[T]he two different arguments about the liberal arts in the [Politics] VIII must be taken equally seriously in spite of their apparent contradictions. In other words, Aristotle wants it both ways: he wants to construct an educational system which produces virtuous citizens and rules, but he also insists that the primary activity within this system—music—be should be pursued for its own sake on the part of the students. Note that the conflict between these two goals can be mitigated by making a distinction between the activity of music and the education in music. The latter, surely, cannot be an end in itself, since the education of the young is clearly meant to produce virtuous men and citizens. But the activity of music can be pursed as an end in itself, at least from the point of view of the individual engaging in it. The students, then, must engage in music for its own sake and with no utilitarian goal even as they are being molded into good and free men by their educators.

Andrea Wilson Nightingale, “Aristotle on the ‘Liberal’ and ‘Illiberal’ Arts”, in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy