Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Philosophy of Music Part I

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

Learn about philosophy the smart way with Philosophy courses at the University of Sydney.

Music is one of the oldest forms of human expression; it delights our senses, arouses our emotions, and stimulates our mind. It has also fascinated philosophers since the Ancient Greeks, down to the present. Music was taken to be the highest form of aesthetics to many of the 19th c Romantic philosophers. In the 21st c there has been an exponential growth in the philosophy of music, particularly in psychology, cognitive science and music education. In this two part twenty week course we will cover: The role of music in history, culture and society; The major philosophers on music; Music and emotions; Music and the imagination; Value judgements in musical appreciation; Musical education; Music and politics. We will also consider different areas of music such as Opera, Jazz, pure music, Rock and Film music. Nietzsche famously said: “Without music life would be a mistake”.

Both Philosophy of Music Part I & Philosophy of Music Part II can be booked independently.

Course Content

  • Introduction to Concepts and overview of the philosophy of music.
  • Definition: What is music; how is it different to other kinds of organized sound; where did it begin; and why it has been so important in human societies?
  • The elemental structure of music: Rhythm, melody, harmony, silence, improvisation and performance.
  • How do you make value judgements about music? What does it mean to have 'good taste in music?'
  • The Philosophers beginning with the Pythagoreans. For the Pythagoreans the ‘Harmony of the Spheres’ was an ontological fact: they believed that mathematical/music harmonies constituted the basic structure of everything.
  • Plato and Aristotle. For Plato music was an important issue for epistemology, mathematics, politics and cosmology.
  • The Middle Ages to the Enlightenment.
  • Schopenhauer. Music was taken to be the highest form of aesthetics to many of the 19th c Romantic philosophers. For Schopenhauer music allows humans to transcend the determinism of ‘will’.
  • Nietzsche: “Without music life would be a mistake”.
  • Adorno and the Modernists. Modernism set new challenges for the philosophy of music.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion