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Music, Cosmos, and the Development of Psychology in Early China

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image of T'oung Pao

Music plays an important role in the development of discourses on the body, and, in particular, on psychology. From the received and excavated textual record dating to the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. we gain insights into the emergence of an elaborate logos of the psyche, or "psychology," as such a psychology relates to the cosmos. The article explores two orientations on the role of music in psychology. The first and earlier orientation outlines what the author terms a "psychology of influence," which provides a rationale for the beneficial effects of good music in self-cultivation and social order. The second and later orientation outlines what the author calls a "psychology of cosmic attunement," which identifies music with the harmony of the cosmos and speaks of sages who attune themselves to it. Through a close examination of these two perspectives on music, the article delineates how a triangular relationship among music, cosmos, and psyche develops in early China, essentially forming a new paradigm within which human relationship to music and cosmic order is understood. La musique joue un rôle important dans le développement des discours sur le corps, en particulier sur la psychologie. Grâce aux textes reçus ou exhumés datant des 3e et 4e siècles avant notre ère, il est possible d'obtenir des aperçus sur l'émergence d'un logos élaboré sur la psyché, soit une "psychologie", dans la mesure où cette psychologie est en relation avec le cosmos. L'article explore deux orientations dans le rôle de la musique en psychologie. La première, plus ancienne, décrit ce que l'auteur appelle une "psychologie de l'influence", qui fournit une explication aux effets bénéfiques de la "bonne" musique sur la culture de soi et sur l'ordre social. La seconde orientation, plus récente, décrit ce que l'auteur appelle une "psychologie de l'harmonisation cosmique", qui identifie la musique avec l'harmonie du cosmos et évoque les sages qui s'accordent sur elle. En examinant de près ces deux perspectives sur la musique, l'article suggère la façon dont une relation triangulaire entre la musique, le cosmos et la psyché s'est développée dans la Chine ancienne, formant essentiellement un nouveau paradigme à l'intérieur duquel comprendre la relation de l'homme à la musique et à l'ordre cosmique.


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