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Developing Minds

September 20, 2000; Mr Sami Alanne,Music therapist, Helsinki, Finland:


Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair’s article (NJMT 1/2000) dismisses the empirical data of childhood psychology that supports psychodynamic theories. The results of an early deprivation in a human relationship and attachment are well documented and supported by psychological studies. For instance, there are many studies on institutionalised children and their retardation, caused by the lack of human relationships and care. Many behavioural problems of children originate from deprivation from human relationships and basic care. It is amazing that Kennair as a clinical psychologist misses this reality of life. I think, this reflects his naturalistic approach and the flaws in human study. Kennair`s evolutionary psychology emphasises the role of the brain and genes in human behaviour. This has led to some popularised point of views. For example, sex roles are thought to be mainly determined by genetics and differences in brain structure and functioning. Evolutionary psychology has also been defending rapists with these same reasons which has naturally made sociologists angry. Such approaches dismiss evidence from psychosocial research.

The brain has dominated the last decade of human research, and has worried some. The Finnish philosopher and psychologist Lauri Rauhala recently argued that the brain does not create the mind. It is the senses that create the mind whilst the brain only transmits information. For instance, when we see a tree, our senses gives a meaning to our perception. It would be also ontologically wrong to think of depression as a brain disease if it originates from stress which arises from life circumstances. The emphasis on the role of the brain has even led to conclusions of the functions in brain and brain mythology that have no evidence in research. Here I mean, for instance, the aforementioned sex roles and how sex differences in thinking and behaviour are thought to be related the left or right hemisphere dominance. A science of humanistic understanding in psychiatry has also worried the Finnish psychoanalyst Veikko Tähkä. It concerns me too that Kennair may be leading music therapy where psychiatry is today.

Both Rauhala and Tähkä stress the role of the therapist as a curative factor in psychotherapy. According to Rauhala, psychiatric illnesses are disturbances in the regulative situational circle that can be repaired by changing the meaning that causes the disorder. Reparation can only happen in a understanding human relationship and not by physically manipulating brain. Rauhala and Tähkä believe that the lasting effects of the change in the distorted meanings of the patient can only be reached through therapy. When a therapist changes meaning in a patient’s situation it serves as a corrective experience to the patient. This principle applies for all the psychotherapeutic approaches, including cognitive therapy. The therapeutic effect of psychoanalytic and other humanistic therapies is based on the understanding that brings the corrective experience of the trauma. Undoubtedly early traumas and other traumas exist. Referred developmental research suggests this, whilst it is also evident to anyone who does therapeutic work. The identification concept of psychoanalysis is similar to the model learning in cognitive therapy that Kennair seems to prefer. It seems like Kennair is also attacking other humanistic based therapies, not just the psychoanalytic or psychodynamic approaches.

I agree with the Kennair critics on the Daniel Stern`s theory of development. Empirical research has not supported all the Stern’s findings and hypotheses like, for instance, that the core self emerges earlier than it has been traditionally agreed in psychoanalysis. Stern`s theory is applied in therapy even though it lacks the some evidence it claims to have. I hope evolutionary psychology, and its popularisation, will not be adapted so quickly into music therapy without careful consideration. There are lot of things in Kennair`s article I would like to comment on here but this would be another article.

September 25, 2000; Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair:

The Myths of Dualism and the Brain that does not Function

Sami Alanne claims that my article “dismisses the empirical data of childhood psychology that supports psychodynamic theories” – this is not true. Not at all. I dismiss the specific theories of development proposed within psychodynamic theory, the specific structures, the mode in which the structures are formed, and how (in what causal manner) early experience partakes in the construction of personality and regulates adult behaviour. Specifically I doubt that musicality develops according to those unlikely theories, and argue this from the perspective of evolutionary psychology.

The evidence Alanne refers to (without reference) only supports the metatheory that “experience influences development” – which is both a behaviourist/empiricist as well as a psychodynamic position – with such a lack of specificity one may not defend any specific theory – though one may falsify the position of the “genetic determinist” strawman, and these are of course not found within serious scientific evolutionary psychology (EP). The major empirical evidence today raises quite a lot of doubt as to the validity of claims that fit into the psychodynamic model – where dramatic abuse and neglect are not the major points. The EP position is that adequate (or basic, to use Alanne’s word) contextual/ ecologic stimulation is needed for mental adaptations to develop normally. I suggest reading references to Sandra Scarr and Buss (1995) in the article, and recent work by Joel Paris. One need not doubt that certain experiences form us – learning happens, it is the scientific or empiric data that questions the specific mode in which this happens described by psychodynamic theory that I am attempting to make music therapists aware of. So I have not missed out on the interaction experience and learning, but I do not accept that the data supports specific psychodynamic models – which is maybe less amazing?

My naturalistic approach is absolutely reflected in the article. I also appreciate that this perspective is not typical for most articles in NJMT. On the flaws of human study, I suggest Alanne is more specific – and consistent.

On sex roles and culture and evolution – and the interaction, why not, instead of reacting on hear-say, read something on the subject. I suggest work by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson (like their book “Homicide”, 1988, ) and the article by D. Buss et al. (1990): “international preferences in selecting mates: a study of 37 cultures” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 21, 5-47. Also I suggest that Alanne reads on the subject in the references I give in the text. I do not believe that I condone rape anywhere in the text, or that such support of rape is found in any of the references – I actually doubt that such argumentation deserves an answer, but as this is the first time round, this is my answer.

The most dramatic point Alanne makes is that brain is not mind. This dualism is not a viable position today (actually it never was). Not in any way. Alanne must dismiss all cognitive neuroscience, thus dismissing quite a lot more empirical evidence than has ever been collected within the areas he uses empirical evidence to support his claims. Such a blatant selectivity in the use of evidence must cause some question. On the emphasis of brain and genes: Put simply, Genes in interaction with current environment build proteins, these construct brain tissue in interaction with relevant current environment, the mind consists of the operation of mental mechanisms that are constructed of brain tissue, mental mechanisms in interaction with relevant environment governs behaviour. There is no getting around this one – at least not if empirical research is what one builds one’s knowledge on.

Dualism is the myth, and if any psychologist has dismissed the function of brain – such brainless science ought to be seriously questioned. I am not familiar with Rauhala, but if Alanne has understood her points of view correctly then I dare claim that she is mistaken. The brain does not “create” the mind – it is the mind, at the level of biology – as such it is the matter that causes the existence of mind. Senses are often what one calls sight, hearing, touch etc before the data these neurons gather is processed – when the data is information, one calls this perception. Our senses do not give meaning to perception, they provide data. This is basic psychology. It might be that the concepts are defined differently by Rauhala, in that case I suggest that Alanne is explicit as to the meaning of these concepts.

Depression is not a disease. It is a disorder. It is also a brain state. Alanne’s false dualism fails to inform him of how social patterns can influence his mind – socio to (intra) psychic… this seems to be a simple move, but it is not, it has to go via brain (biology) (in his model the senses). It is wrongful to think of psychological, social and biological as seperate categories instead of interacting levels of analysis. This dualism is also a part of psychiatry. I am attempting to lead both psychiatry, psychology and music therapy to a new position – interactionist biopsychosocial understanding.

Depression may be treated with SSRI’s or ECT, by cognitive therapy or interpersonal therapy, or by social interventions. I suggest that Alanne explains why this is so.

In conclusion: A lack of understanding of what is given (what is not possible to change) prevents one from being able to be authentic, and does not give a fair or adequate understanding of human potential and what is possible – which will hardly benefit the individual. This is true of existentialism/humanism as well. Biology sets limits as well as providing possibilities. Mindless science is as bad as brainless science – both are mistaken. The brainless science of Alanne is neither consistent nor likely. Dismissing evidence is, as Alanne correctly implys, not a good scientific strategy.

Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair
(Ps. I am not attacking humanistic based therapies.)

September 25, 2000; Music Therapist/ Ass. Prof. Randi Rolvsjord, Sandane, Norway:

Stern in the context of music therapy

Theories are not truths

In the article ”

Developing minds for pathology and musicality

” Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair is criticizing music therapists use of Daniel Sterns theories. Kennair claims that some music therapists

“perceive their interventions as curative by providing the stimuli here and now that the individual did not fully receive during sensitive periods of early childhood”

(p.28). Kennair views Sterns theories as psychoanalytical, and are arguing that the psychoanalytical and psychodynamic psychological theories are not suitable for clinical work. Secondly he argues that music can not be a pre-verbal language, and criticise music therapist for using this term to point out for the special potentials music has in therapy. Kennair’s argumentation leads to that conclusion that Daniel Sterns theories are not suitable as a theoretical ground for the clinical work in the field of music therapy.

Kennair’s article raises questions that I perceive as very important for our discipline. Interaction theories, and perhaps in special Daniel Sterns theories, have influenced the practical and theoretical works in the field of music therapy in the last decade. This influence has played a major role in the development of music therapy at least in the Nordic countries. In a degree that it has been part of what Even Ruud propose to be a new paradigm in music therapy (Ruud, Even (1998): Music therapy: improvisation, communication and culture. Barcelona Publishers). Kennair stresses that he wants to criticize a special use of Sterns theories, but he is not referring to any in particular, so my comments to the criticism of music therapists applying Sterns theories, must be based upon the use of theories that I am familiar with.

There is two point I want to make in this comment. First, when Kennair discusses the use of Sterns theories in music therapy, he perceives Sterns theories as psychodynamic thinking. I accept that Sterns theories could be understood as such, but what I find more important to discuss is how music therapist are using these theories to reflect upon their work. I believe that theories are not truths, and that the most important things is not that they explain music therapy, but that they make sense and could be used to develop our clinical work and our thoughts about music therapy. I also believe that music therapists has to look wider than to the field of psychology for the understanding of music therapy in all its diversity. In order to do so we need a broader ground than one single theory. In such a theoretical discourse, I find Sterns theories to bring understanding to the field of music therapy.

Reading Kennairs critique on psychoanalytical and psychodynamic theories, I will certainly agree with some of his basic assumptions, for example that the importance of the early childhood is exaggerated when it comes to the development of pathology. I think most music therapists, for instance Unni Johns, Mercedes Pavlicevic, Jackie Robarts and Randi Rolvsjord, however, are not treating Sterns theories as a psychoanalytical theory, but as “interaction theory”, understanding Sterns theories in coherence with the theories of Colwyn Trevarthen and Stein Bråten. Their understanding of Sterns theories is naturally reflected from this perspective. An example is Kennair’s interpretation of Sterns concepts, as he perceives them as stadium, similar to Freud and Piaget. I believe most music therapists will focus upon Sterns notion that these modes of selves-experience and of communication exists in all relations to others throughout life.

This leads me to my second point. How do we use the concept pre-verbal to describe properties with music.

Music as pre-verbal communication
Kennair is discussing the use of the concept pre-verbal, as it is used by music therapists describing the musical interaction in music therapy. It is often said that music and verbal language has a common origin in the early communication between mother and infant. Mothereese, the infant directed speech of the caregiver is more music-like than the normal verbal language in a way that it has a wider range of intonations and that it is more rhythmic (Trevarthen) In a similar way we could say that the infants communication has many “musical elements”, musical elements that are also present in our verbal communication later on. These musical elements form the origin of both music and verbal language, but one could also argue that they are more than pre-verbal and pre-musical, as such also always present in every musical piece or uttering, and in every verbal dialog. According to Stern these “pre-verbal and pre-musical” musical elements are giving life and meaning to all human communication. And they are the expressions of the vitality affects. But certainly these “musical” elements in communication are more evident in musical communication and in the early mother-infant communication than in the verbal languages.

As Kennair also says, music has verbal aspects as well; lyrics is probably the most obvious verbal element in music, but there are other more subtle elements, like titles, programs, discussions about music, verbal instructions, elements that all shapes our perception and experience of musical meaning. Further these verbal elements in music are not in any sense the only features in music that requires cognitive skills beyond the capacities of an infant to be perceived. So, of course music is not pre-verbal in the sense that we do not use any cognitive skills in perceiving it, on the contrary many music therapists describe how they use music to increase or support the development of such skills in mentally handicapped children. And I do agree that the mature adult will not respond to music at a pre-verbal level, meaning that he will not use his full cognitive capacity to make meaning in the music. Even though I do I agree with Kennair, that the term pre-verbal is not a good term, I still want to argue that music, due to the evidence of vitality affects, perhaps transformed or developed to dynamic forms, as Mercedes Pavlicevic suggests (Pavlicevic:(1997) Music therapy in context. Jessica Kingsley Publishers), could be perceived in a more immediate way than verbal languages. An understanding that implies that music can express vitality affects, does not exclude cognition as an important aspect of our perception of music. It means that experiencing meaning in music is not only a matter of cognitive skills. But it also depends upon our bodily awareness, of our physiological and emotional reactions to music. One could argue that such “pre-verbal” or “semiotic”(Rolvsjord (1998): “Another story of Edward” Nordic Journal of Music Therapy,vol.8(2)) aspects of musical communication implies that music therapist and client will experience a community or closeness when they play together. A experience of community that will bring aspects of trust and mutuality into the relationship, which is valuable for the therapeutic development.

September 28, 2000; Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair:

On the Truths of Theories and the Truths of Music.


Randi Rolvsjord mentions semiotics. Sami Allane notes my naturalistic approach. Umberto Eco has made the (obvious?) observation that to understand the message you must first learn the language… I hope that this discussion will teach me the language You speak. Please also register that I am attempting to communicate. The following is an answer to Randi Rolvsjord’s post.

Theories are not truths – but they strive to arise to such status. And in use they are often perceived as such. Theories are the basis of hypothesis generation – if the hypotheses generated are generally falsified then the
theory might be false.

If a theory is misleading then I suggest not using it – even though it is traditional and popular. Copernicus fought greater foes than Freud.

Theories bind mind, as well as inspire creative minds. If the most available basic science for MT is psychology then one needs to know scientific psychology. If the most available model practice for MT is psychotherapy, then psychodynamic theory, although readily available, is probably still not the most likely body of theory. The major problem I experience as a scientist-practitioner psychologist is that within practice many do not know science and outside psychology proper almost everyone believes psychology means psychodynamics (or behaviourism, but only as far rats are concerned). I agree with Rolvsjord that MT ought to look beyond psychology to understand practice – but I also believe psychology as a science is impossible to avoid within any field of human interaction. With “psychology” I mean the broad science of psychology.

Interaction Theory.
Interaction theory is probably the most important basis of MT. As well as interaction science, of course – if one is lucky enough to have such available.

The content of this response is very alike my recent lecture for the MT students. We had previously read Stein Bråten/ Colwyn Trevarthen and were reading Freud and Mahler. I asked the following questions: Is a theory true? How can one answer the first question? What was the basis of Freud’s theory? What was the basis of Mahler’s theory? We discussed Popper, we discussed theory as metaphor and creative guide. We discussed Freud’s biological model of mind as universal. We discussed Mahler’s obvious inspiration of Freudian theory. In the end we had to attempt to answer the question: If Bråten/ Trevarthen’s model of the infant as fundamentally communicative is true, how can Mahler’s model of the new-born infant as an autistic egg be true? The first position claims that human nature is communicative, that from the start we are ready to attempt to signal and receive and understand signals – a very important position for MT. The second would claim that if the patient regresses far enough, communication is not possible. Note that most psychodynamic theories frame development recapulatory – one moves from less able, less competent to higher levels of competency. This is not necessarily the better model for a communicative practice and science. Maybe autists, psychotics, narcissists etc as the basic state of nature is adultocentric, and these theories limit the possibility of communicability once the client/patient is severely challenged?

Stern is (was?) psychodynamic. But I agree, his theory is in a tradition that has in different ways opposed orthodoxy, and maybe one may deconstruct-reconstruct his theory as an interactionist theory. This would not be bad. I believe this would be a correct choice. But I advise one to make a clear break with psychodynamic basic theory of development. Stages still exist in Stern, as they do to a certain degree in all development – to start off there is no nipple, then there is a nipple, then there is a breast, and then a lactating breast etc. – and the model of psychopathology and treatment does have a primacy aspect. But a focus on ongoing development is probably important – I do believe much is to be gained by at the same time redrawing models of development, pathology and the role of interpersonal interaction and the growth of self.

The Truth of Pre-verbal Communication.
The evidence of vitality affects, what is this? Please educate me. The whole idea of pre-verbal is confusing, and in light of the psychodynamic meta-theory and ideas such as “therapeutic development” one needs to be careful not to be mind bound by unlikely theory.

One may claim that one needs more than cognitive skills to experience meaning in music, but I do not know what this means. Emotions are the likely traditional answer, but this is close to swinging from Freud to Rousseau – either end of the natural-civilised scale is just as far off the mark in its fear of the opposite pole. In what way may music be more immediately perceived than “verbal languages” (sic!)? There is a lot of romantic ideology in the perception through body, physiology, and emotion – but we are not Emile. The coupling of selective psychodynamic metatheory and the transmission of pure meaning through music is a combination that does not seem likely from my position.

The idea of the competent infant is an evolutionary position, which has inspired also Trevarthen, I believe. The competent infant is the infant who is capable of solving the here and now problems of survival (crawling toward the breast and making milk come, interacting with mother to ensure attachment, etc). The idea of mental development includes the idea of mental change. When the change is profound the minds at two ages are so different as to impair the possibility of an adult to be able to “think”/”perceive”/”experience” as a child. For humans closeness, community, trust, mutuality and relationships never cease to be important, but the meanings of these phenomena changes profoundly with age, sex and context.

I am not sure why one would want to hang on to the “theory”/”idea”/”hypothesis”/”metaphor” of pre-verbal…

I hope that my voice may add to the discourse. I see that we do not speak the same language. Maybe we all may learn.

October 02, 2000 Sami Alanne, Music Therapist, Finland:


I really do not consider my point of view to be as dualistic like Kennair inferred. My frame of reference is




like Rauhala (1989). I see a human as unity, including situation (life circumstances), the soma (e.g., the brain, the material) and the mind (e.g., awareness/consciousness). These dimensions are diverse aspects of the same being. According to a holistic approach, we cannot separate one of these and try to explain all the other dimensions with it. It would be reduction of the phenomenon. This is what Kennair does when he proposes that the brain and mind are identical. His explanation over-simplifies the phenomenon of the mind from the biological perspective. This is what I meant by “flaws in human study” in the context of naturalistic research. Positivistic approaches tend to objectify a human with explaining too much. This is what we do all too easily in psychiatry. According to the holistic




, when we study the brain, we investigate it with the demands of the soma, and when we study the mind, our research is based on its terms. This is what I meant by my comment that it is the senses (noemas) that create the mind, not the brain. The senses are meanings, not sense organs or abilities, and these meanings are needed for perception to occur. For instance I refer to




that are common concepts in phenomenology (see

Heidegger, 1927/2000

). I think Kennair misunderstood me by saying that my approach proposes “brainless mind”. In my earlier contribution, I describe how the brain and mind interact when the brain transmits meaning that our mind creates.

I would like to remind Kennair also that there are different kinds of dualism in philosophy. One is that both the soma and mind interact, which is, in my opinion, well proofed. The psychosomatic disorders are clear examples of this. From this interactive point of view we can even conclude that Kennair` s own approach is dualistic, and mine too in some points. This dualism is still relevant, even in the light of evolutionary psychology and other modern approaches. Only radical dualism claims that the mind and brain are separate. Actually, it seems like Kennair also postulates that the mind and brain are the different aspects of the same being, which is dualism; in his words the “myth”.

I apologise that I did not provide clear references in my last contribution. I thought the concepts I mentioned were well known in psychology. The reader can find information on the institutional children and their retardation studies as well as empirical research of the infants in Shaffer (1999). Likewise Kalat (1995) gives a very clear presentation of the current knowledge of the brain and its meaning for human behaviour. Kalat also discusses the mind and body dilemma from various viewpoints. Davison and Neale`s (1996) describe mental disorders and related issues.

Kennair claims that there is clear evidence that the mind and brain are together and identical. I wonder what he means by this because according to current knowledge of psychology, psychiatry, physics, biology etc., we are very far from knowing how the brain transmits the mind. There is no thorough empirical evidence, for instance, on how psychic medication or ECT affect/alter the mind (Kalat, 1995). I agree with Kennair that the mind cannot exist without the brain. Though there is no clear empirical support that thought, meanings and the mind are in our cells. Why it should be? They are just transmitted with electric impulses and chemicals. We do not argue either that our mobile phones are our minds whilst they transmit our thoughts with similar electric polarisations. I do believe that medication or brain manipulation can affect the mind. Medicines are very necessary and useful. I also agree the interactionist view of Kennair, which suggests that genes affect our being and limit it, although we cannot explain everything with heredity.

The intention behind my last contribution was to remind readers of the other dimensions of being in addition to the soma. I did not mean to exclude it. My reasoning for this came from the current emphasis on the brain and genetics in the media and common thought. In my opinion, the dilemma here leads also to problematic questions, considering cultural, ethical, philosophic and sociologic issues. For instance, the ethics of the gene manipulation is a popular discussion topic at the moment. In these days of hard values, when technique, money, natural sciences and effectiveness are idealised, there are also people who are not so well. For their sake, we should not neglect the humanism. I suggest that scientists should ponder these questions when they popularise they work – which is important too when it works. I agree with Kennair that psychoanalytic theories are problematic and all of them are not empirically proofed. I think that many questions will remain unanswerable. Psychoanalysis is not really science in the light of natural science, so it does not have to be totally supported by its methods. I consider psychoanalysis as a hermeneutic science and qualitative research where understanding of the client is the most essential curative factor. Tähkä (1993/1997) stresses this point. In my contributions, I have explained this understanding and its effectiveness with metascientific analysis where I applied Rauhala` s (1974) existential phenomenology.


Davison, Gerald C. & Neale, John M. (1996): Abnormal psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Heidegger, Martin (1927/2000): Oleminen ja aika. (Being and time) Tampere: Vastapaino.

Kalat, James W. (1995): Biological psychology. Pasific Grove: Brooks/Cole.

Rauhala, Lauri (1974): Psyykkinen häiriö ja psykoterapia filosofisen analyysin valossa. Helsinki: Weilin+Göös.

Rauhala, Lauri (1989): Ihmisen ykseys ja moninaisuus. SHKS.
Shaffer, David R. (1999): Developmental psychology. Childhood and adolescence. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole.

Tähkä, Veikko (1993/1997): Mielen rakentuminen ja psykoanalyyttinen hoitaminen. (Mind and its treatment: A psychoanalytic approach. International Universities Press) Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: WSOY.

October 04, 2000 Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair:

The Image of Holism

There are other levels of analysis than biochemistry involved in mental states. I have never claimed anything else. I have neither made the claim that heredity could explain every aspect of behaviour and mind. Reading Alanne’s response carefully makes me conclude that since he seems to feel a need to defend these positions, we really do agree.

I agree fully that one cannot explain every aspect of mind with neurochemistry. I claim that different levels of analysis are necessary, and that is the main reason for assuming the biopsychosocial stance – if not I should do fine with the psychological position alone.

But I do not identify with holism. Freedman (1991) claims that the biopsychosocial perspective is holistic, I disagree. I am not sure how Alanne uses the word monopluralistic, but I think that is much closer to the concept I am attempting to put forward – the biopsychosocial model claims that there are interactions between each level, thus in the treatment of depression by ECT this is done to affect social and psychological well-being, thus it is a psychosocial intervention, too, not only a physical or biochemical intervention. But one may legally reduce to every level when intervening, and one may in certain instances have no choice but to grapple with a problem at one level at the time. Complexity is reducible and legal if one is aware of the interactions at other levels. Thus this is a top-down/bottom-up model – a holistic/reductionistic model… where no one approach is better than the other (apart from the holistic non-reducible complexity model being impossible to actually intervene by). Thus maybe I am also a monopluralist (because apart from being oxymoron or paradox, this is probably the best description of how the cell, body, mind, individual, social system works).

There are a few inconsistencies in Alanne’s use of concepts such as senses, brain, mind, meaning, perception, and what does what. Also, at times, in his defence of other levels than the biological he seems to forget that he really believes this to be an equally important dimension. This aside, I cannot see that we really disagree on the major issues – rather I would claim that I have not ever given Alanne reason to react in defence of the mind.

On more specific points: People who are “not so well” also need effective help, I hope we all agree – cannot see how we could possibly disagree, unless the word “effective”, in the same way as “gene” conjures up so much prejudice that one cannot phenomenologically perceive the other as a subject. I for one believe that few of my patients would claim that I neglect their humanism, I would find that as being as ethically mislead as I find a willful avoidance of “effective help”.

On mind being in the cells etc.: Imagine a Coca-cola advertising installation made up by lightbulbs. There is no way one may reduce this to electric charges and retain all aspects. One may neither reduce it to the lightbulbs (white and red). The pattern the lightbulbs create (“Coca-Cola”) is not reducible. All levels are important, and without one the rest goes. I am not claiming that mind is in the cells, I claim mind is in the pattern of activation among the cells. And of course I cannot explain how this is done, but that it happens there is ample evidence of…

Let me conclude, though, by repeating: the initial question of whether contextual experience causes change during development is too general (both EP, psychoanalysis, and behaviourism agrees on this score) to defend any specific model. Here are a few references that might be interesting in connection with the current exchange:

Eisenberg, L. (2000). ”Is psychiatry more mindful or brainier than it was
a decade ago?” British Journal of Psychiatri, 176, 1-5.

Freedman, A. M. (1991) ”Conceptualizing behavior: Developing new
Approaches”. Psychiatria Fennica, 22, 11-22.

Gilbert, P. (1995). ”Biopsychosocial approaches and evolutionary theory as aids to integration in clinical psychology and psychotherapy”. Clinical
Psychology and Psychotherapy, 2, 135-156.

Kandel, E.R. (1998). ”A new intellectual framework for psychiatry”.American Journal of Psychiatry, 155, 457-469.

Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair

October 06, 2000 Music Therapist/ Ass. Prof. Randi Rolvsjord, Sandane, Norway:

In between the truth and the false there is a lot of meaning

After reading Kennair’s latest response, I can’t resist taking a radical relativistic approach, in fashion of the feminist critique, and argue that there is no such thing as a true or a false theory. Viewing a theory as true or false is only a cultural construction, constructed on the very basis of our verbal language, namely the oppositions like female – male, good –bad, active – passive, truth – false. Kennair shows us the contradiction between the communicatively competent infant described by Trevarthen (and by Stern) and the autistic infant described by Mahler. He argues that if we believe that the research of Trevarthen is more likely to be true, we must accept that the theory of Mahler is false. I must ask the question “Isn’t our reality one of contradictions and ambiguity? Could it be that such a falsification of either of these theories just seems avoidable because of the language?” At this point I must stress that this statement threatens my position of radical relativism. These theories of a communicative competent interacting infant are more in tune with my own experience of interaction with infants. But then of course I am also part of the culture that does not accept that what is truth cannot be not false and vice versa. I do not regard all the psychoanalytical dogmas as truths, but some of the concepts, like the symbiosis, the oedipal phase or the mirror-phase are not meaningless either. In Stern’s book of 1985, The interpersonal world of the infant (I have the Danish edition:

Barnets interpersonelle univers

) I have the impression that he is accepting the stages of psychoanalytical theories like clinical themes, themes that are important throughout life, but not like stages of life. These themes are narratives more than truths, but as such they are still important and meaningful concepts in our culture, whether we like it or not (Trond Berg Eriksen.1991,

Freuds Retorikk. En Kritikk av naturalismens kulturlære

. Universitetsforlaget). They are important cultural narratives or pictures, and their influences are still found in cultural expressions like literature and film. They are part of our cultural expressions which are still constructing meaning into our lives.

In the rest of my contribution to this discussion, I will not discuss the psychoanalytical or psychodynamic approach, simply because I do not regard Stern’s theory as psychoanalytical or psychodynamic, although I can see that he is influenced by these psychological approaches. So once more I will argue that the important things concerning our theories is not whether they are truths or not, but that they can bring more understanding to our discipline. I believe Stern’s theories are useful in understanding some of the processes that are involved in music therapy.

The immediacy in musical interaction

I will now try to make clearer some of the points concerning the discussion of the pre-verbal aspects in music. But first, I must state that I am not sure that we are speaking about the same “music”. For example you may think of music as pieces of art, or as an act of playing, as musicking, or you could refer to special genres of music. As a music therapist discussing music therapy, I think of music in the context of music therapy. When I speak about music, I think of music as a process of interaction between humans, mainly a client and a therapist. Further, I will probably be less concerned with evaluating the music as a product.

Two of the concepts from Stern’s theories that have influenced our understanding of the musical interaction in music therapy are his concepts “vitality affects” and “affect intunement”. Vitality affects have to do with our feelings, and our physiological reactions. I understand the vitality affects to be dynamic qualities of our experiences of being alive. Stern suggests that they are represented as shapes or contours. He also postulates that the infant has capacities to represent these expressions of vitality affects in different modes. The infants ability for cross modal perception ensures that she is able to understand the expressions of vitality affects of another person. Furthermore, Stern describes how the caregiver and the infant will attune into the vitality affects expressed by the other (affect intunement). This aspect of human interaction is developed at the age of about three months, but is an important aspect of our communication and relating to others throughout life. Trevarthen describes a similar capacity when he describes how a mother and her infant can have “immediate mutual sympathy” (Trevarthen (1995): “The nature of motives for human consciousness” in The journal of Hellenic psychological society; Trevarthen, Kokkinaki and Fiamenghi (1997) “What infants’ imitation communicate: with mothers, with fathers and with peers” in J.Nadel and G.Butterford (eds.): Imitation in infancy. Camebridge CUP). He argues that this capacity or aspect within the interaction ensures the motivation for further contact. Such aspects of the interaction makes us experience intersubjectivity, a term that is used both in Stern’s and Trevarthen’s texts with a similar meaning, but with some differences concerning how early intersubjectivity can be experienced by the infant.

In the Nordoff and Robbins tradition of music therapy, which has influenced the Norwegian music therapy a lot, the therapist will engage the client in musical improvisation. One of the overall rules for this therapeutic way of working is for the therapist to adjust his music to the intensity level of the client’s musical uttering. As in every type of communication, vitality affects are involved, and since music, as a language, does not have such obvious representations as the words in verbal language, the expressions of vitality affects will be more important for the experience of meaning in the music, than what is the case with a verbal uttering. This was what I meant with the “evidence of vitality affects”, which was not a good expression of my points. Some music therapists have even argued that the musical improvisational interplay in music therapy, first of all is an exchange of vitality affects. Mercedes Pavlicevic suggests that the musical structures or forms in this type of musical interplay, are expressions of vitality affects. The musical structures and the vitality affects are fused into what she names “dynamic forms”(Pavlicevic 1995, Music therapy in context. Jessica Kingsley)

Stern’s and Trevarthen’s theories of the infants capacity for affect intunement and immediate sympathy, implies the existence of some basic human capacity that makes possible some kind of immediate communication and understanding. This could lead to a suggestion of some universal aspects of meaning in music that is deeply rooted in our basic human capacity. I do not see how this would reduce us to Emiles or Sofias (Sofia should sing in tune, and be able to play simple chords at the piano, but she will probably not engage herself in musical interactions other than to please her husband and his friends). Kennair is accusing me of falling back to the old romantic philosophy of music, and it could be argued that my points of view would probably lead to some ideas of universal understanding of music. But whereas the romantic philosopher would claim that there is something immanent in the musical structures that makes us share the Meaning of music, our aspects of universality will be related to our humanity and perhaps even our heredity. When an adult person makes music with another adult, their experience of meaning and mutual understanding must be understood as a complex process involving both cultural aspects and cognitive skills. Nevertheless I will maintain that there also are some kind of immediate mutual understanding, that perhaps can occur due to our basic human capacities. I don’t know if these basic capacities are regarded as cognitive capacities, but the expressions and sharing of vitality affects have a bodily and emotional ground that is different from representation of words.

I have tried to argue that the immediate aspects of musical interaction have pre-verbal origins. This does not imply that we have to communicate “as children” to experience these immediate aspects of meaning in the musical interaction. I agree with Kennair that the term- pre-verbal is confusing. What I find even more misleading is that terminology such as pre-verbal, non-verbal, extra-verbal, of music are constructing an artificial, contradictive relation between verbal languages and music. This implies that music is becoming whatever verbal languages are not. And further that the possibilities or potentials of music therapy will be searched for in this contradiction. Such a contradiction will limit our understanding of both music and verbal language, and of verbal therapies and music therapy. And one must ask if it is at all possible to express music as a negation to verbal language in verbal language?

Randi Rolvsjord, not alias Sofia

October 12, 2000; Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair:

The Meaning of Meaning

Relativity, reality and singing together

Rolvsjord did not appreciate the dichotomy of true-false, and attempted to counter with radical relativism. Fine enough – but in that case anything goes, including sensible communication. I do not believe Rolvsjord really is a radical relativist, though. A social construction of the flat-earth is false – although it may be influential and get people burned etc. and inspire religions and arts, once satellites are in orbit things get straightened out. Sokal, of the (in)famous hoax, asked any constructionist to exit his apartment by the window and test the validity or truth of the social construct of gravity, which (pardon the pun) is a serious construct at the 21 floor. A theory is not true or false before empirical testing, then it is more or less likely, until someone chooses to accept it as a law… there are such stable processes in our world, sometimes likelihood is all we may achieve. All the same, one may speak of likely-unlikely at group level and predict well enough for many instances. Such as: what happens if we engage an other human being in musical intersubjectivity – let this be my so called Sokal Challenge, and I dare anyone to be radically relativistic with this (it will not break any bones, but it might topple some meaning).

Is our reality one of contradictions and ambiguity? Relativity is frame of reference contingent, as is social de- and reconstruction. What is contradictory, and when? What is ambiguous and how? Some things obviously are not possible the naturally developing infant can not be naturally intersubjective and communicative and at the same time be in an autistic egg state… one is false, my bet is the second suggestion. Rolvsjord admits that all psycho-analytical dogma are not truths, but at the same time she claims that many concepts are not meaningless. And this is fine – the flat-earth has meaning, it can even be the basis (at least on top of the four elephants and the turtle) of intelligent humour (see Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series). Meaning may be true, likely, false, relevant, nonrelevant, unlikely, etc… all depending on the contextual embeddedness of the construct. What would the meaning of symbiosis be in Mahlers theory? Well, not what biologists mean, not what modern developmental psychology has empirically found… It has meaning, Mahler’s own (misunderstood?) idiosyncratic definition based upon biological terminology, and Mahlers (misperceived?) theoretically guided investigation into the development of mother-child inter (or should that not be intra) action. A narrative (defined in most ways, but obviously not all ways this trendy concept has coopted) or a metaphor has meaning, in most cases… but the story actually may relate events that did not happen – if that criterion is important, and one is able to check, then a narrative may be true, likely, false, inaccurate, etc, but by all means it is meaningful or full of meaning… The context or frame of reference decides what meaning one can find in the narrative, and what .

Psycho-analytical thinking thrives in culture – a very sad and kitsch fact of culture. Some authors have accepted Freud’s imagination as the … I believe this happens often in culture, but the effect is often better when it is accepted as imagination rather than science and fact. I believe Shakespeare’s borrowing from Homer was more successful. And Freud borrowed from Shakespeare. So psycho-analysis is a part of our culture… as was Marxism, Lamarckianism, as is religion and Pokemon. Does this make psycho-analysis true? No. Not truer than the flat earth was, and that actually was a more meaningful meme. Does it make psycho-analysis relevant? Oh yes. Absolutely. One needs to know what the psycho-analytically inclined mean – if my patient knows some (or much) Freud, I have to relate to this frame of reference. But the concepts can only enter the equation through acquired culture, not give meaning to much of anything that humans do naturally. That I find is an important demarcation.

So, when singing together we may consider whether the person we are singing with is influenced by Freudian memes, but we probably will gain from other insights into the actual psychological processes involved. And when singing with an infant, please understand that the egg has hatched, and that even if Dr.Seuss is popular among prenatals, intersubjective communication is the point with hatchlings.

Words and meaning, emotions and cognition
Rolvsjord steps far away from radical relativism in the second part of her contribution – I think that was the most fruitful move. Now “vitality affects” a very important concept, because of its theoretical relevance, almost is a fact of life, and is quite reified (affect as structure and form). This lacks some consistency. I am sure it may be navigated meaningfully, though. The evidence of vitality affects is still a little vague. It often becomes the-concept-that-explains-everything, and since it is connected to affects, feelings, it is obviously culturally likely enough to go pretty unchallenged. I still need to see the evidence, Thomas I am. What is really this thing called vitality affect (and, although Rolvsjord does not want the discussion to be aimed at psycho-dynamics: how is it that this concept is thought to save psycho-dynamics?)

I am pleased that Rolvsjord wishes to distance herself from Romanticism… I think that is a good move. Understanding is a cognitive capacity, but emotions are also part of the information processing abilities of humans, and are as such cognitive. I believe it is fully possible to share perceptions of situations, as one may of objects – music is also (without going utterly Churchland) movements of air, and as such a physical phenomenon sensed and perceived (a cognitive process).

The preverbal origins may therefore be nonverbal, and all reference to verbal may be due to the concept of preverbal getting in the way. Thus verbal maturation might not be relevant. Music still does not need to become what verbal languages-are-not, a more positive definition might still exist, also there may be overlapping processes.

Is it possible to express music as a negation to verbal language in verbal language? Well, in playing wordgames one should be quiet about what one cannot talk about. I suggest that the riddle is meaningless, I have no frame of reference. I do believe language also refers to phenomena beyond language.

What do we really disagree about?
I believe this discussion needs to become clearer as to what we really disagree about. I cannot find much, but a lot of verbalising has taken place. I find that somehow my stance and language is causing some misunderstanding, and I am probably making mistakes of interpretation myself… I do believe the world to be more ambiguous than contradictory. Relativism is not the line of demarcation, neither is psycho-analytical credo, nor infant intersubjectivity, nor the belief that two humans may share experience, nor that music may be therapeutic, nor that Romanticism is not the best approach. For this discussion to develop I think I would be assisted by some light being shed on what we are actually discussing.

Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair

October 25, 2000; Randi Rolvsjord

….Putting the parachute on….

As Kennair so precisely puts into language, a lot of verbalising has taken place and it is probably not clear what we are discussing. Hopefully, this verbalising points out the differences between our different attitudes toward research, and I certainly hope that the verbalising could turn into a fruitful dialogue ….or may I use the word intersubjectivity. Trying to take one step back, and taking my parachute on, our argument seems to be grounded in different perspectives, and different focus of interests, more than from real disagreements.

Reading Kennair’s article, and his comments in this discussion, it seems to me that his concern about Stern’s theories has been to acknowledge this theory as false, or a word I like more, as less likely. To do so, one of his aims must be to find the “true” interpretation of the theory. My concern has been to show that we do not have to abandon Stern’s theories because of the psychoanalytical influences, despite new empirical research that makes unlikely some of the dogmas in psychoanalytical theories. It has not been my aim to “save the psychodynamics”, but to focus upon the parts in Stern’s theories that I find relevant for music therapy. I do not think the whole truth is grasped in one single theory. A theory will describe or explain the object of attention from a perspective, and we will need several perspectives, or texts that will give us more understanding. Furthermore, as I am raised into a hermeneutic tradition of research, I do not think that theories are static in their quality, a theory will always be interpreted, and our interpretation is dependent upon our context. To take the concept that seems to have provoked Kennair the most, the symbiosis as an example: The research of Trevarthen, and Stern, among others shows us that the infant is social and communicatively competent from birth. I accept Kennair’s argument that this makes Mahler’s theory of the autistic phase, and the symbiotic relationship incorrect. But the concept symbiosis could nevertheless be useful to describe a subjective experience, this implies of course that we reinterpret the concept. This is actually what Stern does when he comments upon this concept, and states that an experience of symbiosis will actually depend upon an experience of a self distinct from others, a chore self (Stern, 1985). A similar misunderstanding that I must try to make clear is again, what I (struggling with the foreign language) called the evidence of vitality affects. Kennair interprets this as evidence meaning proof, but I was, as I tried to explain in my last comment, referring to vitality affects as an always present aspect of our communication. These unmediated aspects of communication are important in the process of signification, of the creation and experience of meaning in music.

The Sokal challenge – jumping out of the 21st floor, will certainly be another verification of the theory of gravity. But note that this test will not give us a significant result if the object for our research was for instant, the subjective experience of gravity. The subjective experience could be of quite different qualities if the person was wearing a parachute, if she was committing suicide, or if she was pushed out of the window by some crazy positivist.

A response to the Sokal challenge……and taking the Sokal challenge of Kennair….

“What happens if we engage another human being in musical intersubjectivity?”

I do not think this sokal challenge will reveal any law of nature, nor do I think that this is the intention of Kennair. I am however, not quite sure what Kennair means with his question or challenge. I doubt that he is suggesting a mechanical explanation, because his article could be read as a critique of one type of these mechanical explanations using Stern’s theories. I think I will need some help to understand what this challenge really is about, what exactly am I challenged to do? What am I supposed to find out? But I will try, and wearing my parachute, it is more unlikely that I will break my legs.
What is our interest in this concern: Are we looking for The effect of music therapy? Are we looking for the subjective experiences? As a subjective experience even the communication with an egg should be possible. One may argue that the subjective experience is irrelevant. Jumping out of the window would verify the theory of gravity anyway, and I agree in that case. But the object of our concern right now, musical intersubjectivity, is an object that seems to me to be of a different quality. I must ask: Is not intersubjectivity first of all a subjective experience? An experience that has to do with relationship, mutuality, and recognition. Trevarthen and Stern among other researchers have found ways to observe the occurrence of intersubjectivity, by their efforts to identify some “objective” criteria of intersubjectivity, such as eye contact, imitation, and affect intunement.

The context of this interaction is of course also very important for the outcome of this “test”. Is this engagement happening in a rock- club, or in a music therapy room? As our theme is the approaches to music therapy, I will assume that the musical interaction is going on in a music therapeutic relationship. But in this context, we could also find “variables” that will interfere with our “results”: Is this a part of an ongoing process of music therapy? What type of music are we playing? Are we improvising, or are we interpreting pre-composed music? Who are the persons involved prior musical experiences, and what are their purposes within the musical interaction?

At last, there are also different possibilities in interpretation of the question that will influence the approach for answering: First our focus could be the client, and we would be concerned about what happens with whom? This would probably lead to some kind of suggestions about what the clients could gain from music therapy.

And secondly, our focus could be the musical communication. Then we would be interested in what happens in the musical interplay? This would probably lead to a description of the interaction. The studies of infant’s communication have conceptualised aspects of human communication that could be observed and described. These concepts can be used to describe features of the musical interplay.

And third, our focus could be on the relationship: What happens in the therapeutic relationship when client and therapist are engaged in musical intersubjectivity? This perspective could lead to a discussion about the relational process going on in music therapy.

Please understand that the earth is bumpy with deep fjords and high mountains. I can not understand the actual challenge. This is probably due to our different perspectives on research. But I’ll keep my parachute on, and will prepare for a base-jump, if you explain the challenge.

Randi Rolvsjord

October 26, 2000; Sami Alanne:


Theories, controlling and objectification

After all it seems that I agree in many ways with Kennair: We both stress the application of all the dimensions of being in human study – the soma, the mind and situation. In my opinion, Kennair is right even in his thesis that it is necessary sometimes to investigate one dimension like the soma (e.g. the brain) at the time. This of course means temporarily reducing the phenomenon like Kennair suggests. However, I iterate that we do not have to use the evidence we have from this kind of study to exclude and explain everything else in human nature. It is not fair either to explain the evidence we have according to one theory like psychoanalysis. I have pondered myself why there are so radical theories that emphasise one theory over others when there are theories that seem to depict the same phenomenon but from a different aspect. The representations of the psychoanalysts, the schemes of the cognitive therapists are approaching each other. One theory also seems to describe one aspect better than the other. For example, cognitive therapy depicts cognition better. However, it is also true that both may have flaws if they do not recognise the facts outside their usual field. In my opinion, this is where many good theories fail. They radically stress their own point of view whilst neglecting those of others. We can consider the holistic approach as a means to understanding human nature from the different perspectives of various theories that complement each other. Also Kennair seems to call on various psychological theories.

I agree with Kennair and Rolvsjord that theories are not necessarily truths. In fact, they can lead us far from the truth. With theories and models we can easily explain things and whilst doing so we all too often believe that we can control or master phenomena. It is easy to make decisions, for instance, relating to treatment when we systematically “know” things. Even modern medicine or psychology supports us. We feel it good practice to make decisions according to these theories. Anyway, when trying to totally control the reality we easily forget the person and his/her individual needs and issues. Actually it could be said that we do not have to listen the client at all because we automatically know things. Finnish psychiatrist Martti Siirala (2000: oral information) has said that while doing so we do not have to listen what the individual has to say and to encounter the patient’s distress. Neither do not have to encounter our own existential angst and distress that relates to the client` s disorder and common social meaning underneath it. Mr Siirala calls this sociopathology. So, when we apply theories to explain things, existing, we objectify the human whilst we should use them to understand the patient better. Siirala calls this objectification of the phenomena and splitting the mind (the soma etc.) our collective problem. This is one reason why I became worried about evolutionary psychology. Is it the next great theory that explains everything with biological emphasis and excludes other theories and first psychoanalysis? Will it become another, fascinating and modern, theory that keeps up the belief that we can control our being and neglect our identity?

Theories may be just hypotheses and models of phenomena we try to understand. When we take them too literally and presume them always as truths, there is danger of objectifying the phenomenon in question. Especially, this is the danger with the development of theories of human nature. For instance, Piaget` s cognitive development theory of infants has not been supported literally by the other cognitive researchers who find that the infants cognitive development, the sensomotoric phase, pre-operational phase etc., does not occur in the exact order and time it was suggested by Piaget. However, these researchers do not neglect Piagetian theories but instead value them as an important foundation. How easy it is to consider the Piaget` s theory as a common fact and let it persuade us to believe in our talent to control things… (Schaffer, 1999.)

I think also it is essential and we can not dismiss the empirical study because of the philosophic inquiry. However, it is not possible to prove everything with empiricism because the Dasein (being here) does not manifest itself similarly in every situation. The Dasein exists in acts and is always hidden in manifest meaning; this makes it different in every situation. I must remind the reader here that the term situation is a very wide concept. It can include the history of the individual, the values in the society, environmental issues, as well as culture, and sociality… So, the structures of being or knowledge cannot be totally proved by empiricism or positivistic studies. They can support our knowledge and justify its truth, though they still can not make it absolute truth. (Heidegger, 1927/2000; Rauhala, 1974; 1989.)

Philosophic inquiry is essential too: We can discover values embedded in studies with epistemology for example and we can study what kind of knowledge or being we are researching with ontology. Metascience enables us to find errors in our research and approaches, and guides the investigation to solve better the problems and obstacles we encounter. I think, even this discussion of the developing mind has proven this.

Music and language
I agree with Kennair there that it is problematic to consider music as language or pre-verbal communication. It is true that psychoanalysis, in its history, has seen music as language and even as undeveloped language compared to spoken language. Former psychoanalysis thought music was regression and gratified only the id; this is no longer the case. Anyway, to associate music with language or pre-verbal communications leads us back to the same dilemma – is music undeveloped language or thinking? I too join the question of Kennair: why we need to consider music as language? In my opinion, we over-simplify the phenomenon of music when we name it language or pre-verbal language. We reduce music to be just communicative when doing this. We can ponder all the emotions, images, thoughts music evokes in us, the aesthetic beauty of it, the richness of its harmonies and sounds. Does this make it unjustified to describe music according to language. (Noy, 1966–1967; Reister, 1996.)

Music and language have their foundation in the same kind of experiences in pre-understanding of the phenomenon that does not acquire words (see for instance Heidegger, ibid.; 1935/36/1995). All the other experiences have this same basis in being that has to do with emotional experiencing. So, why should we consider music as language whilst we do not think all the other things are language either? For instance, philosophers Ernst Cassirer (1944), Susan K. Langer (1953) and Rauhala (1989) believe that music is not language. Music has syntax but implicit meaning and it may be communicative though but it is misleading to call it language or pre-verbal. The pre-understanding that consists all the pre-knowledge of an individual enables musical thinking that does not need words. This suits the common experience of music – we do not explain music in words while listening.

I disagree with Kennair that music could not develop in the early relationship with mother. The vitality affects of Stern (1985) supports this and his theory is not just based upon his own studies. I think Stern` s amodal sensing relates to this importantly too, whilst it is not his original idea. There are lot of earlier studies dealing with intermodal perceiving. These empirical studies also led me to criticise Stern` s theory of the developing self even though I agree with him in these concepts and in the affect attunement. I have to remind Rolvsjord here that whilst Stern does not mention (sic!) Winnicott` s (1971/1997) holding, relating to the affect attunement, it was already included in Winnicott` s psychoanalytic theory of interaction between the mother and child. Even though it seems the infant is inclined to the amodal sensing, according to empirical studies it develops slowly and the kinesthetic sense being the last one to develop. It can take up to eleven years for this ability to develop. Also the transitional object phenomenon of Winnicott (ibid.) refers to the earlier symbolic ability in the infant than Stern` s theory suggests. And there are other problems with Stern` s theory or hypothesis. For instance, he named it like the emergent of the core self referred in my first contribution. This does not have foundation in the light of the general view in the empirical research of the infant. (Shaffer, Ibid..)

Why is it so hard for Kennair to understand the early associations of the infant, relating to music that psychoanalysis proposes (Kohut, 1957/1978; Kohut & Levarieu 1950/1978; Noy, ibid.)? Is this also what cognitive psychology or behaviourism teaches us? Of course, there can be other viewpoints, considering the topic, not just psychoanalysis. I think cognitive approach is important here too. For example Lehtonen (1995), Erkkilä (1997) and Pavlicevic (1997) have connected psychoanalytic and cognitive theories in music therapy.

Articulation and popularising – fails and successes
Even though I agree with Kennair on many things, there still seems to be some issues that I can not share. One being his popularistic and rather cheap style that he uses to refer to Freud in his critique of psychoanalysis. It is very common to talk about Freud` s theories and studies as old fairytales but this usually just reflects the criticiser’s lack of reading in Freud. This discussion and Kennair` s original article has provided me a picture of serious scientist whose intention is to introduce new approach and call empirical research in music therapy. This kind of claim about Freud refer to something else. Still today Freud is generally a very appreciated scientist. Recently he has even been voted to the one of the greatest, even among scientists like Newton. We have to remember also that we cannot judge one science according to one of its scholars. No matter how outstanding his or her influence has been. I do not, for instance, claim that physics is irrelevant because Einstein` s opinion was that the universe does not widen which is the current view (Hawkings, 1989). I cannot judge one science according to mistakes in the past. I do not dispute cognitive or evolutionary approach with Skinner either. Even Freud himself was conscious about the pitfalls of his theory. For instance the drive theory (Freud, 1920/1993). We have to remember that Freud was a “child of his time” where naturalistic science were emphasised. He had to develop his theory to stand its standards (Siirala, 1981). As a matter of fact Rauhala (in Puhakainen, 2000) also sees Freud as representing existential phenomenology, whilst trying to look naturalistic.

In Kennair` s article, I miss the pragmatic examples of biopsychosocial therapy suggested by him because the evolutionary approach is not my special area. What really are the more suitable techniques of therapy that evolution psychology has to offer? Personally, I think evolution provides important perspective to psychology and therapy. In his article, Kennair does not comment on the speculative view of evolutionary psychology that is analogic to psychoanalysis and has same problems with it (Shaffer, ibid.).

Somehow I do not fully understand Kennair` s total polarising of Mahler and Stern. They both represent object relations approaches that stress their meaning in the development of personality. Tähkä (1993/1997) a object relation theorist too, has also criticised the symbiosis theory of Mahler being adultomorphic, representing more adult kind of experiencing than is possible to the infant. Though he does not dispute the separation–individualisation phase of Mahler. In his approach, Tähkä stresses that the self emerges in a social and interactive relationship with a meaningful object. I agree with Kennair, Stern, Rolvsjord and modern empirical research that a newborn is not autistic and is interested in his or her environment (Shaffer, ibid.). Tähkä does not either write about autism but warns to use concepts of self with neonates that refer to the more developed and differentiated self that does not exist before about age of 6 months. However, I miss that he does not comment much about the empirical research findings of active neonate. He is also spare in his words, clarifying the cognitive aspects of early representations and memory traces of the infant. So, it cannot avoid a bit simple and old fashioned picture without the modern empirical study findings of neonates. He is very thorough, original, logical and postmodern in his views otherwise.

Kennair pondered in his latest contribution that maybe we should not talk about experiences that can not be totally or strictly verbalised. I think, we should try to articulate them in searching the truth whilst it is not always possible. Wittgenstein himself rejected his earlier opinion (Stige, 1998). I do not fully consider that our knowledge will succeed or fail with language, even though it importantly links to it. I have shortly argued that language is not prerequisite for experiences or thinking. There can be for instance musical thinking without words. Wittgenstein` s language games are meaningful of course; it seems that they even relate to this contribution` s topic because it is so easy explain and exclude anyone else if one applies very difficult professional terms and esoteric expression. One may even fool him or herself with theories and concepts that support the feeling of controlling.

I wish myself that I could have been more precise in my arguments earlier and in this contribution. I could have given a clear description of my thoughts to the reader. But also the format of this discussion medium has influenced my contributions and probably other` s too – it sure has its pros in speed but sometimes cons in accuracy.

The resistance to Freud’ is amazing, the mind, sexuality, mental disorders and psychoanalysis. I wonder what it has to do with? Siirala (1966) speaks about resistance, relating to the encounter of our own being and identity, see also Heidegger (1927/2000). It is very difficult to approach things that so simply and fundamentally relate to being a human according to him. I think Siirala has captured something essential. Maybe this adds to our topic some other, even more cultural, perspective.

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Shaffer, David R. (1999): Developmental psychology. Childhood and adolescence. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole.

Siirala, Martti (2000): Keskustelu musiikkiterapeuttien kanssa: psykoanalyyttisen terapeutin ajatuksia musiikista, sairaudesta ja hoidosta. A lecture in Lapinlahti psychiatric hospital, Helsinki 4.10.2000. Finnish Music Therapy Association.

Siirala, Martti (1966): «Peruskatsomustemme merkityksestä lääketieteessä. Konsultoivan psykiatrin havaintoja puheenkehityksen häiriöistä.” (On the importance of our basic views in medicine. Observations of a consulting psychiatrist on disturbances of speech development) Sosiaalilääketieteellinen Aikakauslehti Supplementum IIA.

Siirala, Martti (1981): «Todellisuuden käsittäminen psykoanalyysissa”, in: Psykoterapia – teoria ja käytäntö 1. Espoo: Weilin+Göös, 13–32.

Stern, Daniel N. (1985): The interpersonal world of the infant. A view from psychoanalysis and developmental Psychology. New York: Basic Books.

Stige, Brynjulf (1998): «Perspectives on meaning in music therapy.” British Journal of Music Therapy 12 (1), 20–27.

Tähkä, Veikko (1993/1997): Mielen rakentuminen ja psykoanalyyttinen hoitaminen. (Mind and its treatment: A psychoanalytic approach. International Universities Press) Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: WSOY.

Winnicott, D.W. (1971/1997): Playing and reality. London and New York: Routledge.

[October 27, 2000; Moderator:

This discussion took as a point of departure, Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair’s article “Developing minds of pathology”. The discussion has developed around several points, and I think it is time to sort out some of the themes discussed. As far as I can see, two themes have been especially debated in the current discussion:

1. The nature and status of theory.
2. The relevance of Daniel N. Stern’s theories for music therapy.

In order to make the discussions more available for new participants, the latter theme on the relevance of Stern’s theories for music therapy will be further discussed in a new discussion called Stern and Music Therapy.

The first theme concerning the more philosophical aspects of theories will continue in the current discussion. And yet there are many themes brought to light in Kennairs article that are worth discussing. So please go on with this discussion, whether it is on the nature and status of theory or on other themes explored in the article, or join the new discussion concerning the relevance of Sterns theories.
Moderator, Randi Rolvsjord]

November 2, 2000; Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair:

Living On the Same Bumpy Surface – Answering Rolvsjord

Theories about Theories

When anyone attempts to test gravity using his or her own body, from large heights, I recommend Rolvsjord’s approach. Why would I do that? Well, I suppose that is what I am attempting to point out. I do find the parachute a brilliant solution, but I do so due to the context and due to knowledge. Of course, I might be wrong, like I would be by suggesting to Columbus that I fear for his life unless he brings along a long rope that may be tied to the most western point of the Azores to keep him from falling off the edge of the flat earth. I would dare to claim that the flat earth theory is false – not just unlikely. The reason why I may make this claim is empirical science. How Columbus would experience falling off the earth is a different narrative.

What is needed to prove a theory false? Usually a theory will consist of more than one hypothesis, or else falsification of that one statement is all that is needed. Also, most often, theories build on a collection of different statements, observations and other thinkers’ and scientists’ work. As such, proving a whole theory false would include a whole line of argumentation. One interesting attempt at proving a whole book’s worthlessness is going on in anthropology, evolutionary psychology and medicine in connection with the forthcoming publication of Tierney’s book on certain scientists work among Indians of the Amazon (see http://psych.ucsb.edu/research/cep/ for background on this interesting case). Over the last few months an incredible number of statements have been questioned and attempted refuted – yet conclusions of the kind: this book is false! are not coming from the serious reviewers such as the home university of the scientists charged in the book. I do not accept that I have claimed that Stern’s theory is false. I have claimed that in general psychodynamic metatheory is has not been able to prove it’s worth, but more relevant: that other theories may shed light on the likelihood of certain developmental patterns in the child, and that MT would be well served to seek out these. But a theory may be called false, because the totality does not provide predictions or understanding of the world, and due to a lack of inner consistency – such a theory at least needs to revise the hypotheses that are in conflict with stringent observation or inner consistency. A theory is a tool, and when tools don’t work one either discards them or fixes them if that is possible.

I would not claim that one has to abandon Stern. The empirical findings presented in Stern’s work would probably not have made it into the general clinical field if he had not presented it as he has – via a certain psychoanalytical metatheory. I still wish to point out that the difference of an adaptation and an exaptation as far as how something develops and what stimuli is needed for it to develop, and how something is perceived and processed at different “stages” (qualitatively different states of maturation) of development, is valid. And the primacy of either “affective” or “early age” has to be reconsidered within clinical work. Thereafter Stern may be right or wrong about a great deal of things, but the direct relevance of the specific points that I noted is questionable, at least, from an empirical point of view and from different theoretic perspectives (some of which build on empirical studies). Thus when Rolvsjord wants to focus on parts (legal reductionism, by all means) of Stern’s theory that she finds relevant for MT the only thing I have to say is: By what criteria do you make that choice?

A whole truth is not grasped by one single theory, Rolvsjord claims. I cannot think of many theories that do, but I believe this is a question of definitions – Borges and Asimov both have pointed out that the model has to be smaller, less complex etc than the truth, thus one may claim that a theory will never grasp the whole truth. But I doubt whether the “whole truth” is a relevant aim for any theory. One difference between empirical science and interpretative hermeneutics is that in the first case there may be true or false answers (but more likely “likely” rather than true, while “false” may still be possible), in the second the subjective meaning or lack thereof is the answer – there likely/unlikely are not possibilities either (apart from as language-gimmicks to give impression of objective distance). Thus we must differ between whether symbiosis exists as a natural state of development (and if this is incorrect, then at least the hypothesis is “false” (why is incorrect better than false?), and the significance of the hypothesis in the body of the theory, and the consequent use of symbiosis as a metaphor as a tool for generating meaning. A metaphor is, remember, what is like something, but not that something. It is used to illuminate, but the lamp itself is not the object being shone upon. I cannot see how symbiosis (which is a word with a special meaning, and Mahler has been criticised for using the word incorrectly – algae and fungi in symbiosis do not “live together”, they are one made of two parts, we cannot remove our mitochondria from our cells either – and probably this far down the phyletic path it is not necessary natural to call that intra-cellular merger symbiosis either. Symbiosis is in this way illegal reductionism in the physical realist’s domain, and as such is a questionable metaphor when attempting to create relevant meaning – but, hey, it might work – the context and the subjects rule that one. (If vitality affects are always present and are not metaphorically only – then proof or evidence ought to be available at some level).

Challenging the challenger’s challenge
All naive positivists are “crazy” – if this means anything relevant, at the same time I can report that Steve Fuller reported to me in a similar discussion that constructionists are not psychotic and do accept physical reality ( http://www.egroups.com/message/science-debate/372). I take comfort in that – as at times constructionists were perceived as believing that one-way traffic seen as a social construct, could be deconstructed and one could then oppose the traffic at no cost! Words like truth, reality etc. are able to loose their relevance when the academic language is all that matters, and suddenly matter does not seem to matter – enter Sokal.

Rolvsjord took precautions that work due to the reliability of the physical reality she is about to “test”. In other words, we have a foregone conclusion here. Others have suggested climbing, helicopters – more of the same. Physical realism. But Rolvsjord is a hermeneutic thinker – so her parachute is probably metaphorical, as indeed is the drop, and the narrative will guide the descent. Deconstruction? Whatever.

I asked (a less bonebreaking challenge): What happens if we engage another human being in musical intersubjectivity? And the dare was to be radically relativistic with one’s answer to this statement.

I did not expect the answer: marble 1 will cause marble 2 to sing – mechanics are limited here. But I know something about what happens when I do something with (or to, if I should dare) another person. Especially when I am trained at doing this something, within a system of theory, guided practice and even empirical knowledge. If not, then my training has been poor. Has it not? If the music therapy students cannot answer the question, what shall we do?

I did not intend this to be a trick question, although the question itself was rhetorical. What happens with greatest likelihood? I do hope a music therapist CAN (is able to) answer the question, and commit to that answer. I hope that does not make me a crazy positivist. If it does I believe that crazy positivists need a new label.

One cannot communicate with an egg. The effect of music therapy is probably beyond the question, but the effect of musical intersubjectivity ought not be. The subjective experience is obviously relevant. What is the subjectivity of the egg? My claim is that it cannot be shared through the shell, so intersubjectivity and communication does not enter. Intersubjectivity is not first of all a subjective experience – that is maybe illegal reduction – intersubjectivity of course is dependent upon subjective experience, but it may only exist in the sharing, not the individual – it is a pattern, not a thing.

My question of radical relativism is not asking for contextualisation, because that is to say: if a then b, if z then x. All answers that were provided were about certain effects at certain levels given certain contextual/ecological factors. Good. That is not radical relativism as I see it: in such cases anything could happen under all circumstances.

How we choose to explain what happens (to quote Professor Fuller) is interesting. And I do believe I could follow most of the modes and levels of explanation you offered. Which makes me believe that the apparent disagreement is not that deep.

I do not believe we see different worlds. What emphasis we put on different approaches to knowledge might differ some . I usually claim that one cannot in clinical work avoid combining interpretative hermeneutics and nomothetic science if one wants to be professional. One cannot combine this way in research, but research and practice is not the same. I believe that this misunderstanding (that combination is not possible in practice) prevents many from integrating worldviews in a fruitful manner.

I do understand that the earth is bumpy – at one level of analysis, it is also a somewhat squashed sphere. It is not flat at the second level – that theory proved false/incorrect.

Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair

November 7, 2000; Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair:

What Can I Say? – Answering Alanne

Repeating Myself

Alanne repeats an iteration that seems superfluous – but yet again I will try to make this clear: We need more than one theory! (At least we need many subtheories within the growing body of knowledge, because one grand unifying theory of everything is theoretically impossible, if one accepts the qualitative difference of different levels of analysis). If this is not clear enough, then I do not know what to say. But some theories may be put aside – not because we do not like them or they do not suit our ideals, but because they have proven “false” (see my last posting) or because they are unable to deliver the “goods”.

Obviously my position on certain themes trigger prejudice from Alanne. He overstepped, I found, when he tied me to a vulgar understanding of sosiobiology and the defence of rape. Now I feel that I am accused of lacking the moral ground to treat my patients… as suffering individual human beings. I am not in a position where I may offer examples. I will have to be general, but please do believe me: a) I use different approaches. b) I take care, as far as possible, that I meet the patient with respect and as a fellow human being. c) The patient is, as far as possible, offered evidencebased modes of treatment (anything else would be unprofessional, and although many of these are based upon legal reductionism, that is not a problem when applied according to point b) – most importantly avoiding such behaviour is a serious ethical matter!). d) I dare claim that even my most behaviourally treated patients perceived that I cared about them, saw them in their focus/centring, and treated them with respect as autonomous individuals seeking professional help for their most intimate troubles. This does not mean that one may reach or help all individuals, but that that is an aim I do take most seriously. Now, obviously this is not an application for sainthood – but I do experience the need to stick my tongue in my cheek and refute the suspicion that Alanne has of me and my treatment of patients… I cannot say that I am able to see where I made any claim that would support suspicions that I treat patients as if I was a sociopath.

Evolutionary psychology
What is EP? I think I will suggest reading Paul Gilbert’s books – he is one of my intellectual heroes. A biopsychosocial thinker, he offers evolutionary theory as the reason why biopsychosocial perspectives make sense. Although he is not strictly speaking EP – if one uses Cosmides, Tooby, Buss and Pinker as the major theoretical position. On the other hand he calls himself an evolutionary psychologist. My aim is to see whether the view of Gilbert (and others such as McGuire & Troisi, Nesse & Williams etc) and EP may be combined. (What I would call soft and hard EP – and hard only means rigorous and stringent at the empirical model level, also the difference is interest in psychopathology). I am currently attempting to publish an article on the more practical sides of the biopsychosocial perspective…

I do not comment on the speculative views of EP that are analogic to those of psychoanalysis, because I cannot see that there are any. Please note that the journal Cognition in which much of Cosmides & Tooby’s work is published is a major empirical journal, and that EP first and foremost is a theoretically informed rigorous empirical research program. The empirical foundation makes most of the “analogues” quite difficult to perceive. If Alanne could specify what speculations he is thinking of I would promise to comment. Note: every hypothesis is a speculation, and every science has speculations of that kind. If the major culture within an epistemological practice is theoretical/analytical then I would say that the speculations never become more than speculations, but when the major practice is empirical there is a chance that one may move beyond such. Some of the claims I made (and Pinker’s claims) are speculations only – so far, and were acknowledged as such. Theoretical work may be done both before and after empirical work. Postpartum depression has been given functional/evolutionary accounts, if, as it may seem, one finds that postpartum depression really is a continuation of a depression that started before the child was born one might need to re-evaluate the theoretical work: maybe there are two kinds of depression possible after childbirth, maybe they are functional, but maybe the most likely position is becoming that much of the depression found after the child is born is tied to other factors than the birth itself and that specific context… But this is not analogous speculation, but science at work.

Alanne worries: “Is it the next great theory that explains everything with biological emphasis and excludes other theories and first psychoanalysis?” I doubt EP will explain everything, and emphasis is on mental mechanisms, not biology – there is an obvious psychological emphasis in EP. But the use of biological theory as predictive of what mechanisms may be found is one of EP’s major features. And I will claim yet again: without existence there is no essence. And existence is biology. Why psychoanalysis is a typical opponent will be found, maybe, in the fact that there are so few comprehensive theories about the human mind, and that this is not only one that is opposed at several levels by EP, but also one that many take for granted. I think the anti-behaviourist or anti-social constructionist tendency of EP is more typical than an anti-Freudian attitude. Look at the two articles below, and where they are published – you will see that two major collections of EP literature include attempts at bridgebuilding – although the editors voice their worries in the case of the Nesse & Lloyd text.

Alanne thereafter asks: “Will EP become another, fascinating and modern, theory that keeps up the belief that we can control our being and neglect our identity?” Well, I do find EP both fascinating and modern. (It most surely is not post-modern). Can we control our being through EP – I am not sure, but probably insights into how we work may help a little, but at that level PA and EP share the mechanism of rationality. Neglect our identity? No, the opposite – that is the point at least, the question that is explored is: “What is universal human identity?” EP does not address personal individual identity, and does not deny the existence of such – I would not believe anyone to believe that their identity is not also in part common human nature, and that understanding this is a relevant enterprise.

The Freud Wars
I hate to think that my presentations of Freud are merely “popularistic and cheap”. I actually have read Freud and about Freud for more than 10 years – and still teach Freud. I am very critical of Freud, but I do believe that my criticisms are founded on more than popularised knowledge.

Is Freud an important scientist? Of course he is! Measured merely by influence Freud is one of the most important thinkers of this century. Due to this alone one ought to know what Freud said, meant, did etc. Talking therapies might never have been developed without Freud, “psychology” would have developed, but maybe not “psychological psychopathology” – at least not to such a great extent. But is his importance measured by how many actual scientific contributions he made equally great? No. Not at all. If I am wrong, then show me the evidence. (One very interesting book is Richard Webster’s listed below. It was not only welcomed warmly when it was published, and many will still argue against it – but it gives a very interesting account).

Alanne makes two statements: a) Freud was great, and b) One cannot judge a science by the faults of one scientist, even an influential one. We may agree that Freud was influential, but I cannot see that many hypothesis of his have been fruitful, Newton’s laws, Copernicus’ observations, Darwin’s principle of Natural Selection, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Mendel’s hypothesised genes… all of these are contributions that have made contributions to our understanding of the world as it really is, not merely constructed a universe (or social reality) of their own. If a science rectifies the faults of the influential thinkers within the field, then it is science – if it conserves these faults, by avoiding falsifying the father figure or questioning dogma, then it is not science. (What Alanne means by “I do not dispute cognitive or evolutionary approach with Skinner either” (sic), I do not know – Skinner is usually not seen as very evolutionary (although that is to a certain degree more relevant – as he saw learning as a form of selection), but he was not cognitively oriented.)

I believe that “resistance” it a very poor choice of approach to understanding criticism of Freud – that is to take the theory for granted, and use the theory to suppress criticism. I think that the important question is: “Does psychoanalysis have a function?” Does it want to achieve something, and can it prove that it does so in any scientifically testable way? Is there any reason to believe that the concepts are good representations of reality, or are they merely metaphorical? And what does the latter mean? Is there any place for a therapy that attempts to conserve Freud’s ideas, given the fact that we have effective methods that are relatively free of Freudianism? The whole culture of psychodynamic practice has suffered under a conservation of theory approach, rather than empirical testing approach – all the same many important and useful observations have been made. Winnowing is important – what is true, what is not true, what is helpful, what is not helpful, what is likely, what is not likely, etc.

Alanne keeps returning to one important point: “Why is it so hard for Kennair to understand the early associations of the infant, relating to music that psychoanalysis proposes”? The ways in which early experience influences are important to investigate; what mental capacities are involved in the perception and processing of stimuli; the role of experience on mental structure and process; the possible structures and processes; the role of experience in development etc. I do not know whether my problem is one of understanding, if it is all one has to do is offer an explanation that is pedagogic enough to help me understand. I have the same problem with how Stern’s metaphor of vitality affects is a truth about the world that may explain anything – and not first and foremost need evidence and explanation themselves. My problem as stated several times is this: I do not believe that there is any evidence that the infant is developed by experience in the manner described by psychoanalysis. The genetic factor in Borderline disorder is one point, the lack of specification of what neurological structures are involved is another, the lack of predictability from child to adult yet a reason (although the other way round is a simple task, although not reliable, as state changes history), also the mere fact that many infants have been through greater hardships than described and survived psychologically. This does not mean that I am not interested in attachment, experience and other seemingly related fields of interest – it means that I believe these phenomena need to be viewed within a different, and more likely, frame of theoretical reference. What cognitive behavioural psychology teaches is a) influence by psychodynamic thinking (A.Beck, J.Beck, J.Young) as well as by behaviourism (Skinner) – but the problem of integrating different modes and areas of investigation has delayed an investigation of such problems. I suggest reading Joel Paris and Sandra Scarr, and also to pay close attention to empirical longitudinal studies that follow children over years and attempt to make predictions about the future based on current state. If one significant other is what is needed, and this relationship may be forged when the child is 4-6 years old, and it remains stable for a certain number of years, then this may be enough – although genetic factors may enter, later experience is important, etc. etc. etc. Every day is important. Also the first days. They might not be more important, due to any other reason than that they lay the ground for next day… I think it is safe to conclude that in most respects the early infancy is not relevant due to the reasons described in analytic theory. I find it amazing that this is not possible to acknowledge given the research done.

Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair


Illustrative, Suggested and Recommended Literature:

Recommended books by Paul Gilbert:
Gilbert, P. (1992). Depression: The evolution of powerlessness. Hove, Uk: LEA. (This is probably the best psychological theory-integrative/evaluative book I have ever read).

Gilbert, P. (2000). Overcoming Depression. London: Robinson. (This is a self-help book based on cognitive behavioural techniques)

I would also recommend that one read Gilbert’s articles, and book chapters.

Works that do not create opposition between psychodynamics and evolutionary psychology:
Badcock, C. R. (1998): “PsychoDarwinism: The new synthesis of Darwin and Freud”, in: Crawford, C. B., & Krebs, D. L. (eds.): Handbook of evolutionary psychology. Ideas, issues and applications (pp 457-483). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.

Nesse, R. M., & Lloyd, A. T. (1992): “The evolution of psychodynamic mechanisms”, in: Barkow, J. H., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (eds.): The adapted mind: Evolutionary psychology and the generation of culture (pp 601-624). Oxford University Press, NY.

Other works on (by) Freud and evolution:
Sulloway, F. (19) Freud: Biologist of the Mind.

Gould, S.J. (1987). Freud’s phylogenetic fantasy: Only great thinkers are allowed to fail greatly. Natural History, 96, 10-19.

Freud, S. (1987). A phylogenetic fantasy). (A.Hoffer & P.Hoffer, Trans.). Camdridge, MA: Bleknap Harvard. (Original work published in 1985).

Webster, R. (1996) Why Freud was wrong: Sin, science and psychoanalysis (Rev.ed.). London: HarperCollins.

January 10, 2001; Randi Rolvsjord:

Understanding the flatness of the earth

I am not sure about what is Kennair’s intention with his last comments. I guess it is not to persuade me to believe that the earth is not flat, even if he keeps telling me this all the time. OK, I am not psychotic, and of course I accept this knowledge. The earth is not flat! (I have, however, some experiences that has made me believe that sometimes 2+1=4). But this does not imply that we agree. I have an impression that he is trying to make me distance myself from relativism and constructivism, more than he is curious about my thoughts about musical interaction in music therapy?. But if this would require that I neglect psychodynamic thinking as relevant for therapy, I have to disappoint him. I am not Sokal. I applaud the empirical studies that has given us new perspectives and new knowledge about the development of children; a knowledge that is very important for music therapists to consider in our clinical work and in our search for theoretical foundations for music therapy. I think however that this knowlegde has been widely recognized by music therapists, and it has influenced even the psychodynamic approaches and psycho dynamic oriented music therapy. What is interesting is also that music therapists and music researchers have been collaborating with Colwyn Trevarthen who has delivered so much important research in this field, (let me mention by name for example Mercedes Pavlicevic), and I think this has contributed to influence music therapists’ appreciation and appluation of these new thoughts. So what is the problem? Our disagreement from my point of view is whether these new empirical based theories of children’s development makes the psychodynamic approach to therapy unuseful for clinical work. Also, I understand that we are not equally emphasizing the changes that has occurred in developmentally informed psychodynamic psychology. Kennair seems to reduce the disagreements to bagatelles, claiming that we agree upon this and that, but even if the earth is not flat, we disagree in some very basic aspects concerning how to understand theories, and how to understand science.

At this point I must stress that I hope that our theories and methods for clinical work will adapt new theories, new empirical studies, and new psychological theories. Perhaps I have missed something important, so I must ask Kennair to educate me to the new perspectives that he thinks are so relevant for music therapy. The article, which I enjoyed reading, is a important critique to the traditional Freudian influenced psychodynamic thought, but the alternative models are not sufficiently clarified. What will you suggest as a “new psychological ground for music therapy”. Please teach me, and I will be delighted to explore the implications for music therapy with you.

As a point of departure, I will give you brief introduction to some of my own basic thoughts about “what happens when you engage another person in musical intersubjectivity”. This will be my metaphorical base-jump. Let this also be my comments to Sami Alannes latest contribution where he claims that understanding music as a language implies that we reduce music to “just communication”.

Jumping into the musical space….. and experiencing mutuality in musical language

In his wonderful book “music for life” Gary Ansdell claims that “music therapy works the way music does.” In this statement he distances himselves from the project of understanding music therapy from the outside, from other disciplines, such as psychology. Ansdell is emphasizing that music therapy is a musical process. At the same time such statements could be interpreted as if music, is some kind of pill, which is influencing humans to be cured from their illnesses. My point is, that someone is always acting out the music, as singers or players, as listeners, composers, improvisers. In music therapy this act of musicking is always happening in a relationship between humans, and that the therapeutic potentials of music therapy has to do with the features of music as a language.

Let me emphazize that the question of matter is very wide, and I am tempted to perceive it as similar to the question: “what happens when two people speak together in verbal therapy”. So let this be part of my parachute- that I have no intentions to make a thorough presentation of how music therapy works, or of all aspects of musical communication.

I have in this discussion agreed with Kennair that the pre-verbal or non-verbal is not a good term when describing music. In his comment Sami Allanne takes a step further and states that music should not be considered a language at all, because “we reduce music to be just communicative when doing this“. Further he asks: “why we should consider music a language whilst we do not think all other things are not language either?” Later on he argues that music has syntax but no implicit meaning, I think Allanne is the one who is reducing music right now, when he cathegorically rejects the ideas of (discursive) symbolic meaning in music.

Sami Alanne argues that music is not a transference of meanings, and he refers to Susanne Langers theories (Langer 1942,1953). Langer divides forms of language and art into discursive and presentational symbolic forms, and argues that the verbal languages are discursive and their meaning is perceived due to the cultural agreements of words referring to different objects. On the contrary, music and visual art forms, have no such fixed meanings, but their meanings are perceived as a whole, a presentational form. Susanne Langer is an important philosopher for the field of music, it is, however, important to take into consideration that Susanne Langer is not referring to music in general, and not to the act of musicking that we are doing in music therapy, but she is writing about the western traditional art-music.

I will comment upon this, although this is probably bringing new themes into the discussion. (We’ll see how the moderator responds to this…) Why should we consider music a language? My initial answer is: Simply because therapy is communication.

When we regard music as a language, this implies that the musical interaction is understood as communication. Sami Alanne was critizising this approach arguing that this was reducing the musical experiences and our concept of music. According to a traditional linear transference model of communication, I will indeed agree upon that critizism. But another model of communication will understand communication as the process of mutual sharing and creating meaning (Carey 1989). The sweedish cultur –reasearcher Johan Fornäs (1995) suggests communication could be understood as a process that always will include both of these models. Such an understanding of communication will include also the proto-conversations, the transference of meanings, the ritual sharing of belifs, the expressions of feelings. Our broadened concept of communication will include the functions of descriptive forms of Langer, but it will also include the presentational function and the expressive function.

As I have argued before in this discussion, there are features of the musical interaction that are closely related to the early and pre-verbal communication between the infant and the care-giver. These most basic features of communication which are studied in the interaction between mother and infant, are often described in musical terms, and several researchers regard this early interaction to be a basic form of communication that precedes the development of both language and music. Further, these basic aspects of communication can be regarded as the foundations of the musical interaction in music therapy. The improvisational musical interaction in music therapy has structural and emotional aspects that are similar to those of the protoconversation. This would not imply a regression, but it means that the musical interaction is one of mutuality. It is also important for me to underline that the musical expressions in music therapy necessarily are cultural expressions of meaning as well. Our musical language has a lot of communicational functions, music has no fixed meanings, but it is always significant. Further, the musical interplay that creates these meanings, will always imply a mutuality that seems to be so important when it comes to human growth and development.

Ansdell, Gary (1995). Music for life.London: Jessica Kingsley publishers.

Langer, Susanne K.(1942). Philosophy in a new key. London: Harward university press.

Langer, Susanne K. (1953). Feeling and form. New York: Charles Scribner’s sons.

Carey, James W. (1992). Communication as culture. New York: Routledge.

Fornäs, Johan (1995). Cultural theory & late modernity. London: Sage Publications.

February 5, 2001, Sami Alanne, Music therapist, Helsinki, Finland:


Music, meaning and symbolic forms

In her last contribution, Rolvsjord (January 10, 2001) accused me about reductionism because I do not consider music as language. She claimed that I wrote – in my contribution A need to explain and control – the fundamental human problem? – that I do not think music has meaning. This is not so. I think she had not carefully read my sentence: “Music has syntax but implicit meaning and it may be communicative though but it is misleading to call it language or pre-verbal.” It clearly expresses that music may have meaning and it may also be communicative. What I meant by “implicit meaning” is that music does not have a clear meaning like words have and for that reason it can not be language. Langer (1942; 1953) herself did not consider music as a language like I correctly quoted her because of this: She precisely uses the word “import” instead of “meaning” in the context of music because music does not have accurate meaning. However, she does not claim that music has not any meaning but it is not discursive art. That is what I also postulate in accordance with her, Cassirer (1944) and Rauhala (1989) and to whom I referred in my former arguments.

Rolvsjord mentioned the symbolic forms in her latest contribution and she was right that Langer’s philosophy was based on them. The philosophy of symbolic forms comes from Cassirer (ibid.) and with them he meant the various expressions of culture that have its power from the spirit (Geist). The symbolic forms he also called cultural forms. Cassirer postulated that art, science, language, and myth are similar symbolic forms and they all have their foundation in mythical and undifferentiated thinking. The experience of them always begins from the emotional, intuitive thinking that does not require words (see also Schaverien, 1999). However, in his epistemological theory he considered that the science is the most developed and differentiated thinking compared to language, art and myth. Cassirer also saw science, language and art, including music, as diverse symbolic forms, expressions of culture, even though they have the same origin in mythical thinking. Language was more capable to differentiated thinking according to him than music, so, it could not be language. Cassirer did not think music had no meaning, actually all experiences were always meaningful to him and therefore symbolic, because the pure phenomenon hides itself underneath the layers of meaning continuously. It can not be separated from them. Our former experiences are always shaping our knowledge and scientific concepts. With his philosophy of symbolic forms Cassirer argued against the concept of objectivity in science. He did not believe that we could ever find the final and total truth in science. This is my opinion too. Anyway, he postulated that we should still try to reach it, and I agree with him.

Langer (1953) also talks about arts as the dynamic forms that include music too. Music can not be discursive form because it does not clearly convey meaning, rather it is expression of emotions, dynamic forms, where a listener may her-/himself provide its meaning. According to Langer music is a symbolic form that presents emotion and where one can find his or her own feelings. So, in accordance with Cassirer’s philosophy she postulates music is a presentational form of art and not discursive form like prose for example.

In conclusion, Rolvsjord can not lean on Langer if she wants to argue that music is language. Music is communicative like Rolvsjord correctly argues but it does not make it language yet. If we would think that we can call music language because it may be communicative, then we would have to admit that bird song and other animal sign calls are language too. But this is against the mainstream conception of language in psychology and linguistics and it would not make sense. Human language is so elastic, creative and differentiated that our animal friends have no similar ability to communicate. I stress I am not arguing music can not have referential meaning that includes language at all. Imagery is many times in a form of words but all human experiences and thoughts do not require words; this is what Rolvsjord seems to forget. Human language also expresses the spirit of an individual like music and other cultural phenomena. This is very different when compared to animals. I have missed this aspect in the current debate of the biological origin of music that tries to make music as a tool for language learning (Grinde, 2000; Merker, 2000; Christensen, 2000). I dare to doubt that but please educate me if I am wrong in my following arguments.

The evolutionary aspect of music

Why cannot we think music and language have evolved separately? In the light of Cassirer’s epistemology they are diverse cultural forms and it is the culture in my opinion that really makes music and art. I can even imagine that a cave man had a need to express his or her feelings like we do and maybe the cave man did it with humming or other voices. Maybe s/he screamed in physical pain or in grief of a dead child when s/he found that voices expressed comforted him or her. Later, they maybe found it pleasurable to analyse and control sounds like we do. It was Kohut and Levarie (1950/1978) that proposed that the enjoyment of music has its origin in the early loud sounds that a baby fears. Later, when the infant learns to handle sounds in his or her mind s/he enjoys it because then the baby unconsciously handles the early trauma of terrifying loud voices. Kohut and Levarie argued this with the Moro reflex that a newborn has when s/he hears sudden loud sound. This is also an aspect that has not been pondered in the current evolutionary discussion of music. I postulate that human ability to hear, control and separate sounds has evolved because it helped in the survival of species. The loud voice in the forest made an ape or a baby to grip the mother when a predator was approaching and it was necessary to escape fast. It is logical that the hearing of humans developed as accurate as it did because if one could separate various noises in the dark jungle effectively it could save one’s life. As adults we are experiencing loud sounds threatening and look out them like Kohut and Levarie described. Music’s frequency is about the same as our hearing ability and I do not think it is because of music but the survival of species. However, I propose that it is the survival of species that made it pleasurable the differentiation of various sounds. I think this was before language and made possible the evolution of music as a separate cultural and meaning system than language. I postulate that human language evolved from the need to express oneself more accurately than with gestures and sounds but the purpose was totally different than with music. The other species do not have music and language in a way we have but their mind is different too. The reason for this could be that the human was more accurate to differentiate information, including sounds. This led to the birth of music and language as separate symbolic forms in my opinion.

This evolutionary and psychoanalytic theory is pure interpretation and is also what I meant with analogies between psychoanalysis and evolutionary psychology in their speculative nature. There is no way to prove these issues with the experimental method that the natural science insists. However, I am not claiming that my proposition is nothing but interpretation after interpretation and this is the issue I want to stress. In my opinion, it would be wrong to present them as objective truths and not as my subjective conclusions. So, I am criticising the writing style and research that presents us “objective truths” like there was not the subjectivity and the human behind the concepts and no interpretation at all. This is Cartesian dualism or splitting as Siirala (in Alanne & Uimonen, 2000) and I have called it.

Radical cultural relativism

I can not agree with the radical cultural relativism that Rolvsjord proposes – it does not make sense. It ends up with similar reductionism and flaws in human study as the radical brain research that approaches mythology. We can take the gravity as an example, I agree with Kennair that we cannot dismiss its existence with saying that it is cultural interpretation. We are very sure that there exists such power though we do not exactly know what it is. So, it is a construct but it really exists as a law of nature. My heart beats and in my brain there is electricity we can meter; we can not argue that they are just matters of interpretation. If we only consider them as cultural interpretation and meaning, then we forget the physical reality that is one part of the mind, the body and the situation – the human existence. The opposite, similar mistake in the area of the body and the physical world is that if one does economic research of the shifts in exchange rates and only studies the coin, trying to solve the dilemma with analysing the structure, shape, colour etc. of the coin, ,, , ,, the physical thing. Then the research does not consider the cultural and social aspects of the exchange rates properly, which really affect them usually. This is analogous to what happens when we only study the brain and try to find there the reasons for disorders in meaning or evolution. Of course brain lesions and other neurological disorders are exceptions. So, cultural relativism has its boundaries and in my opinion it would be poor philosophy to argue something that does not match with our experiences of the world (Alanen, 1997).

Freud and the relevancy of his theories

Kennair asked me what makes Freud an appreciated scientist. Psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and philosopher Siirala (in Alanne & Uimonen, 2000) considers that Freud was important because he discovered the resistance that has to do with how the human does not want a change in his or her life even when it would help him or her. I have noticed this phenomenon in nursing, music teaching and therapy. The second thing Siirala mentioned was the free association, it enabled the expression of matters in a form where was no moralising: anything that came to mind was allowed to say. Freud insisted that we should start to listen what patients say, because their symptoms are meaningful for them and tell us what is the matter with a patient. Symptoms and fantasies were not just nonsense. He was the first to present therapy that has its foundation in a dialogue; a patient and therapist were also in an equal position. The third thing is the transference he discovered, the way an individual transfers his or her own representations to other people and repeats the old and many times distorted models of behaviour. However, Siirala criticises Freud because he did not include the sociopathology in his concept of transference that is essential to Siirala’s thoughts. I agree in these issues with Siirala and I want to add that there is revolutionary understanding and encountering of human sexuality and weaknesses in Freud’s sexual theories (Freud, 1905/1971). Freud (1904/1954) also proposed that we are all neurotics somehow. So, he did not divide ill and healthy people, if we use these expressions, but made them in a way equal. I have to admit that I still find these issues relevant to my thoughts and work and in my opinion they raise Freud to an appreciated scientist: not as a natural scientist but as a humanist. However, I admit that Freud’s theories are explanatory, mechanical and over-deterministic and I can not accept it. Still, I postulate that concepts like the ego, the id etc. also depict essential aspects of the psyche. It is relevant to talk about existential phenomenology in the context of him, though this philosophy had not even developed when he had his revolutionary insights.

In conclusion, I could say that these aspects of Freudian theory apply to music therapy still today and are very essential to it. For instance, Bruscia’s (1998) fine book The Dynamics of Music Psychotherapy is all about transference and countertransference. It is important to remember that psychoanalysis is not one cohesive theory but it consists of lot of different theories that may even be opposites to each other, like Lehtonen once said. So, it is not accurate and wise always to criticise Freud in the context of psychoanalysis because there has been many theorists after him.

Kennair (2000, pp. 29, 33) proposed biopsychosocial therapies instead of psychoanalytic therapy and has not much told us what they should be in his opinion. I think we deserve to hear it because he is willing to dismiss psychodynamic therapies, which maybe are the most common psychotherapies in the world. When he adds the word “neurocognitive” to his demands of future therapy it makes me suspicious: For instance, the term biopsychosocial does not tell us much. Anything can be biopsychosocial treatment…Even neurolept medication may be called biopsychosocial treatment because it affects the brain, the psyche and the social relationships. Traditional hospital treatment may also be called biopsychosocial, so, is there anything really new in Kennair’s proposal? I am not satisfied with the current “biopsychosocial” or neurocognitive models of treatment in psychiatry and I am not happy with a natural scientific research model applied in human studies either. Natural scientific research objectifies individuals and has changed our image of man to a zombie, like Malik (2000) depicts. It treats individuals like machines, computers, or beasts which do not have their own mind and free will in their destinies. It denies that there is any interpretation or reductionism in the picture they create of the man. This is not what I want. What would then be a better approach to empirical research and therapy? It is what I would like to discuss and consider.

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Alanne, Sami & Uimonen, Pirjo (2000). Musiikki, sairaus ja hoito psykoanalyysin ja filosofian näkökulmista. Martti Siiralan ajatuksia sokratelaisen dialogin hengessä. Musiikkiterapia 2/2000 [in print].

Bruscia, Kenneth (ed.) (1998). The dynamics of music psychotherapy. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

Cassirer, Ernst (1944). An essay on man. An introduction to a philosophy of human culture. New Haven–London: Yale University Press.

Christensen, Erik (2000). Music precedes language: comment on Grinde`s article. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy Vol. 9, no 2, pp. 32–35.

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Grinde, Bjørn (2000). A biological perspective on musical appreciation. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy Vol. 9, no 2, pp. 18–27.

Kennair, Leif Edward Ottesen (2000). Developing minds for pathology and musicality: The role of theory of development of personality and pathology in clinical thinking illustrated by the effect of taking an evolutionary perspective. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy Vol. 9, no 1, pp. 26–37.

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Malik, Kenan (2000). Man, beast and zombie. What science can and cannot tell us about human nature. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Merker, Björn (2000). A new theory of music origins: the language auxiliary hypothesis. Comment on Grinde’s article. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy Vol. 9, no 2, pp. 28–31.

Rauhala, Lauri (1989). Ihmisen ykseys ja moninaisuus. SHKS.

Schaverien, Joy (1999). The revealing image. Analytical art psychotherapy in theory and practise. London–Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

© 2000/2001 Nordic Journal of Music Therapy
(last updated January 10, 2000 by Rune Rolvsjord)