ACT 16 (2): 102–43

Pragmatism, Praxis, and Naturalism: The Importance for Music Education of Intentionality and Consummatory Experience in Musical Praxes


October 2017

Published in Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 16 (2): 102–43. [pdf]

The overlapping of pragmatic philosophy and the Aristotelian concept of praxis is explored with application to music and music education. John Dewey’s philosophy of Art as Experience is contrasted with tacit aesthetic assumptions about music that music teachers often hold as a result of the aesthetic meme inherited from their university music studies. Praxis is then accounted for in terms of the conditions of consummatory experience shared with Dewey’s pragmatism. The “ends-in-view” importance of consummatory experience to both pragmatism and praxis are examined in terms of the intentionality (individual and collective) analyzed by John Searle and further qualified by the pragmatic realism of Hilary Putnam. These philosophical implications are explored with conclusions for music education.

Keywords: Pragmatism, praxis, John Dewey, John Searle, Hilary Putnam, intentionality, music education

Praxial theories of music and music education have gained prominence in recent decades for stressing what trained music teachers are best equipped to do: teach musicing; and for advancing musicing—in all its diverse instantiations—as the foremost goal of music pedagogy and curriculum (Elliott 1995, Elliott 2005, Bowman 2005, Elliott and Silverman 2015, Regelski 2016). The idea of praxis, of course, is far from new since its role in music and human affairs—especially ethics—has a long history, going back at least to Aristotle (Regelski 1998a; Regelski 2012a).[1] And the history of music has from the first and ever since evidenced the importance of musica practica (Chanan 1994).[2]

However, with the invention of aesthetic theorizing in the late 18th century, the notion took hold in analytic philosophy and among connoisseurs that ‘good music’ is created in order to promote aesthetic responses. Thus the idea of the purpose of such music being for contemplation, and thus “for its own sake” autonomy (i.e., “autonomania,” Regelski 2017) became dogma among aesthetes and resulted in ‘classical’ music being regarded as a rare leisure time pursuit while other musics were downgraded as mere entertainments—despite their ubiquity in society. This ‘classical’-music-as-aesthetic meme led to the rise of today’s conservatories and university schools of music that predicate the training of musicians on tacit assumptions about music’s aesthetic essence. The “essentialist approach to the question of art” typically holds that

If there is such a thing as art, we must first distinguish it from everything which it is not, and then seek its uniquely defining characteristics. Such presuppositions naturally dispose the investigation to separate art from life and then force it to posit some intrinsic subject matter such as a peculiar emotion about pure form, which is intuitively grasped or not. The whole tenor of this strategy is that of retreat—art is something that must be marked off and enshrined behind impregnable definitions. (Alexander 1987, 249)[3]

The result is a plethora of aesthetic criteria and jargon that necessitates numerous compendia, dictionaries, and monographs to explain it. The existence of so many such volumes testifies to the fact that these explanations are typically endless and not infrequently at odds.

This essentialism consequently became the ideological basis for what developed into the typical professional training of music teachers—a training that, aside from a modicum of courses reserved for music education, was predicated on the same aesthetic presumptions as for professional artists. Typically, then, music education students share the same study of music theory, music history, studio instruction, and ensembles (and often recital requirements), all tacitly observing the assumption that ‘good music’ amounts to a collection of ‘aesthetic objects’ (works) that have accumulated over time with their own historical and theoretical dimensions needing systematic and scientific study for the purpose of ‘informed’ artistic performance for audiences. A parallel meme has arisen whereby “music appreciation” by audiences of all kinds is believed to depend on a proper understanding of music based on background information condensed from the same studies required of professional musicians.

While there are certainly benefits to this training in institutions that exist to prepare performing artists, [4] the social institution of universal schooling exists on other, contradictory premises of providing a general education that promotes an informed society and the ability of graduates to function effectively in it. Music included in the general education of all students is thus governed not by the same musical goals and criteria as that for select professional musicians, but instead for enhancing the role of music in the lives of all graduates and thus of social life in general. Along with reading, writing, and other general studies, a fundamental presumption of all curricular philosophies is that schooling should make a lasting and useful difference to students and society—whether that results from the direct transmission of past knowledge, values, and social praxes (curricular Perennialism), or from a critical transformation of the weaknesses and failings of inherited knowledge, thus aiming to improve society (Reconstructionism). The latter typically focuses on issues of social and economic justice and other contemporary concerns arising from conditions in an ever-changing society, while the former treats the role of the past as having perpetual and unchanging value. Some forms of curricular Perennialism typically produce conflict with contemporary social change. Regarding music, these changes include contemporary compositions that eschew aesthetics, ever-new (vernacular) musics, world musics, the recording industry, new media, and concern with social problems and roles associated with the musical past, such as gender, racism, and socioeconomic equality and justice.

Schools thus serve social and cultural purposes that, first of all, vary (sometimes considerably) from country to country; and that, secondly, are distinct from the purposes of professional training in conservatories and universities. Therefore, the many attitudes, values, dispositions, practices, and paradigms that music teachers often accept uncritically from their professional musical training are typically unsuited to the different expectations, needs, and conditions of universal schooling! Chief among these inheritances is often a tacit assumption that music somehow and automatically conveys aesthetic experience and benefit just by contact with it. This leads to teaching that is content to offer ‘experiences’, ‘activities’, performance opportunities, and concerts as ends-in-themselves. School music thus often shares the autonomania of aesthetic theory by being distantiated from everyday life (Regelski 2017). While some students may learn to match pitch and read notation, and fewer to play band and orchestral instruments, the lasting contribution of such teaching to the musicing of all graduates is too often not a curricular goal, nor noticed in terms of assessing the effectiveness of both teaching and learning.

The concept of praxis regarding music and teaching is intended to overcome this deficiency and to promote lasting attitudes, values, and dispositions for musicing outside the school day and after graduation. Such musicing, whether promoted by schooling, self-study, [5] or home and community models, contributes to the vitality of a society and to the ‘good life’ of each of its members. To these ends, praxis shares a considerable overlap with the philosophy of pragmatism by drawing on many of the same conditions and criteria. School music (and individual lessons), then, profit from the tangible benefits of praxial teaching and the pragmatic results that are inherent to its nature.

The shared platforms of pragmatism and praxis are deserving of emphasis, particularly the criterion of intentionality that is needed to correct the mistaken assumptions of many teachers that mere contact with music, or even ‘doing’ it under conditions that pass only as short-term, disjointed occasions, amount to an aesthetic and therefore effective education. Such tacit assumptions usually lead to musical studies and ensembles that dead-end with the termination of the school years, and then only for a self-selected few. General music (i.e., classroom music) studies typically end even sooner due to lack of elective interests.

The praxial philosophy offered here as corrective is explored in terms of the pragmatism of John Dewey and others, and is applied to the basic notion of praxis with an emphasis on the intentionality (goal-directedness) that guides learning to results that progress and coalesce over time into effective musicianship and dispositions for continued musicing. Central to such lasting effects of school music is the pragmatic concept of consummatory experience.



Praxis and pragmatism share a root meaning in the Ancient Greek stem πργμα; in Latin, pragma, or concrete reality. For praxis, this focuses on “action” (its typical English translation), and for pragmatism the etymology refers to “tangible acts.” Of key concern here is the philosophy of John Dewey. Dewey’s pragmatism goes well beyond casual references to “practical” as meaning expedient utilitarianism. Instead, Dewey

applies the characteristics of an experience to the question of action, of genuine praxis. Most so-called practical activity is not practical… That is, it either achieves nothing or it achieves its ends automatically, without care, attention, or involvement. ‘Obstacles are overcome by shrewd skill, but they do not feed experience.’ Between this form of arid utilitarianism and sheer romantic impulsiveness, ‘there lie those courses of action [praxis] in which through successive deeds there runs a sense of growing meaning conserved and accumulating toward an end that is felt as accomplishment of a process.’ (Alexander 1987, 203, italics original; quoting Dewey, Art as Experience, 38–39)

Importantly, especially regarding the discussion of intentionality to follow, is that an experience (as described above for Dewey) is characterized by the key mindfulness or intelligent and attentive guidance of actions ‘steered’ toward meeting a valued need or confronting a challenging problem; i.e., what an action is about, intended to bring about, or to bring to fruition. To experience, in contrast, is a mere undergoing of experience that just happens to one without plan, carefulness, or thoughtfulness. This latter kind of fragmentary experience is too often involved with musical activities and performances that, in the minds of students, have no primary, long-term musical end in sight beyond the teacher’s present directives or next concert. Thus random and fragmented musical activities are properly distinguished for teaching purposes from actions (praxes) guided by students’ mindful musicing and a disposition to learn and grow musically over time.

Accordingly, pragmatic actions are those concrete actions thoughtfully oriented to “ends-in-view” that are individual students’ valued musical goals. However, for Dewey, such ends-in-view were not final or fixed terminations (e.g., a one-time performance). The consummation of ends-in-view, [6]  Dewey held, produce mindful habits that attentively address the operative conditions and possibilities of ever-new situations. Thus, “there is an immanent sense of accomplishment in an experience” (Alexander, 211; italics original) that fulfills such objectives. Achieving an end-in-view is also a stepping stone to its possible relevance to subsequent ends-in-view (see Dewey 1925/1989, 86; hereafter AE); and past learning (facts, information, concepts, skills, habits) serve in effect as ‘maps’ or among the alternative ‘means’ for guiding future actions in ever-new situations. Thus the “doing” in “learning-by-doing” associated with Dewey’s educational pragmatism (also known as “instrumentalism”), is praxis [action] guided by intentionality.

Fundamentally, for pragmatism the truth or value of any proposition (or thing, method, principle, etc.) can be seen only in the tangible consequences that actually result from its situated use. This “appeal to practical bearings,” is stated more precisely in the “pragmatic maxim” of Charles S. Peirce, the ‘father’ of pragmatism: “Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our concept to have. Then, our conception of the object of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.” [7] Meaning and value are therefore naturalized (Popp 1998; Gouinlock 1972; Määttänen 2015) and understood in terms of overt empirical consequences in praxis, not just in cerebral terms or otherwise presumed to happen as is claimed for covert aesthetic experience.

Philosophical naturalism denies all immaterial entities that are supposed to have some effect on the material world. Nature is casually closed…. It follows from naturalism that the mind is necessarily embodied. The living body exists as a part of nature, which makes life possible. (Määttänen 2015, 11)

Consequently, “the world is experienced as possibilities of action (affordances)”; the alternatives at stake for action.

Therefore one is literally forced to make some choices between the alternatives. That is, in effect, valuation. In every step and move we make, we are valuating (consciously or subconsciously) anticipated outcomes of possible ways of behaving. The basis of these choices is the relationship between expected experiences and current needs and desires. This entails that values are present in the experienced world. An acting agent is necessarily a valuing agent. (Määttänen 2015, 12–13)

In terms of Dewey’s cultural naturalism, [8] then, the actions of praxis entail mindful values sought and experienced as embodied, not random or routine activity.

Dewey’s naturalism regarding Art as Experience (AE, 1934/1980) thus criticizes and avoids analyzing art and music in terms of any of the conventional aesthetic criteria: (a) mind-body dualism (262–71); (b) aesthetic hierarchies (227); (c) autonomy (20–21, 246, 252); (d) universal meaning (68, 286); (e) for-its-own-sake values (254); (f) contemplation (252–3); and in Experience and Nature (1925/89, hereafter EN, 99–100, 104–105); (g) fine versus useful arts (293); (h) ontological essences (334) and (i) intellectualism (21–22).

By ‘intellectualism’ as an indictment is meant the theory that all experiencing is a mode of knowing…. The assumption of ‘intellectualism’ goes contrary to the facts of what is primarily experienced. For things are objects to be treated, used, acted upon and with, enjoyed and endured, even more than things to be known. They are things had before they are things cognized (EN, 21; italics original).[9]

Moreover, when applied to the arts, intellectualism is in effect anesthetic:

The material of the fine arts consists of qualities; that of experience having intellectual conclusions are signs or symbols having no intrinsic quality of their own, but standing for things that may in another experience be qualitatively experienced. The difference is enormous. It is one reason why the strictly intellectual art will never be popular as music is popular. (AE, 38).

Consequently, Dewey focuses on the praxial or “instrumental” benefits of the arts that result in or as consummatory experience.

Dewey reflects the capacity of the art product and the responsive perception of the appreciator … to generate our sense of the timeless quality of great art…. “The ‘eternal’ quality of great art is its renewed instrumentality for further consummatory experience.” Art, for Dewey, is the highest form of the instrumental. (Alexander, 237; quoting EN 365).

Art and music, then are “instrumental”; that is, are means leading to the ends of artistically heightened consummatory experience.

Dewey does refer to “esthetic” [sic] experiences, but these are most decidedly not those of the Kantian analytic tradition. They are down-to-earth and direct perceptual experiences in the “emotional” (EN; 64–9) and directly “felt” sense (AE, 206–9) he referred to in his theory of emotion as affect quale.[10] “Experience is emotional but there are no separate things called emotions in it” (42). As Alexander explains, for Dewey “emotion is not an emotional state simply corresponding to an external condition which is mysteriously projected on the world. It is the ‘attunement’ to the situation” (Alexander, 137). Thus, emotions exhibit an intentional quality: “an emotion is to or from or about something objective, whether in fact or an idea. An emotion is implicated in a situation” (AE, 67; italics original) that is in suspension while anticipating consummation. Thus, prereflective conditions of intentionality serve as criteria for expected reflection on effective consummation.

In contrast to conventional aesthetic theory, for Dewey the antithesis of the esthetic is not practicality or sociality, but what he called “the humdrum” (AE, 40). Consequently, because “the esthetic quality” that all non-routine, intentional activities—arts based or not—have is “emotional” (41), [11] he argues that an experience of any kind always consummates in some “esthetic quality” (11). As a result, he laments the compartmentalization of art from everyday life by art-for-arts-sake aestheticians who “emphasize beyond all reason the merely contemplative character of the esthetic” (10) and criticizes “theories which isolate art and its appreciation by placing them in a realm of their own.” Instead, he stresses the “continuity of esthetic experience with normal processes of living” (10). And he complains, “the idea that esthetic perception is an affair for odd moments is one reason for the backwardness of the arts among us” (53–4). Thus “Dewey attempted to relocate works of fine art back in their social contexts,” and refuses “to understand the aesthetic as a form of cognitive experience” (Alexander 266).

Like sociologists and anthropologists of art (and some proponents of so-called “everyday aesthetics”; e.g., Light and Smith 2005; Mandoki 2007; Saito 2007), Dewey sees the praxial nature and value of the arts as “immediate enhancements of the experience of living” (AE, 30); living life artfully. He stresses that the practical, emotional, and intellectual are inseparable in an experience: “Emotional” or felt qualities bind “an experience” with holistic unity; the “intellectual” aspect “simply names the fact that the experience has meaning”; and the “‘practical’ indicates that the organism is [overtly] interacting with events and objects which surround it” (55)  rather than engaging in pure, for-its-own-sake contemplation. Interestingly, when “practical” is defined in this way, even a concert is practical because, as praxis, it involves not just the auditing of the performance per se but also all the experiential qualia of the total socio-cultural event including many visual aspects that are missing from recordings: i.e., spatial semiotics of the concert venue, the conductor, the bodily deportment of performers and soloists, even of other audience members. Small (1998) similarly considers what he calls “musicking” to stress the experience of the entire socially situated praxis, not just the sounds of the moment.

Regarding what is conventionally called “the music,” however, Dewey stresses the special and “direct emotional expression” of sound (AE, 238)—its ability to trigger or agitate directly internal “commotion” (237). In contrast, a typical lapse of conventional aesthetics that is insufficiently noted (or admitted by proponents) is overlooking differences of the artistic medium. The philosopher who originally gave aesthetics its name (Alexander Baumgarten) theorized entirely about poetry; but his theory subsequently was applied to all the arts by aestheticians. Thus for conventional aesthetics, so-called aesthetic experience per se is actually disembodied; it is incorporeal and cerebral. Consequently, in the larger picture of schooling, any medium for getting students to have—at all or improved—aesthetic responses by one means or another can be rationalized as equally beneficial. Art education and literature, for example, can claim to meet aesthetic premises in curriculum documents (and are a lot less expensive to offer)! In consequence, the special and significant qualities of sound itself are overlooked—an oversight that Dewey’s praxialism does not make due to its naturalist and embodied account of perception and cognition.

Dewey is also critical of negative comparisons between ‘ordinary listeners’ and connoisseurship claims by pointing out, on one hand, that “the appeal of music—of certain grades—is much more widespread and much more independent of special cultivation, than that of any other art” (AE, 238)—although he allows that the result can sometimes lapse into emotional excess. “On the other side,” he cuttingly observes of the taste for ‘classy’ music, “there are types of music, those most prized by connoisseurs, that demand special training to be perceived and enjoyed, and its devotees form a cult, so that their art is the most esoteric of all arts” (238; italics original).

The institutionalizing of Kant’s theory of “free beauty” (i.e., unburdened by concepts or subjective conditions that refer to the world) in the cult-ivation of ‘fine art’ is the product of dualistic conceptions that humans are detached from nature and can relate to each other only through reason has resulted in the problematic and paradoxical nature of subsequent aesthetic theorizing.

Aesthetic experience seems paradoxical and problematic to Kant for it is neither cognitive nor ethical. It struggles to be consumed under our cognitive judgments, but its objectivity, universality, and necessity turn out to involve subjectivity, particularity, and contingency. Art seems to appeal to human desire, but only in a strange disinterested manner. The work of art marks the random occasion for many to enjoy the abstract harmony of his own faculties. (Alexander, 189)

This dualism resulted in the theory of art’s autonomy from life (e.g., “absolute music”) and as ‘for-its-own-sake’. Given such separation of mind, body, and culture, the ideal of pure art was espoused. However, “the ideal of ‘art for arts’ sake would be unintelligible to most human cultures throughout history. This was an attitude generated in the nineteenth century under the rising influence of an industrial bourgeois society” (Alexander, 190) where, by being useless or impractical and not necessary to life, art’s use was to show off the wealth and prestige the rising bourgeois associated with aristocratic society.[12] However, for Dewey, “the ideal of art for art’s sake is only possible when art has ceased to play a direct and vital role in organized community life, it is, in other words, a symptomatic response to a disorganized society which cannot grasp itself as an aesthetic project” (Alexander, 190).[13]

I shall have more to add to contradicting the aesthetic claims for music assumed by many music teachers, and the connoisseurship advanced by aesthetes [14] but turn now to other sources for further insight concerning the idea of praxis.


Praxis, Theoria, and Techne

Critical Theory and postmodernism[15] offer contemporary discourse that is critical of the scientism,[16] rationalism,[17] and instrumental rationality[18] of the Enlightenment that they see as the source of the many crises of modernism.[19] Postmodernism and postanalytic philosophy also have challenged and “deconstructed” the totalizing aesthetic discourse of post-Enlightenment modernism, often espousing an aggressive “anti-aesthetic” stance (e.g., Foster 1983; Korsyn 2003). Critical Theory, on the other hand, arose mainly as a critique of the economic ideologies of capitalism and communism and their negative socio-cultural and political consequences.[20] Its ideology critique, then, has focused on freeing individuals from class-based social, economic, and political domination and ideology. In this quest for ‘empowerment’ in confronting such ideology, art and culture have been important; [21] and praxis as the means by which social reality, culture, and the ‘public’ are constructed and experienced has been a central concern.

In the Enlightenment tradition inherited from Kant, and as late as the social theory of Karl Marx and his followers, praxis had been understood in terms of practical work. Jürgen Habermas, a second-generation Critical Theorist, however, returned to Aristotle who had distinguished between three types of knowledge: praxis, theoria, and techne (see Regelski 1998a). Praxis involved ‘doing’ (action) of an ethically prudent kind (because it involves people) rather than ‘making’ (which involves things). Theoria involved what today we would call theoretical knowledge and was to be contemplated for its own sake (although applied theoria could guide techne) and thus was ‘good for’ the life of leisure. Techne, in contrast, involved ‘making’ or ‘producing’ actions (poiesis) and thus the practical knowledge and applied theory needed to bring about certain customary, useful, and reproducible results.

While musical technique can qualify as techne, praxis in relation to music and music education stresses four important considerations. First, all music (and art) are created to begin with to meet certain valued social needs and ends. The variety of these needs results in an infinite and growing multiplicity of musics, each qualified differently in terms of what it is ‘good for’ and thus serving as its criteria of ‘good music’. Secondly, these ‘goods’ are therefore always social, not only in origin but in their ongoing contributions to sociality. Third, music’s nature and value, then, are a consequence of people engaging in acts (praxes) of musicing. And, finally, such acts of musicing are the proper ends-in-view of all stages of a pragmatic, praxis-based music education. Thus considered, music’s universal and appealing suitability for serving sociality is characterized pragmatically according to what the Greeks called aisthesis.

The Greek notion of aisthesis referred to knowledge gained from sensory perception, judgments of the directly sensed qualia of things; it did not involve the rationalized, intellectualized and disembodied beauty (or the sublime) claimed by traditional aesthetics (Summers 1987). In fact, ‘for-its-own-sake’ modernist aesthetic autonomy is most consonant with the Greek notion of theoria as knowledge to be contemplated for its own sake in leisure time by intellectuals. The Greek sense of aisthesis, instead, was more congruent with Dewey’s use of the term “esthetic” to refer to affective and satisfying qualities of heightened perception and enriched felt consummatory experience than with the conflicting and confusing claims made by traditional aestheticians for the intellectual cognition of Kantian free beauty (i.e., ‘good taste’). The French symbolist poet Paul Valèry (1945), unhappy with the metaphysical whims of 19th century aesthetics, coined the term “esthesic” to refer to the original Greek meaning that was annulled when Alexander Baumgarten misappropriated aisthesis for his rationalist ends regarding poetry, and that became the source of the term “aesthetic.” [22] In the following analysis I shall refer to aisthesic in the sense used by Valèry for a reminder of its basis in aisthesis.

This distinction between the aisthesic (with its resonance in Dewey’s esthetic theory) and the aesthetic (in Kantian traditions) is important. What is commonly taken for granted under the influence of aesthetic metaphysics to be an aesthetic response to or experience of music, is accounted for naturalistically (and most parsimoniously) as an aisthesic response. [23] Such a response to music does not involve objective-subjective, monist-pluralist, isolationist-contextualist, absolutist-relativist aesthetic dichotomies, or any mind-body dualism. The often powerful and distinctly embodied feelings listeners and musicians report in connection with making and listening to music are not the abstractions of the intellectualism Dewey so often criticized.[24] They are best accounted for empirically in terms of the affect quale that arises as an embodied, aisthesic response to music. The resulting appeal of music and art thus entails what the artist-philosopher Katya Mandoki calls “latching-on,” the “activity of being absorbed or captivated” by it (Mandoki xii; 67–72).[25]


“Embodied Realism” and Cognitive Science

The naturalism (see, e.g., Popp 1999; Määttänen 2015) of second generation cognitive science[26] and its accounts of mind similarly reject the mind-body dualism of both idealism and metaphysical (or direct, naïve) realism and points instead to an aisthesic alternative to aesthetic metaphysics. Its embodied realism (Lakoff and Johnson 1999, e.g., 94–117 and passim) presents an account of mind based on a convergence of recent cognitive research in several social science disciplines and postanalytic, postmetaphysical philosophy. It developed from Dewey’s naturalism and from the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

[B]oth argued that mind and body are not separate metaphysical entities, that experience is embodied, not ethereal, and that when we use the words mind and body we are imposing bounded conceptual structures artificially on the ongoing integrated process that constitutes our experience….

Dewey focused on the whole complex circuit of organism-environment interactions that makes up our experience, and he shows how experience is at once bodily, social, intellectual, and emotional. Merleau-Ponty argued that ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ are not independent entities, but instead arise from a background, or ‘horizon,’ of fluid, integrated experience on which we impose the concepts ‘subjective’ and ‘objective.’ (Lakoff and Johnson, 97; italics original).

When an aisthesic experience is understood in terms of the felt qualia of such “fluid, integrated experience,” the response to music is seen in affective terms that are embodied with personal uniqueness and particulars (especially in relation to sound), rather than in the problematically theoretical and supposedly universal terms of the disembodied cognitions of beauty or expression (etc.) claimed by conventional aesthetic theory.

Such aisthesic ‘minding’ of the body in interaction with the environment (including, especially, the sociocultural environment), however, is not simply an irrational, emotive, or purely sensual reaction (i.e., stimulus-response) to music. Rather, it is informed and enhanced by sensory-motor experience and other learning connected to the “cognitive amplifiers” contributed by society and culture (Berland 1982). “Biological evolution, cultural heritage, individual growth and education all have an influence” (Määttänen 2017, 3) on experience, including emotion—thus importantly acknowledging the cultural components of emotional experience itself (Kövecses 2000). Accordingly, such enactive cognition[27] is both embodied and socially situated. Against the rationalist account of mind as incorporeal (i.e., purely mental), these studies instead find:

First, that cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities [aisthesis], and second, that these individual sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological, and cultural context. (Varela, Thompson, and Rosch 1991, quoted in Lakoff and Johnson, 97).

Thus, in Dewey’s pragmatism, “pure sensations alone are meaningless. Sensation is always involved in a complex, organized activity and comes to have meaning because of this organization” (Alexander, 30).

The naturalist position of Dewey and of second-generation cognitive science, then, rejects the rationalist account of reason as a disembodied ‘faculty’ that is autonomous and independent of sense and action. The naturalism of embodied realism thus opposes the mind and body separation of the “philosophical cognitivism” (Lakoff and Johnson, 76) that has existed in classical philosophy since Plato and that has been the paradigm for the analytic aesthetic philosophies of post-Enlightenment modernism. In doing so, it provides compelling evidence that mind arises in, from, as, and for action. “The main idea of pragmatism is that experience as sense perception is a too narrow view. Action must be included in the concept of experience” (Määttänen 2015, vii).

In this view, then, cognition and knowledge do not result from the accumulation of abstract information or concepts that come ready-made from the world (or as words and from teachers) as givens; nor is knowledge transcendentally built into the world as foundational (a priori). This is, then, also the case for musical cognition and responsiveness. Hence, there are no autonomous, a priori, and universal meanings, values, or symbolized feeling-states that can be timelessly experienced in some singular form, or that can be simply passed on to succeeding generations intact.[28] Musical meaning is similarly embodied in, as, from, and for praxis. However, praxis involves more than just the naturalized embodiment of its personal meaning.


Praxis, Intentionality and Phronesis

Praxis in Aristotle’s writings—especially his ethical philosophy—dealt with virtuous action[29] of a largely personal, political, or public-spirited sort, and with the practical knowledge and ethical prudence and care (phronesis) necessary to achieve it. In today’s social theory and philosophy, however, the scope of praxis encompasses all forms of social, artistic and cultural and even everyday actions that give meaning to a person’s life. Thus praxis is associated with everyday knowledge and beliefs, and especially with the intentionality of individuals—what Dewey called their “ends-in-view”—within the particulars of their personal sociocultural horizons and empirical landscapes. In this view of praxis, social reality is enacted from the physical environment by human action and in terms of human intentions.[30]

Intentionality refers to the directedness or purposiveness of action in terms of objectives, goals, beliefs, values, and other ends-in-view. It is what an action (or, for Dewey, what “an experience”) is for, about, or trying to bring about (Searle 1992, 1983). In this contemporary, expanded treatment of praxis, phronesis becomes even more critical. Phronesis is the ethical criterion for attentive care and expertise to be employed in order to achieve ‘right results’. Most importantly, the rightness of results (their virtue) is evaluated in terms of the individuals or groups the action is intended to serve—that is, in terms of their situated goals, values, beliefs, needs, and other ends-in-view. An action is a ‘right action’, then, when it is care‑full to bring about right or good results for and in terms of the individual, group, or other need occasioning the action.

Praxis, in this ethical sense, should be understood in music education as it relates to the other “caring professions”[31] such as, say, those of doctors, dentists or lawyers, who don’t ‘practice’ their professions as student learners do the piano. Such professions are ‘practiced’ according to agreed upon regulative, guiding or “action ideals”[32] according to the standards of care determined by the profession’s ethical pledge, theory and history of praxis, and customary methods of praxis.[33] The professional ethical lapse typically called “malpractice” is in fact, then, mal-praxis. Furthermore, and this is critical, a caring profession such as teaching is not supposed to be ‘practiced’ strictly for the direct personal benefit of the practitioner: the practitioner may benefit only secondarily. It is mainly concerned with right results understood in terms of the criteria provided by the situated human values and needs to be served. The rewards for the practitioner, then, come indirectly as the personal satisfaction of successfully meeting the needs of those served, not from being selfishly focused on, for example, money; or, in the case of music teachers, the teacher’s own musical needs.[34]

As praxis, then, music is never for its own sake since it exists in connection with those whose needs and values are served by it, and is qualified as “good” in terms of those needs and values! Moreover, it is especially not for the sake of professional or specialist musicians. This condition can arise when what might be called musicians’ music[35]—music as understood and valued by musicians in terms of their criteria, values, needs, and intentionality—is ideologically advanced as the raison d’être for all music and as the paragon of all musical valuing. [36]

For example, in a book review of two historical studies the highly regarded musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen argues that the musical heritage of Mozart, Beethoven, and Vienna (i.e., the context and music in which analytic aesthetics evolved) amounts to just such a musician’s music—music for, admired largely by, and advanced for the sake of professional musicians and suitably backgrounded cultural elites. Thus, when one of the histories under review points out that performance of Mozart’s symphonies and operas continued to be programmed in the early 19th century even though the public disliked them at the time, Rosen rationalizes (notably in the present tense):

The answer is that the music which is performed is not so much the works that the public wants to hear as those that musicians insist on playing. Public demand counts for something, of course, but a musician’s life is often enough hard, disagreeable, and monotonous, and it would be intolerable unless he could play the music he [sic] loved. (1995, 52–6).

He adds, “this is not a question of elite preference, but of professional ideals.” He similarly describes Beethoven’s music in terms of the “unique prestige among the professional musicians who eventually imposed his figure on the public” [italics added]! [37]

Rosen goes on to object that “the history of reception” [38] offered by one of the books reviewed “concentrates solely on the attitudes of the general public and on journalistic criticism” rather than (as it should, in his view) on the music alone. He thus criticizes the author for treating tastes and preferences of ordinary listeners as if they “were the only kind of listening that mattered”—presumably not the way musicians listen. He curtly dismisses as “a vacuous and uninteresting truth”—but a truth nonetheless!—the author’s central (and decidedly praxial) argument, in Rosen’s summation of the reception thesis, that “musical meaning does not exist objectively in the work—or even in its composer’s intentions. It resides in the particular moment of reception, one shaped by dominant aesthetic and social expectations that are themselves historically structured.”[39] In a later article (2001, 65) Rosen requires that the “physical experience” of performance and the “technical, emotional, and intellectual” benefits of performing certain works or composers are also necessary to proper understanding and appreciation.

Rosen’s account is thus clear: music is not aesthetically for its own sake; it is for the sake of expert musicians and aesthetes who are the best models and sources of proper musical understanding and appreciation. It also seems clear that music education historically has been centrally concerned with musicians’ music in just this problematic sense—especially in higher education—rather than music viewed in more mainstream and thus in less elite or expert terms. The emphasis on large performing ensembles, the literature played by those ensembles, the listening lessons of general music classes devoted to such literature, and the all but total lack of serious concern with recreational, folk, world, and other participatory musics all give evidence of this condition.

Instead, in the praxial paradigm argued here, music is broadly conceived. The first criterion of what music is, on this account, is determined by the intentionality of those engaged in a particular praxis for the right results it brings to them personally or for others for whom it is performed. As established earlier, intentionality is a constituting condition of praxis. In defining the anticipated or valued ends-in-view of “an experience,” then, intentionality is constitutive of what music is and is “good for” in the lifeworlds of different agents. Amateur performing, the practices of ‘ordinary listeners,’ and “music in everyday life” (DeNora 2000) are, accordingly, all unique praxes because of the different intentions—personal, social goods—at stake. These practices exist precisely because they are ‘good for’ realizing different musical intentions and values than those for which professional musical artistry exists. To philosophically treat such different praxes according to the same criteria of goodness is, therefore, what philosophers call a category-mistake.[40]

A second criterion of music as praxis is dictated by the highly variable ethical criterion of phronesis that qualifies each praxis. While intentionality constitutes the anticipated ‘good for’ focus of musical praxis, phronesis serves to determine the goodness or rightness of the music for the intentions at stake; it determines, in other words, how well those goods are served. Because musical praxis exists to bring about good results for a wide array of social and cultural uses, there can be no simple or single criterion of musical goodness. Instead, music’s situatedness—in particular, the differences between the intentions and needs at stake in various praxes—provide key criteria for judging its goodness.

Accordingly, in relation to intentionality, “music” is, first of all, a term identifying a particular social function assigned to a certain praxis of using sound, according to what it is ‘good for’ in terms of human values and needs. Such a praxis is music to the degree that the sounds we only call “the music” are a central and focal part.[41] Thus, and subsequently, its goodness as music depends on its success (virtue) relative to the intentions at stake. Consequently, acoustical properties become “music” and get their social meaning and value in terms of intentionality and phronesis.

Following John Searle’s (1998, 1992) philosophy of the social mind, that there is an external world possessing certain physical properties is beyond doubt. However, what an object is in terms of social reality and praxis—in other words, the purpose such properties are deemed ‘good for’—is observer-relative; it is a status function” assigned to the social use of such physical properties (Searle 1998, 125–6). For example, a piece of “paper” has certain physical properties; but that it is—socially functions and is usefully valued as—“money” is an observer-relative feature of its facticity as socially constituted in its social function. Searle makes these same kinds of distinctions for all sorts of “things” ranging from objects such as chairs or bathtubs, to proceedings such as marriage or war, to systematic praxes like language and music. Music, in this sense, is the status function or social reality given to sound that is provided in terms of important constituting social aspects and conditions of particular praxes.

The “constitutive rules” by which physical properties take on status functions always have the logical form of “X counts as Y in (context) C” (Searle 1998, 123–4). Thus “sounds” (X) count as “music” (Y) according to a musical praxis (context C). Current references to “musics” reflect this socially contingent and pluralistic status and belie claims for an aesthetic ontology and a single set of standards of quality derived therefrom.

Once the concept of “music” as a general category[42] is institutionalized within a society, then, “music” counts as “church music/worship” under the conditions of religious practice, and “ceremony” under conditions of celebration. Sound therefore takes on the status function called “music” under particular and defining social conditions of praxis that in turn, then, govern that praxis. Searle accordingly distinguishes “constitutive rules,” which literally create the institutional facticity or status function of a social reality to begin with, from “regulative rules,” which thereafter govern the social reality thus created. Thus, a kind of “music,” once constituted in terms of a particular praxis and society is thereafter regulated by rules, criteria, and standards of musicianship appropriate to that praxis. The constituting conditions vary according to the praxis and so, therefore, does the musicianship demands and the music thus created.[43]

That some “thing”—an idea, a value or “music”—is a socially created status function, and that it is not given a priori by or in the universe, or found or formulated by the faculty of reason, does not, however, mean that it is extravagantly relative. As the philosopher Hilary Putnam (1987) points out, “the fact that we ‘make’ facts and values doesn’t mean that they are arbitrary” (78): Accordingly, socially constituted facts, ideas, and values are more or less good or right when judged pragmatically, in action, by the regulative rules, conditions, and criteria of a given praxis. Thus, in the spirit of Dewey (who Putnam acknowledges as among his pragmatic influences), an everyday kind of direct realism that Putnam calls pragmatic realism exists where truth, reality, and value are given facticity by a conceptual system in terms of various social norms, uses, interests, and choices for actions, rather than in essentialist terms.[44] The conceptual system in question is not, therefore, private and thoroughly subjective; it is culturally and institutionally constituted and thus involves implicit collective customs. “Money,” then, is recognized and valued in exchange for goods. The musicianship of shared regulative norms in music not only guide a praxis; they dispel concerns about “anything-goes” kinds of subjectivism or “art is in the mind of the beholder” kinds of relativism.[45]

The present account of music as praxis, then, relies on just such pragmatic realism. However, individual intentionality would amount only to private consciousness and thus personally subjective values were it not for the sociocultural “collective intentionality(Searle 1998, 118–21) concerning what is true, real, and good that is importantly at work in any society and, thus, in its music. For example, the sonic materials of any music are not typically neutral but are culturally selective: to start with; depending on a host of variables, only certain sounds are available to a particular society. While this is especially the case with traditional or indigenous societies (for example, the availability of bamboo for making instruments) it has been no less true over the history of modern societies, at least until the advent of technological sources of sound production. The development of the viol family, for instance, has been conditioned by geographical, climatic, social, and economic variables; and different conditions, contexts; and variables in other cultures account for other stringed instruments. Moreover, of the sound sources typically available in a given society, only certain sounds are employed for its music, or for particular social practices; for example, the bamboo instruments of many vernacular Asian musics.

Similarly, the values, beliefs and the purposes served by the institutionalizing of praxes and their varying status functions, all depend on this “collective or we-intentionality” (Searle, 118).[46] The norms, traditions, and assumptions of this collective backdrop or foundation for praxis, musical and otherwise, are thus vital and inescapable; they condition and promote the other socially situated and culturally amplified meanings in terms of which mind, action, and music are possible. Habermas, other Critical Theorists, and many sociologists refer to this as “lifeworld.” The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is noted in this regard for his even more detailed concept of “habitus” (e.g., 1992) and John Searle (1992, 1983) has provided a philosophical account of mind that depends on what he calls “Background” (with a capital B). Dewey was satisfied to refer to the “situation” and the inevitable and pivotal influences of its social “background” (without the capital B) on the social mind (AE, 262–71).

These and other socially created conditions of mind and knowledge are the conditions governing references to the situatedness of learning and knowledge. “Situatedness” is not new synonym or jargon for “context.” Contemporary references to “situatedness” are distinguished from “context” in precisely the way that Dewey described a “situation” (see, e.g., Alexander 1987; 61ff., 81ff., 104ff., 179ff., 232ff.): It involves the presence of a “problem” (i.e., an unsettled, unresolved condition or need posing alternatives for action) that is the intentionality leading to the consummation of “an experience.” It includes not only the immediate milieu (in the usual understanding of general environment or setting); more importantly, it refers to all the many and unique particulars of the individual as situated in that physical and cultural environment. These include, most importantly, variables of individual intentionality in relation to collective intentionality. It involves, then, why the situation is seen as a “problem” (i.e., challenging for being somehow different than past situations), why it is culturally valued by that individual and society; and, especially, the ends-in-view of the agent that thus engage the entire range of action theory and its conditions of personal agency. All these and related factors are considered in present terms as constitutive of “the music”! To be sure, therefore, situatedness is much more and more central to music and musical responding than contextualist aesthetic theories (Stalnaker 2002[/simple_tooltip], 397; Davies 2014[/simple_tooltip], 56–7) that equate pleasures of “the music” with scores or ‘works’ and that thus sustain connoisseurship claims for the importance of knowing background information from art and music history.[47]


Implications of Praxial Theory

In light of the constitutive role of intentionality and the regulative force of phronesis, the presumption that aesthetic properties are ontological essences in any intrinsic, autonomous sense is seen to be an intellectualist fallacy. Dewey referred to this kind of thinking (in and outside of art) as “the philosophic fallacy” (Tiles 1990, 20–21; Dewey EN, 27, 45, 47, 59, 251, 266; Dewey 1922/1988, 122–3; italics original[48]): a practice of falsely representing the a posteriori and otherwise pragmatic meanings, tangible effects, and embodied qualia of action and experience as antecedent to praxis and thus as a priori “essences” that are literally supposed to inhere in the objects of that praxis in our case, as aesthetic properties supposedly ‘in’ the score. Thus, in art, the philosophical fallacy amounts to the claim that aisthesic pleasures are the necessary and sufficient result of the properties of the art work alone, rather than of the total experience of reception which also and importantly involves a host of social and situated variables, intentions, and values which vary between people and over time for the same individual.

In his important study of what he called “serious art,” the philosopher and historian of ideas John Passmore similarly concludes, “there is no such thing as the ontological status of works of art”—the “essentialism” discussed earlier that supposedly sets art apart in a person’s environment. Instead, he shows, relevant features vary “not only from art to art but even within particular-art forms” (Passmore 1991, 292; see also 19, 55, 71) according to the intentionality and situatedness that occasions them and their use. These occasions Passmore categorizes for analytic purposes as “serious,” “telic” (music used to influence people) and “entertainment” (music for enjoyment), then demonstrates that such goals do not result in any ontologically intrinsic distinctions. Hence, he concludes, “that an art was designed to satisfy a purpose does not preclude its being taken seriously as art, whether or not it still fulfils its original purpose.” (48). Moreover, “a work can be designed as an amusement or as telic art and yet be serious art” and so “we cannot safely assume either that what was designed as serious art has in fact any value except as amusement or as telic art or that work designed to fall within these later categories can therefore be dismissed as non-serious” (104).

What music is, then, is most accurately accounted for according to the variable constitutive and regulating conditions of a praxis—the various musical experiences, however commonplace and naïve, or elitist and expert, at large in a society—and not in terms of an ontology predicated on essentialist and aesthetic metaphysics. As the music historian Julian Johnson (2002) concludes:

Art and entertainment are perhaps better understood as social functions than as categories that divide cultural products as if they were sheep and goats. Classical music, … is made as art but frequently serves as entertainment. Even when it serves as art, it doesn’t necessarily stop serving as entertainment. (47; italics added)



Accounting for music as praxis, with its emphasis on the constitutive and regulative conditions of intentionality and music’s many and varied social functions, has important implications for a variety of issues involving the value of music for life, and related questions of music education for the good life.

First of all, the praxial perspective offered here accounts for the frequency with which a composition originally intended as a certain type of praxis also becomes ‘good for’ other functions—or means something different when otherwise situated—in ways that are still unique to the music. For example, when “occasional music” is ‘good for’ other, often totally different occasions—such as when Mozart’s divertimenti are performed in concert rather than for the praxial functions that originally occasioned them.[49] In each case, the meaning or value of the music as “music” in the praxially-expanded sense is altered, often dramatically, according to the situated praxis.

Similarly, musical praxis typically varies according to how relevant what we call “the music” is to the broader “good” served. Weddings, for example, can and sometimes do take place without music, but a concert without music is unthinkable.[50] Thus, in any praxis, the sounds traditionally called “the music” may be more or less central in determining the nature or type of “goods” produced—more in a concert, less in a wedding.[51] What the music is presumed to be ‘good for’ involves the intentions and situations at stake, and those conditions of praxis provide key criteria for judging whether the music is “good” according to how well the intentions are consummated in the given situation. Concert performances of many “world musics” are, in this respect, best considered as exhibitions or exemplifications since authentic performance can occur only in situ, where the praxial values for which the musicing exists properly obtain.[52] This, of course, doesn’t diminish their interests for audiences—audience listening being its own praxis (e.g., concerts and recordings of the Japanese taiko drumming group Kodō, for whom drumming is a spiritual discipline).

In all instances of musicking an extensive range of social and economic values and variables are always at stake. Even with the Western ‘classics’ such musical sociability and significance still obtain: (a) a central and constitutive role for the collective norms of the sociocultural “lifeworld,” “habitus” or “Background” is at work in general and, (b) more particularly as shared by this audience, in this hall, for this performance, at this time of the day (etc.). The interactional synchrony or mutuality of “being there” (Dasein for Heidegger, 1972) together for the music is key. Performers often notice whether an audience is especially responsive—especially for musical praxes that allow audiences to express their following of the music.

The situatedness of recorded music is therefore uniquely different. To begin with, modern recording techniques produce a somewhat idealized result that no ears would possibly hear in a live performance. This is further complicated by the question of where in the hall one sits and, thus, what one hears from that location that is different than in another location. These are important questions that recording engineers have debated since stereo was invented. Originally, some purists believed that a single microphone placed centrally best captured the music as heard by the solitary listener. Then, microphones were spread out to capture a balanced sound. Today, microphones are placed among or above the musicians and the balance artificially contrived in the recording studio. These manipulations affect more variables than just balance, so that the result is not what any listener in the audience would have experienced.

A further peculiarity is the assumption of the aesthetic paradigm that the audience should be invisible—which is why many concert halls are darkened—and thus be a non-contributing factor to the overall musical experience. However, even without the live conditions, to be an audience of recorded or broadcast music still entails a sharing of lifeworld, habitus, or Background; for example, in terms of taste, preferences for certain performers, audiophile concerns and purchase habits, and conversations about such performances and performers shared with others of like interest and insight that motivate and inform listening. Recorded music is, thus, in some ways a somewhat different praxis, though no less valued by collectors, audiophiles, and those who can’t afford to attend concerts or don’t live where concert-going is available. It also allows repeated hearings of favored music and study.

The inherent sociality of such only apparently solitary experience is a significant aspect of the praxial benefits of the arts and particularly of the performing arts with their various formalized patterns and rituals. In their totality, as the anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake (1991, 1992) points out, such rituals and arts

are socially reinforcing, uniting their participants and their audiences in one mood. They both provide an occasion for feelings of individual transcendence of the self—what Victor Turner calls communitas and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”—as everyone shares in the same occasion of patterned emotion. For a time, the hard edges of their customary isolation from each other are softened or melted together or their everyday taken-for-granted-comradeship is reinforced. (1992, 48; italics original).[53]

This sociability is, at once, a condition and a cause of the status function of music already discussed. Music both creates and reflects social reality and the social institutions that necessarily carry or convey collective sociability in an endless spiral of increasingly complexity.

The sociologist of music John Shepherd (1991; Shepherd and Wicke 1997) has described music as a social or cultural “text.” In a manner of speaking, its social meaning or significance can be “read” from it in terms of the many socio-cultural variables influencing it, and that are simultaneously responsible in part for constituting it. Ethnomusicology also provides an account of musical value and meaning where music is regarded as so socially imbued that a culture is not understood properly without studying its music; and its music cannot be understood aside from being well-steeped in the culture (e.g., Blacking 1973).

Thus, for the pragmatically understood social mind, perception and conception themselves are, in central ways, culturally amplified or influenced (Berland 1982)—and all the more fundamentally so for the arts! Music, then, is inherently social, even when done or consumed in social isolation. Yet the aesthetic paradigm goes to extremes to deny that these same conditions obtain for audience-listening. The praxial status of music’s sociality also reveals the profound inadequacy of purely psycho-acoustical bases for listening to music or planning music education, which is still the prevailing paradigm in empirical research studies at present in music education and neuroscience.

This use of music as an enhancement of sociality is not simply a virtue of music as a mere accompaniment or background. In keeping with the already discussed sociality of music and the status functions by which it is constituted and according to which it is used, it is important to acknowledge that music adds an important social ingredient of its own that suffuses a social praxis in ways that govern its holistic quality as “an experience.” Thus, music enhances occasions where it is intently listened to and with musical benefit, even though it is not the prime or sole focus. This praxial capacity of music for “making special” weddings and funerals, birthday and cocktail parties, dances and parades, bacchanals and worship services, and other such occasions is an inescapable mainstay of the human purposes and meanings served.

The aestheticizing of music has resulted in dismissing such socially important yet everyday kinds of music and musical interests as aesthetically irrelevant or debased despite their obvious importance to people’s lives. The world is prolific in the musics that arise according to different needs, interests, and intentions everywhere. In this respect, music educators can and should increasingly offer the musical options within which personal musical understanding and dispositions can function, no matter how mundane the need by putative aesthetic criteria—especially musics that exist for participatory pleasures, rather than presentational (concert) performance for an audience—participatory praxes the ethnomusicologist Thomas Turino calls “music as social life (Turino 2008).

Even when music is the major raison d’être for an event, however, music “makes special” time itself. Music as praxis, I propose, promotes “good time.”[54] Whether regarded philosophically or as existentially lived (see Heidegger 1972), time is a basic condition of human being and becoming. Being alive (existing) and becoming fully human (i.e., actualizing self; living life to its fullest) both unfold “in” or, more properly, “as” time.[55] The importance of time as a resource serving human values cannot be over-estimated. At the level of language this importance is revealed in such expressions as spending or saving time, wasting or killing time, biding or buying time, free or spare time, and leisure time. Most important for present purposes is the idea of “good time” and the important adjective, “worthwhile”[56]—the premiere expression for referring to matters of value. The most abiding human concern, accordingly, is the problem of how well—how richly or valuably—we spend our time because, existentially, time is personally ‘owned’ and, like money, can thus be saved or spent, contributed or wasted, in various ways.

What we do with this time, or how we fill it, are possibilities that do allow a range of choices, however, and music can and often is chosen as an accompaniment that imparts its own uniquely valued quality (quale) to the spending of time that, without it, may have little distinct or positive character of its own.[57] It adds its own interest to such time. This use of music has become all the more important in our age of easy access to recorded music. Yet music education based on aesthetic premises often fails to account or provide for such musical value altogether; it rarely addresses such everyday choices as valid or intelligent choices that are musically worthwhile and thus of educational merit. The qualia arising from sound and its organization, and the embodied pleasures of performance actions more engagingly contribute to “good time.” These “worthwhile” ways of spending time musically can be grouped under the category of recreation; that is, existential re‑creation over time.

However, in promoting contemplation of music for its own sake and the connoisseurship necessary to it, the aesthetic attitude and meme for music education has in fact diminished the important role of personal music-making in life. Instead, I argue, personally making music as recreation—alone, and with or for friends and family—is a prime musical value that aesthetic theory grants as a warranted option only to an elite few. In the praxial view advanced here, recreational music making—in any genre—is a valid, noble and valuable action ideal for music education. Such praxes should and easily can be made available in some successful form to all students as part of their general education, including in general music classes, with a view to promoting life-long, committed amateuring. (Regelski 2007)—a verb-like neologism that stresses the praxial and recreational spirit of such activities.

Where once music was made regularly in the home, we have since become a nation of listeners, of musical by-standers (Lasch 1984); and that has even some aesthetes complaining (see, e.g., Rosen 2001, 64; Hodges 2016, 95–8). A praxial philosophy of music and music education would necessarily work to reverse this unfortunate trend by restoring the central value of personal music making of any kind as one of life’s highest goods. Choosing to spend time musicing—at any level of expertise, as long as the activity is personally satisfying—is certainly an extremely satisfying form of “good time.”

Such activity, even when falling short of professional standards of artistry, simply can no longer be ignored as a bona fide goal for music education (Regelski 1998c). Quite simply, students who are led in their schooling to discover “good time” through recreational performance of one or more kinds are empowered in significant ways to choose how they will spend time meaningfully. The likelihood of this outcome would be enhanced if such uses were extensively modeled by curriculum during the school years. Anyone can be helped to “do music” of some kind to a personal level of satisfaction and thus to experience “good time” through music more often.[58]

About the Author
Thomas A. Regelski Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor of Music (Emeritus), State University of New York at Fredonia NY, where he taught choral conducting, secondary methods, and foundations courses in philosophy, psychology, and sociology as well as publishing in a wide array of journals in and outside of music education. He is the co-founder of the MayDay Group and editor of its e-journal, Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education, from its inception in 2002 until the summer of 2007. Author of Principles and Problems of Music Education (Prentice-Hall, 1975), Arts Education and Brain Research (Alliance for Arts Education/MENC, 1978), Teaching General Music: Action Learning for Middle and Secondary Schools (Schirmer Books, 1981), and Teaching General Music in Grades 4-8: A Musicianship Approach (Oxford University Press, 2004), he is presently a Docent at Helsinki University (Finland), teaching courses in research writing to graduate students in the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences, and he lectures occasionally in the music education department at the Sibelius Academy.


Alexander, Thomas M. 1987. John Dewey’s theory of art, experience and nature: The horizons of feeling. Albany NY: State University of New York Press.

Berland, Joseph C. 1982. No five fingers are alike: Cognitive amplifiers in social context. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Blacking, John. 1973. How musical is man? Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Bowman, Wayne. 2005. The limits and grounds of praxialism, in Praxial music education, edited by David J. Elliott, 52–78. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre, and L. J. D. Wacquant. 1992. An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Carroll, Noël. 1998. A philosophy of mass art. New York: Oxford University Press.

Chanan, Michael. 1994. Musica practica: The social practice of Western music from Gregorian chant to postmodernism. London: Verso.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Davies, David. 2014. Medium, in The Routledge companion to philosophy and music, edited by Theodore Gracyk and Andrew Kania, 48–58. New York: Routledge.

Davies, Stephen. 2003. Themes in the philosophy of music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dewey, John. 1934/1980. Art as experience. New York: Perigee/Putnam’s Sons.

Dewey, John.1925/1989. Experience and nature. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.

Dewey, John. 1894/1963. The theory of emotion, in John Dewey: Philosophy, Psychology and Social Practice, edited by Joseph Ratner, 214–251. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Dewey, John. 1922/1988. Human nature and conduct. Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Press.

DeNora, Tia. 2000. Music in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DeNora, Tia. 1995. Beethoven and the construction of genius: Musical politics in vienna, 1792–1803. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dissanayake, Ellen. 2000. Art and intimacy: How the arts began. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Dissanayake, Ellen. 1991. What is art for? Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Dissanayake, Ellen. 1992. Homo aestheticus: Where art comes from and why? New York: Free Press.

Dunne, Joseph. 1993. Back to the rough ground: Phronesis and techne in modern philosophy and Aristotle. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press.

Elliott, David J. 1995. Music matters: A new philosophy of music education. New York: Oxford University Press.

Elliott, David J., ed. 2005. Praxial music education: Reflections and dialogues. New York: Oxford University Press.

Elliott, David J., and Marissa Silverman. 2015. Music matters: A philosophy of music education, second edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Foster, Hal, ed. 1983. The anti-aesthetic: Essays on postmodern culture. Seattle: Bay Press.

Goehr, Lydia. 1992. The imaginary museum of musical works. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Gouinlock, James. 1972. John Dewey’s philosophy of value. New York: Humanities Press.

Gracyk. Theodore. 2007. Listening to popular music. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1984. The theory of communicative action, 2 vols. Translated by T. McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1972. On time and being. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

Held, David. 1980. Introduction to Critical Theory. Berkley: University of California Press.

Hodges, Donald. 2016. A concise survey of music philosophy. New York: Routledge.

Johnson, Julian. 2002. Who needs classical music? Cultural choice and musical value. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kivy, Peter. 1990. Music alone. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Korsyn, Kevin. 2003. Decentering music: A critique of contemporary musical research. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kövecses, Zoltán. 2000. Metaphor and emotion: Language, culture, and body in human feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson, 1999. Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books.

Langer, Susanne. 1977. Feeling and form. New York: Scribners.

Lasch, Christopher. 1984. The degradation of work and the apotheosis of art. Harpers (February): 42.

Light, Andrew W., and Jonathan M. Smith. 2005. The aesthetics of everyday life. New York: Columbia University Press.

Määttänen, Pentti. 2017. Emotions, values, and aesthetic perception. New Ideas in Psychology,

Määttänen, Pentti. 2015. Mind in action. London: Springer.

Määttänen, Pentti. 2001. Aesthetic experience: A problem in praxialism. Action, Criticism and Theory for Music Education, 1(1). http://act.maydaygroup
.org/articles/Maattanen1_1.pdf.  Also printed in the Finnish Journal of Music Education 5 (1–2; 2000); 148–54.

Mandoki, Katya. 2007. Everyday aesthetics: Prosaics, the play of culture, and social identities. Burlington VT: Ashgate.

McCormick, Peter J. 1990. Modernity, aesthetics and the bounds of art. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press.

McMullen, Roy. 1968. Art, affluence, and alienation. New York: New American Library/Mentor Book.

Passmore, John. 1991. Serious art. LaSalle IL: Open Court.

Popp, Jerome A. 1998. Naturalizing philosophy of education: John Dewey in the postanalytic period. Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.

Putnam, Hilary. 1987. The many faces of realism. LaSalle IL.: Open Court.

Putnam, Hilary. 1999. Realism with a human face. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Rancière, Jacques. 2009a. The politics of aesthetics. Translated by G. Rockhill. London: Continuum.

Rancière, Jacques. 2009b. Aesthetics and its discontents. Translated by S. Corcoran. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Reeve, D. D. C. 2013. Aristotle on practical wisdom: Nicomachean Ethics VI. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Regelski, Thomas A. 2017. Autonomania: Music and music education from Mars. Contemporary Aesthetics 15:

Regelski, Thomas A. 2016. A brief introduction to a philosophy of music and music education as social praxis. New York: Routledge.

Regelski, Thomas A. 2012a. Ethical dimensions of school-based music education. in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy in Music Education, edited by Wayne D. Bowman and Ana Lucía Frega, 284–306. New York: Oxford University Press.

Regelski, Thomas A. 2012b. Musicianism and the ethics of school music. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 11 (1): 7–42. http://act.

Regelski, Thomas A. 2007. Amateuring in music and its rivals. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 6 (3): 22–50: http://act.maydaygroup.

Regelski, Thomas A. 2002. On “methodolatry” and music teaching as critical and reflective praxis. Philosophy of Music Education Review 10 (2): 102–24.

Regelski, Thomas A. 1998a. The Aristotelian bases of music and music education. Philosophy of Music Education Review 6 (1): 22–59.

Regelski, Thomas A. 1998b. Critical Theory as a basis for critical thinking in music education, in Studies in music from the University of Western Ontario, Vol. 17, edited by Paul Woodford. London Ontario, Canada: University of Western Ontario Press. Reprinted in Visions of Research in Music Education (Vol. 6, 2005):

Regelski, Thomas A. 1998c. Schooling for musical praxis. Canadian Music Educator 40 (1): 32–43.

Regelski, Thomas A. 1996. A prolegomenon to a praxial theory of music and music education. Finnish Journal of Music Education 1 (1): 23–38. Reprinted in edited version in Canadian Music Educator 38 (3, Spring 1997): 43–51.

Reimer, Bennett. 1989a. A philosophy of music education, second edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Reimer, Bennett. 1989b. Music education as aesthetic education: Past and present. Music Educators Journal 75 (6): 22–8.

Reimer, Bennett. 1989c. Music education as aesthetic education: Toward the future. Music Educators Journal 75 (7): 26–32.

Reimer, Bennett. 1994. The experience of profundity in music,” in Critical reflections on music education: Proceedings of the second international symposium on the philosophy of music education, edited by David J. Elliott and Lee R. Bartell, 101–26. Toronto: Canadian Music Education Research Center.

Reimer, Bennett. 2003. A philosophy of music education, third edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Rosen, Charles. 2001. The future of music. The New York Review of Books, December 20: 60–65.

Rosen, Charles. 1995. Beethoven’s triumph. The New York Review of Books, September 21: 52–6.

Saito, Yuriko. 2007. Everyday aesthetics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Searle, John. 1992. The rediscovery of mind. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Searle, John. 1983. Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Searle, John. 1998. Mind, language, and society: Philosophy in the real world. New York: Basic Books.

Shepherd, John. 1991. Music as social text. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Shepherd, John, and Peter Wicke. 1997. Music and cultural theory. Cambridge: Polity Press/Blackwell.

Shusterman, Richard. 2002. Surface and depth: Dialectics of criticism and culture. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press.

Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The meanings of performing and listening. Hanover NH: Wesleyan University Press.

Solomon, Charles C. 2003. What is emotion? Classic and contemporary readings, second edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stalnaker, Nan. 2002. Fakes and Forgeries, in The Routledge companion to aesthetics, edited by Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes, 395–407. New York: Routledge.

Summers, David. 1987. The judgement of sense: Renaissance naturalism and the rise of aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tiles, J. E. 1990. Dewey. New York: Routledge.

Tuomela, Raimo. 2002. The philosophy of social practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Turino, Thomas. 2008. Music as social life: The politics of participation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Valéry, Paul. 1945. Leçon inaugurale du cours de poétique au Collège de France. Variétiés V. Paris: Gallimard; 297.

Varela, Franciso J., Eleanor Rosch, and Evan Thompson. 1991. The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Walker, Robert. 2001. The rise and fall of philosophies of music education: Looking backwards in order to see ahead. Research Studies in Music Education 17 (December): 3–18.

Westerlund, Heidi. 2003. Reconsidering aesthetic experience in praxial music education. Philosophy of Music Education Review 11 (1): 45–62.

White, Stephen K, ed. 1995. The Cambridge companion to Habermas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Frank R., and Franz L Roehmann, eds. 1990. Music and child development. St. Louis MO: MMB Music.

All URLs accessed June 2017.



[1] The ethical criterion of phronesis for praxis is a prominent reason that praxis cannot altogether be equated with pragmatism (though various pragmatists do have ethical philosophies) and why praxis is not the same as a “practice” understood as any taken for granted, routine, or custom.

[2] “Musica practica is nothing but the form that musical knowledge takes directly from musical practice. Theoretically filtered or not, fundamentally it has no need of theory or even notation. It is the musical equivalent of the way the baby learns to talk” (Chanan 1994, 28). Thus it is not to be confused with the computerized ear training software of the same name.

[3] Instead, for Dewey, “art is not a separate category of human experience to be set off and compared with our cognitive and moral experience” (250). Thus “art is an intensification of ordinary experience” (233).

[4] Which is not to agree that such studies, particularly of music history and theory, should not be improved. But such institutions are typically very conservative and change is often glacial.

[5] Especially the many internet sources increasingly available, usually for recreational and folk instruments not taught in schools.

[6] Dewey’s unusual term “consummatory” means that the action consummates the anticipated possibilities of an experience resulting in a sense of fulfillment. “This consummation … does not wait in consciousness for the whole undertaking to be finished. It is anticipated throughout and is recurrently savored with special intensity” (Art as Experience, 55).

[7] Quoted and elaborated on in Määttänen, 2015, 13.

[8] Alexander, 43; i.e., the social reality of the tangible cultural environment that thus governs an individual’s alternatives and opportunities for action within it.

[9] In this connection, then, aesthetic claims that music provides cognition of the inner, subjective life—i.e., that aestheticized feeling is intellectually known in symbolic form rather than “felt” in an embodied sense—qualify for Dewey’s indictment of “intellectualism.” Similarly, the claim that appreciation requires “understanding” music fails Dewey’s pragmatic criterion. Dewey’s concept of “esthetic” experience is thus contrary to and a corrective of conventional analytic aesthetics, and attempts to call upon Dewey in support of neo-Kantian aesthetic premises for music education (viz., Reimer 1989 a, b, c; 1994; 2003) are philosophically erroneous.

[10] In the philosophy of mind, the immediately felt, phenomenal character of a mental event is referred to as its quale (plural: qualia). Dewey used the term “affect quale” (or sometimes just “affect”) to refer to such embodied feeling states (Dewey EN, 206–208, 215; Dewey AE, pages 24, 73–74, 81–82, 90–93, 96–98, 110–11, 115, 139; Solomon 2003, 85–98). For an account of Dewey’s theory of emotion, see Alexander (1987, 136–141); for the theory itself, see Dewey (1894/1963).

[11] For Dewey, “emotion is not an instantaneous, locatable feeling; it is the total undergoing of the experience, thereby binding the self and the world in the temporal dimension of the event” (Alexander 1987, 205). Where emotion is understood as or equated with feeling, Dewey’s position contradicts claims (e.g., Susanne Langer, Bennett Reimer) that music presents symbolic cognitions of feeling (see n. 9). In Langer’s theory of feeling as the basis for mind, she “still insists on her isomorphic symbolism and the analogy of art to logical projection where Dewey would emphasize interaction and participation….” Thus, “unlike Langer . . . Dewey will not be forced to rely on the notion of an external form which somehow mirrors an inner feeling. The interaction of the organism with the object will generate an organic experience which is not the mirror of life, but is life” (Alexander, 209–210). In any case, Langer was extremely negative concerning Dewey’s theory, “forcing on it an interpretation consistent with the prejudices of reductionistic naturalism” and mistakenly saw it as “an application of the sort of doctrinaire behaviorism which reduces all higher human values and ideals to questions of ‘animal psychology’ [citing p. 35 of Langer’s Feeling and Form]” (Alexander, 183). For the difference between assigning the “hard naturalism” of reductionistic naturalism to Dewey, and the “soft naturalism” of his pragmatism, see Määttänen 2015, 2–4.

[12] Thus demonstrating the social genesis of aesthetic theory itself in the rise of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century of Romanticism. Museums and concert halls “are special locations for the new social class with money and free time to carry on the practices of the contemplation of what was called disinterested pure beauty.” Yet, the spatial semiotics of such places are part of the “system of meanings with which we orient ourselves to the environment, how we experience it” (Määttänen 2017, 5) and, then, are not literally ‘in’ the work of art but ‘in’ an experience of art in such places.

[13] For a postmodern analysis of the “aesthetic project,” the politics and other social ingredients of art, see Rancière 2009 a, b.

[14] Bennett Reimer’s aesthetic philosophy of music education (e.g.,1989 a, b, c; 1994; 2003), cites and quotes Dewey for support—as though Dewey would be approving of Reimer’s neo-Kantian theory (via Langer, whose teacher was the arch-Kantian Ernst Cassirer). This selectivity in the use (or abuse) of Dewey can only be explained by hypothesizing that Reimer either: (a) was unaware of the fundamental contradictions between his own neo-Kantian transcendentalism and Dewey’s naturalist theories of art and experience—i.e., was unaware that in his various writings on art Dewey is at pains to criticize exactly the kind of theorizing represented by Reimer’s entire oeuvre. Or (b) was aware, but chose nonetheless to quote Dewey out of context in ways that only seem to the unaware novice reader of philosophy (i.e., most in music education) to support Reimer’s metaphysical, dualist, intellectualist, autonomist, universalistic, and essentialist contentions. If he had actually wished to contend that Dewey’s naturalist pragmatism is supportive of his own metaphysical essentialism and its Kantian baggage, Reimer needed to philosophically reconcile his own theory point-by-point with the specific denunciations philosophical scholars (e.g., Alexander 1987; Määttänen 2001) recognize Dewey as having advanced against exactly the kind of analytic theory Reimer developed over his career. Reimer’s entire oeuvre must otherwise be seen as in the tradition that Dewey’s mature writings were specifically concerned to criticize and philosophically “reconstruct.” Similarly, Westerlund (2003) is mistaken to, in effect, equate Dewey’s “esthetic” experience with the orthodox “aesthetics” criticized by praxial theorists. Praxial critiques of aesthetics have not included Dewey as an aesthecian. As the present article demonstrates, nothing is gained in support of “aesthetic education” by enlisting Dewey’s position. As detailed here, his position is consonant with a praxial theory of music and contradicts orthodox “for its own sake” aesthetics.

[15] Critical Theory and postmodernism differ despite their shared criticism of modernism. Habermas has debated Gadamer, Lyotard, Derrida and others over these differences. To over-simplify, postmodernism rejects the rationality and scientism of the Enlightenment altogether. Habermas, instead, seeks to redefine “rationalism” away from the Enlightenment’s autonomous and disembodied ‘faculty of reason’ (that reaches a single, totalizing and universal truth), or of instrumental rationality (where people are technologically manipulated as though scientific objects), to a new theory of “communicative rationality” (1984) where plurivocal reasoning is the standard for reaching truth that can never be more than tentative and situated (or what Lakoff and Johnson [1999, 92] call “locally optimal”). Such a consensus-based conception of “reason,” Habermas argues, can correct the misdirection taken by the Enlightenment that resulted in the various and many legitimation crises of modernity (e.g., world war, depression, atom bomb), as well as its ideological claims for totalizing and absolute hegemony concerning truth, beauty, and goodness. For an extensive select bibliography of sources examining these differences with postmodernism, see White 1995, 338–340.

[16] Critical Theory is not critical of science (which it draws upon) but of scientism, the ideology that empirical science and its methods are the paragon of true knowledge in all fields.

[17] The claims that absolute, uniform, and universal truth can be reached using reason alone.

[18] Means/ends uses of reason where people are treated as objects; e.g., in schools organized on the same premises as factories. Instrumental rationality results in “technicism,” a technology of social engineering where certain “techniques” (e.g., teaching ‘methods’ and materials) are delivered across-the-board rather than recognizing individual differences and needs. As regards serving people, the opposite of “technicism” is “professionalism” and its ethics of praxis.

[19] For an account of Critical Theory, especially in relation to music education, see Regelski (1998b).

[20] The term “Critical Theory” has three divergent uses: (1) In philosophy, to refer to The Frankfurt School for Social Research and the second generation development of that theory by Jürgen Habermas and others; (2) in literary criticism and scholarship, to refer to the critiques of modernist aesthetics from both postmodernism and The Frankfurt School; (3) in the sociology of education, to refer to the writings of Paolo Freire with which it shares a certain concern for social “empowerment.” However, the Critical Theory of Habermas is based on altogether different premises than Freire’s work. NB: “Critical philosophy” regards criticism of theoretical claims rather than justification of knowledge as the proper goal of philosophy. Such philosophy is thus concerned to submit philosophical theories to critique to determine the sustainability of their claims. This philosophical method is indebted to Kant’s famous three critiques—but has also been used to critique his ideas of “free beauty” that mistakenly led to aesthetic theories, the present task of this article.

[21] What follows will not be, however, an exegesis of the various philosophies of art and music represented by different members of the Frankfurt School of Social Research. To begin with (and not surprisingly), members frequently differed on such matters (e.g., Theodore Adorno and Walter Benjamin). Secondly, the terms and conditions of their discussions of art (particularly Adorno’s) have to be understood in terms of criticisms of mass culture, and those details are very subtle; e.g., though famously critical of jazz and popular music, Adorno was also critical of the “serious” music of the 19th and early 20th century that he complained had become a commodity in the mass consumer culture of ‘high art’ used to induce “false consciousness” in accepting free-market capitalism. Thirdly, as a second-generation critical theorist, Habermas’ positions on all such matters have evolved considerably over time from his beginnings as a student assistant of Adorno. Fourthly, contemporary thinkers like Shusterman (2002) have found inspiration from Adorno without on the other hand accepting his critique of popular culture (for a defense of mass/popular culture see Gracyk 2007, Carroll 1998). And, in any case, Habermas has concerned himself more with the aisthesic elements of everyday social experience (understood pragmatically, much as Dewey did) than with music or specific analyses of art. Therefore, in what follows I apply only the praxial theme of Habermas (see, e.g., Dunne 1993) to matters of importance concerning music and music education. For a brief overview of the various positions held by Critical Theorists on art and music, see Held (1980, Chap. 3).

[22] For a critical account of the history of analytic aesthetic theory following Baumgarten, see Regelski 2016. NB: An alternative spelling of “aisthesis” is “aesthesis.”

[23] See Mandoki 2007 for the “problems,” “fetishes,” “myths,” and “fears” of aesthetics (1–42) and the “phenomenology of aisthesis” (43–72)

[24] See n. 9.

[25] The metaphor is to a baby latching-on to the nipple. Anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake (2000) similarly accounts for the genesis and experience of the arts in terms of mother-infant interaction.

[26] See Lakoff and Johnson 1999, 74–93 for the distinction from the first generation.

[27] Cognition that results from productive interaction between acting organisms and their physical and social environment. By such means, their social world is created—including the physical things chosen or created to be included within it and how they are experienced and valued. The social world is therefore enacted through experience with physical nature and things, including other people in it as part of nature. Enactive cognition shares much with constructivism as regards knowledge and learning.

[28] Dewey’s general argument for the “reconstruction of experience” entailed a rejection of the idea that knowledge (or value, a type of knowledge) was stable and could simply be passed on. Rather, he held, the ‘in-formations’ (i.e., cognitive constructions and habits) of the past, through ongoing use (and adaptation and accommodation) necessarily become reconstructed (reformulated) in terms of the situatedness of the person (and her practices and problems) in the present. This results in the typical pragmatic conclusion that knowledge is always tentative and situated. It is always susceptible to refinement, accommodation (in the Piagetian sense), and to situated modification by changing conditions (environments, situations) in the future. Future reconstructions not infrequently overturn or abandon previously established ‘truths’; e.g., most of Newtonian physics had to be accommodated by relativity and quantum physics. Pragmatism’s temporal view of knowledge (as, at best, in constant flux according to the particular situations occasioning it or its use) has much in common with the constructivism of modern cognitive and educational psychology and contradicts many of the premises of Perennialist philosophies of education. See the discussion of Hilary Putnam, below, on “pragmatic realism.”

[29] “Virtue” in Aristotle’s sense did not carry the modern view of personal rectitude; it referred to “successful” or “effective” praxis; i.e., excellence. Reeve 2013, 19.

[30] In the action theory of philosophy and the social sciences, action is distinguished from behavior (or mere activity) by the guiding mindfulness of intentionality. However, behavior (in the behaviorist’s mindless ‘hard’ naturalism’) and action (as intentional; an action) are often mistakenly equated or otherwise misrepresented in the literature of music education, including its philosophical literature. The activities approaches in music education subject students to ‘activities’ that are supposed to teach ‘concepts’. They leave students only with the intentionality to follow the teacher (or not), otherwise being focally unconcerned with any learning at stake. Concepts are not ‘built-in’ the world as given, a priori abstractions that need to be experienced to be learned. They are the experience itself at work in a social world constituted by action. As learned, then, they become mindful habits of future action for engaging the environment. In music, such habits are the stuff of musicality and musicianship and can be observed only in action (praxis).

[31] “Caring professions” are those promoting the welfare of people and, thus, share an ethic of “do no harm.”

[32] Such action (or guiding) ideals for praxis have two dimensions: first they envision or intend certain ideal ends or results for those involved; secondly, they entail ethical “standards of care” (but not standardized, routinized, or technicist care) for reaching such ends. Such ideal ends, however, are not idealistic in the utopian sense that requires perfect conditions of praxis or that expects perfect and terminal results. To the contrary, they are ideal because: (a) they have no single, perfect result (b) precisely because they must cope with the messy variables contributed by the ongoing situatedness of the individuals, groups, or occasions served. “Good health” is an example: there is no such singular condition, in part since each person’s situatedness is unique. The goodness in question strives in ideal (i.e., ever-improvable) directions which, in fact, evolve over time (good health for an 8-year old vs. an 80-year old). Action ideals, thus, involve varying outcomes of success (virtue) that are highly dependent on the individual and situation. Indeed, much of our daily life is guided by such ideals (“good parent,” “good friend,” etc.).

[33] The ethical standards of care of any professional praxis, then, are altogether contrary to the uniform standards often extolled in music education today (also NCLB and “common core” measures). The latter amount only to various lists of standardized outcomes that ignore differences between students and teaching situations in a factory-like attempt at quality control. Such standards-as-routinized-quality-control seem intended to alleviate the almost total anarchy among teachers (and the resulting legitimation crisis of school music) that results from the variables and confusions of aesthetic expectations explained earlier. On the “methodolatry” of technicist ‘delivery methods’, see Regelski 2002.

[34] For a contemporary study of phronesis, see Dunne 1993.

[35] On the conditions of what I have thus described as “musicianism, “ see Regelski, 2012b.

[36] Critical Theory understands ideology as being at stake when the vested interests and values of a dominant group are promoted by that group as good for (or to be imposed on) all groups, whether they agree and understand or not. Being “dominant” is not a function of a group’s size but of economic, political, social, or cultural power and influence. Thus, despite small numbers, ‘classical’ musicians and their music have dominated schooling and higher education, especially under the hegemony of the aesthetic meme; and with the support of the economic upper classes, ‘classical’ music has become the paragon of being “cultured” (i.e., high culture)—although one is less snobbish if also developing a taste for jazz.

[37] For a contradictory view from the sociology of music of the origins of Beethoven’s status, see DeNora, 1995. Music history is revealed by the sociology of music and ethnomusicology in far different terms than by traditional musicology. As a result, social accounts and contexts of music history are unknown by too many musicians and music teachers.

[38] “Reception history” is a history of audiences and of the important implications of changes in listening practices of audiences on concert hall design, and vice versa. Depending on the age, the music, and the social and physical space, the music was heard differently. Consider, for example, concert halls where the audience sits around (and in back of) the orchestra—a somewhat different acoustical experience than for those seated in front of the audience. (Avoid seats directly behind the French horns, since their bells point backwards and thus the sound will be overbalanced in their favor.) Reception history is disavowed by proponents of “absolute music” (e.g., Rosen etc.) and “authenticity” movement because it stresses the impact of time and place on listening experiences. The authenticity movement is useful for revealing the many historical encrustations that have come to be the norms of contemporary performance practice, despite offending history.

[39] In a later article (2001), however, Rosen contradicts himself and makes a case for music’s “ability to adapt to changing conditions of reception, on its capacity, when its original social function has been destroyed or altered beyond recognition, to create or inspire new kinds of significance that allow its viability full play”—thus confirming certain major contentions of a praxial theory of music and of pragmatism!

[40] Things commonly associated with a particular category that are mistakenly treated as belonging to a different category. In this case, professional performances in concerts and recitals and the musicing of mere mortals, including youth in schools.

[41] It is well known that there are cultures that have no single term that translates directly as “music” (but often do have sung “prayer”). This is obviously because what we call “music” (viz., the sound of the moment) is so fully integrated with dance, ceremony, work, and sociality in those cultures as to have no separate existence per se that could be what aesthetician Peter Kivy (1990) approvingly calls “music alone.” In the present view of praxis, then, what we call “music” is, similarly, always inextricably intertwined with other social, cultural, and personal ingredients and intentions (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the culture and the praxis) that is “the music” praxially considered. Small’s socio-musical account (1998) of such essential ingredients as are always crucially involved in a typical ‘classical’ music concert is contrary to the view of music as “autonomous” in the sense traditional aesthetic theorists or those whose concern is only with the ideology of musicians’ music would have us accept. His idea of “musicking” (as a gerund) incorporates the broader processes at stake, thus going well-beyond the usual noun-form “music” as referring to a collection of autonomous works. The music education philosophers Elliott and Silverman (2015) use “musicing” as a gerund for similar praxial reasons. Small’s spelling recalls the time in history when “musick” was unabashedly praxial.

[42] Despite the plurality of “musics,” the term “music” exists as a general domain (a collective noun), just as the concept “food” identifies the general domain of the many “foods” that are the social reality for that category as understood in a given society. The same is true for “law” as a domain and particular “laws” in that domain.

[43] Importantly, then, the music of children is fully and valuably “music” in terms of their intentionality, despite its intrinsic lack of perfection or artistry. Similarly, the “music” of school ensembles, despite falling short of professional technical and artistic refinement, is not to be compared for its value to professional musicians’ standards” and regulative rules and criteria—though such criteria are often important as educational action ideals.

[44] See McCormick’s account of Putnam’s pragmatic realism (1990, 323); for Putnam’s philosophy in relation to art, aesthetics and problems of absolute versus relative “truths,” see McCormick (1990, 319–43; 336–38). Habermas (also influenced by pragmatism) is also discussed by McCormick in relation to Putnam and others, and regarding certain broad issues of relevance to the current argument (passim).

[45] On the other hand, as a musical praxis evolves in response to changing conditions, including changes within the world of “music” itself (e.g., improvements in instruments, “cross-over” influences from other musics that result from wider access of musics via the media, etc.), so does musicianship vary. When music becomes fixed at a certain point in time, it increasingly takes on a museum status. This has been the result for many Western ‘classics’ (Goehr 1992; McMullen 1968) and their claims to once-and-for-all-times beauty. Japanese “living masters” are charged with keeping alive the skills of an art form, not with claims to re-creating an “authentic” past.

[46] For a somewhat different account of “we-attitudes” as the collective intentionality at the heart of social practices, see Tuomela (2002).

[47] See Walker (2001) for an example such context-based connoisseurship in music education. The situatedness of a praxis goes well beyond the claims for historical knowledge of an art form.

[48] “So common is it that one questions whether it might not be called the philosophical fallacy.”

[49] His divertimenti, as the title suggests, were composed as background entertainments for socializing in the aristocratic salons of the time—often those of Dr. Mesmer of hypnotism fame. Mozart would likely be surprised to find concert audiences today listening raptly to his Eine Kleine Nachtmusick. Consider, too, Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music (Op. 61) for Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream that today is common as the “Wedding March,” and Edward Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory” march, the trio of which is known as “Pomp and Circumstance” and used for graduation and other processionals.

[50] Even John Cage’s 3’44”—3 minutes and 44 seconds of silence—claims the status of “music” since the audience’s attention is directed to ambient sounds. For an awkward attempt to distinguish this ‘work’ as art but not music, see Davies 2003.

[51] In a concert setting certain musicianship variables, such as the choir’s intonation, tone and diction, are more central to “goodness” than, say, in church. Thus the criteria of “goodness” are different than when, for example, a Bach chorale intended for a religious congregation’s religious intentions is re-situated to a concert hall for secular audience listening.

[52] A western trained percussionist, visiting in Africa (to study native drumming), was invited to join in a drumming circle of local musicians. The praxis was intended to evoke and honor the spirit of a community member’s dead relative. Soon, the person for whom the music was created (and who was moving, or dancing in the circle) asked for the westerner to leave the circle: he was interfering with her (consummatory) experience! This event demonstrated how acutely the criteria of a musical praxis can be tied to social values that can be detected even by non-musicians.

[53] See also pages 122, 123, 133, 143, 151, 158 and 160 for other formulations of this same conclusion.

[54] Do not confuse this claim with the various theories (especially Susanne Langer’s) of virtual or created time—the impression that musical time seems to move quickly or slowly (e.g., when note values are progressively halved while the tempo remains unchanging). Nor should it be confused with the theory of Csikszentmihalyi (1990) that, in aesthetic and other “optimal experience,” awareness of time is somehow suspended. Such accounts may well be useful in explaining certain experiences of music, but are not what is being addressed here.

[55] Concepts of time are almost entirely embodied, and the resulting conceptual metaphors of our everyday language give evidence of this. One such metaphor understands time as a kind of container (“in time”) and another—treated here—understands it as an valuable resource (“spending time”); see Lakoff and Johnson (1999, 137–169 and Chapter 10) for a thorough account of this embodiment of time and the idea of time as a resource. NB: this study was published in 1999, which is 3 years after my first argument for “good time” (Regelski 1996).

[56] “Worthwhile” (spelled as one word in the US and hyphenated in the UK) literally means “worth(y) time.” “Good time,” in this connection, is not to be equated with “fun time,” especially for educational purposes. Students can be having fun musically without it contributing to music learning: their intentionality (if any) concerns the fun, not the kind of profitable learning that will promote musical “good time” in their lives outside the classroom or school years and motivate musical amateuring as a source of “good time.”

[57] Sometimes music is central to the actual conduct of the work, as in certain kinds of work songs that coordinate the efforts of workers. In the discussion here, however, it can accompany (albeit in subsidiary awareness) other activities from driving a car to ironing clothes when time is passed otherwise inconsequentially. This is not simply “background” music because, in fact, it does provide musical interest while, for example, the hands are otherwise busy with routine tasks. Teens, with their MP3 players, listen intently, then, while walking, waiting in lines, riding public transportation (etc.).

[58] The activity in question most assuredly does not have to be to professional musical standards to be valued and thus valuable for the individual. See the account of “Breaking 100 in music,” in Wilson and Roehmann (1990), Regelski (2016).