposite kind. Most people, however, assert that the value of music consists in its power [655d] of affording pleasure to the soul.2 But such an assertion is quite intolerable, and it is blasphemy even to utter it. The fact which misleads us is more probably the following—


Inasmuch as choric performances are representations of character, exhibited in actions and circumstances of every kind, in which, the several performers enact their parts by habit and imitative art, whenever the choric performances are congenial to them in point of diction, tune or other features (whether from natural bent or from habit, or from all these causes combined), [655e] then these performers invariably delight in such, performances and extol them as excellent; whereas those who find them repugnant to their nature, disposition or habits cannot possibly delight in them or praise them, but call them bad. And when men are right in their natural tastes but wrong in those acquired by habituation, or right in the latter but wrong in the former, then by their expressions of praise they convey the opposite of their real sentiments;

1 “Music” comprises both dance and song (including instrumental accompaniment), whether executed by single performers or by groups (χορεία). The “postures” are those of the dancer, the “tunes” those of the singer.

2 i.e. music is commonly judged solely by the amount of pleasure it affords, without any regard to the quality of the pleasure. The Athenian proceeds to show how dangerous a doctrine this is: music, he maintains, should not be used merely to pander to the low tastes of the populace, but rather treated as an educational instrument for the elevation of public morals.

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