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A Sceptic Looks at Art (but not Very Closely): Sextus Empiricus on Music

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The paper examines Sextus Empiricus’ Against the Musicians (M 6), one of the least studied portions of Sextus’ surviving work, against the background of the more general question why he has so little to say on questions that for us would fall under aesthetics. The structure and goals of the book are considered, along with some puzzles about the consistency of his aims. Each of the two main parts is then analyzed separately, including a comparison between the first part and Philodemus’ On Music. Sextus’ apparent lack of interest in aesthetics is explained primarily by his quite general tendency to focus on foundational questions, of which the second part of M 6 is a notable instance; another, connected factor is the common ancient habit (illustrated in the first part of M 6) of treating aesthetic questions in conjunction with ethical or political ones.

Affiliations: 1: Johns Hopkins University,


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