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A Response to Tony Palmer, "Music Education and Spirituality: A Philosophical Exploration II"

From: Philosophy of Music Education Review
Volume 14, Number 2, Fall 2006
pp. 216-220 | 10.1353/pme.2007.0009

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Response to Tony Palmer, “Music Education and Spirituality: A Philosophical Exploration II”

My response to Anthony Palmer's paper on "Music Education and Spirituality" consists of certain thoughts and relevant literature aiming to support the ideas presented in the paper from a different perspective.

Exploring spirituality and music education Palmer examines (a) the Santiago Theory of Cognition, which acts as a connection between cognition and the process of life, (b) why music education can benefit from ideas of spirituality, and (c) music education and the paths that might be traveled to bring a higher level of consciousness to students, including special attention to process and product.

My comments and thoughts derive from ancient Greek Philosophy and mainly the ideas of Aristotle on organic nature and the living being, as well as the ideas of more recent philosophers and educationists like Robert Ulich on self-transcendence. These ideas, I believe, support Palmer's paper in relation to music education processes.

The Structure of the Living Being

According to Huberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, the theoretical biologists who originated the Santiago Theory of Cognition,

The perturbation of the environment does not determine what happens to the living being; rather it is the structure of the living being that determines what change occurs in it. This interaction is not instructive, for it does not determine what its effects are going to be. . . . The changes that result from the interaction between the living being and its environment are brought about by the disturbing agent but determined by the structure of the disturbed system.1

The structure of the living being, Soul, Mind, Emotions, and Body are terms that have occupied philosophical thought for centuries.

Soul, psyche in philosophical writings of the Greeks such as Aristotle, is a [End Page 216] general term for all those powers which plants and animals possess, but lifeless elements do not. Psyche is therefore of wider range than life (zoe), which is the power of self-maintenance common to plant and animal and is merely the foundation upon which higher physical capacities can be imposed.2

Plato in Phaedrus relates soul, Psyche-anima, with motion, kineses. Inanimate objects only move if motion is imparted to them by an outside force. Anything that can move itself on its own initiative we regard it as animate, that is having psyche. This power of moving itself is, indeed, in Plato's words "the essence and definition (ousia kai logos) of soul."3

Mind in Greek vocabulary is the word Nous which had been variously used. Anaxagoras and Empedokles had used it to cover all conscious processes. Later philosophers restricted Nous to that intellectual power which, as far as our certain knowledge extends, men alone display.4

In the course of time two problems were bound to arise for philosophers: the relation between the soul (psyche) and the body (soma) and the relation between nous in rational beings and psyche. Aristotle's central proposition is that soul and body are aspects of a single substance, standing to one another in relation of form to matter.5

Basic matters of Aristotle's psychology are (a) his account of sense- perception, (b) his account of the initiation of movement, and (c) his theory of the operation of Nous in human knowledge.6

Aristotle outlines a general theory for the functioning of the senses. Aesthesis (sense) is what we perceive through the senses and these could be images, sounds, flavors, or things touched. Aesthesis consists of the imprints on the mind of the particulars of the world in a variety of ways, whereas Noesis grasps the world of universals.7

Emotions and feelings and their relation to the mind were also problems that concerned philosophers. The Greek mystical philosopher, Plotinos, considers feelings of happiness or unhappiness reactions of the soul to its own states of perfection and imperfection. Herbart, one of the founders of modern learning, believes that our emotions and desires result from modifications occurring in our conceptual representations. In other words, feeling is a kind of pre-intellectual or post-intellectual state of mental life. Kant too considers emotion to be related to cognition, although he recognizes the sensuous origin of the...