- A Response to Roger Mantie, Book Review, Thomas A. Regelski, A Brief Introduction to a Philosophy of Music and Music Education as Social Praxis in Philosophy of Music Education Review 24, no. 2 (Fall, 2016): 213–219.
While I am appreciative of Roger Mantie’s generous compliments about my past scholarship, his review is often misleading and philosophically misinformed. In particular, what he refers to as my “editorialized, overview of the history of aesthetics,”1 I clearly describe as a critical philosophy2 of the aesthetic theory of art according to recent philosophy of art.3
Kantian aesthetic theory was not a theory of art. . . . It is primarily a theory of free beauty and of the sublime, of our responses to flowers and cascades and the starry sky at night. . . . [I]t is hotly disputed and probably false. . . . [T]he theory hardly suffices to characterize art in general, for the obvious reason that art as we know it is not divorced from the rest of society.4
Therefore distinguishing between an aesthetic rationale for justifying school music and a philosophy of music education is vitally important. [End Page 99]
The legitimation crisis facing music education in today’s schools (viz., declining schedules and resources) is one result of taken-for-granted belief by many teachers of music’s automatic aesthetic benefits as their supposition for advocating its inclusion in schooling. Such a tacit belief assumes, with Kant, that “being in an aesthetic state is as easy as rolling off a log, and, furthermore, it is available to everyone.”5 It supposedly occurs spontaneously in the presence of so-called “aesthetic properties.” According to analytic aesthetics, these properties qualify the “autonomania”6 (spelled incorrectly in the review) of music’s “for its own sake” value, and its “sacralization” (also misspelled) as a spiritual source of veneration. Unfortunately, the autonomy of school music from music’s social roots and role, under the aegis of an aesthetic paradigm, drastically limits its contribution to the general education of all students.
Moreover, my position on what music “is” and “is good for” does not represent the “is/ought fallacy,” as Mantie mistakenly asserts.7 That fallacy in ethics depends on an unwarranted deduction from “is” (fact, description) to “ought” (value, norm)8 which is not at stake in my discussion. A Finnish child came home upset that he had left his “notes” on the tram. In English, he probably would have bemoaned leaving his “music” behind. Teachers who are content to stress mainly notation can miss “the music” (for example, what is meant when judging a performance to be unmusical). The “ersatz Kantian theory of art”9 postulates that art and music are created to evoke the aesthetic responses the theory hypothesizes (according to an aesthetic attitude, disinterestedness, free beauty, and many other putative criteria). When, instead, viewing music’s origins and purposes (for example, as in anthropology and ethnomusicology) as always social in meaning, consequences, and worth, then teaching that stresses music’s sociality (not its autonomy) is promoted and becomes a warranted curricular goal.
Moreover, the aesthetic experiences postulated by aesthetic theory are covert, thus lacking empirical evidence of teaching or learning effectiveness, or for curricular planning! Their effects are just presumed. In praxis-based teaching, instead, results are amply observable to learners (thus motivating), to administrators (thus promoting curricular support), and to parents (thus for taxpayers). This is all the more the case when musicing is chosen as “worthwhile” (that is, literally, “good time”) after school and graduation: the ongoing disposition to engage in musicing is thus my praxial definition of music appreciation. All this is argued in my book, but is neglected in the review, except where, in minimizing the effects of the resulting legitimation crisis facing music educators, Mantie concedes that school music has “almost always been contested and fragile”10—as though it has not progressively suffered from recent trends (No Child Left Behind Act in the US, common core, testing mania, and so on). [End Page 100]
Mantie proposes that because musical praxes exist in society does not justify their inclusion as part of school music.11 That leaves out a lot of commonplace...