What would philosophers do without their critics? Since antiquity, in the monologues, conversations, stories, aphorisms, responses to questions, and questions posed to students and friends, philosophers from north and south, east and west have contended with their critics and their critics with them. Philosophy has, from time immemorial, been undertaken in dialogical vein. Critics might notice mistakes or omissions, things yet needing clarification, revision, and extension. Faced with their critics, philosophers must push themselves harder to grasp the import of others’ ideas, better articulate their own perspectives, and more clearly explain their views to themselves and others. If not for these critics, important questions may go unexamined, assumptions unexplored, and practices untested. For the critic, there is also the possibility of gaining insight from another’s views or being persuaded by the power of another’s argument. The philosopher’s ideas are impacted, and even shaped, at least in part, by those with whom one engages in philosophical conversation. Philosophy is undertaken with others, and dissent as much as assent is valued as a means of gaining wisdom.
In this issue, our writers criticize aspects of extant and present theory and practice in music education. Their ideas are couched within the philosophical ideas of Heidegger, Adorno, and Derrida, set against empirical research evidence, and proposed within the context of recent writing about music education and music. Not surprisingly, they agree and disagree about the appropriate objectives and methods of music education. Their criticisms are directed towards those from whom they gain inspiration or the intellectual tools to grasp a problem at hand, practice and research in music education, and the arguments of others with whom they disagree. Readers in search of a unified position or practical plan [End Page 95] for music education may miss the very spark that ignites the work of philosophy, namely, a commitment to dissent, to unmask taken-for-granted assumptions and errors of judgment, and, if possible, find better questions and answers to those questions. Philosopher and critic alike revel in the questions and the conversations prompted by their differing perspectives.
In thinking about musical experience as existential experience, Frederik Pio and Øivind Varkoy critique approaches to music education that focus on music’s instrumental purposes as a means to other ends. Instead, they highlight the importance of music qua music. Drawing on Heidegger’s theories as a means of explaining music’s ontological qualities, they posit that music serves a spiritual purpose of crystalizing experience, intimately connecting inner and outer life, and bringing us face-to-face with life’s compelling existential questions.
Paul Louth finds aspects of critical formalism drawn “loosely” from Adorno’s views, notably, the conception of negative dialectic, to be helpful as a frame for deconstructing taken-for-granted assumptions and practices in music and music education. Two examples are offered of how such an approach might work practically in music education, notably in music listening and music education discourse. In Louth’s view, this critical approach has benefits that enhance not only musical understanding but other aspects of life as well.
For Peter Dale, notwithstanding the problematic character of Derrida’s conception of justice, and the challenges of exemplifying justice in the music classroom, something like Derridean justice is practically possible. Drawing on his use of DJing and MCing in his inner-city music classroom, he illustrates how the project of ethical practice in his classroom can be viewed through the lens of Derrida’s ideas.
In her reflective essay, Deborah Pierce draws on empirical evidence to posit that musical and music education practices too often cause physical harm and go counter to wellness and health. Drawing on the work of June Boyce-Tillman, among others, Pierce calls for a paradigmatic shift toward an instrumental view of music education that promotes health and well-being. She offers practical suggestions of how such a broad plan of action could be envisaged and implemented. Her essay opens a nest of important philosophical questions for music educators: How should one construe wellness and health? How central should be the purposes of healthfulness and wellness to music education? Does it suffice to simply avoid doing physical harm, or are...