Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation's primary goal is to give a detailed account of the employment of musicopoetic arts in the process of moral development in Plato's Laws. Its secondary objective is to propose an explanation for the different evaluations of musicopoetic arts at the end of the Republic and in the Laws.

To achieve the first goal I analyze the elements of the soul involved in the moral psychology of the Laws, as sketched in the famous image of the marionette; I maintain that the process of habit formation is the pivotal aspect of this moral psychology; I indicate that Plato restricts the musicopoetic arts to the representation of virtue; and I propose ways in which these arts can influence the process of habit formation. I conclude that the moral psychology of the Laws is highly dependent on non-rational and semi-rational motives for action. Additionally I maintain that these motives can promote the pursuit of virtue when they undergo habits of repression (i.e. habits that lead the agent to resist some non-rational or semi-rational motives) or habits of cultivation (i.e. habits that promote certain non-rational motives). And I propose ways in which the musicopoetic arts intercept the process of habit formation, thereby reinforcing in the agent those motives that promote virtue.

With regards to the secondary goal, I make the case that Plato does not change his opinion with regards to the musicopoetic arts between Republic and Laws. But I claim that significant changes in the moral psychology lead to very different conclusions in the two dialogues about the ethical effectiveness of these arts.

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