PostmodernTherapies NEWS                 03/01/01
(Also known as PMTH NEWS)

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So we don't see what we do as a "fixing," 
and the process of social therapy is to help people to come to see that growth 
rather than repair 
is what's going to make a
difference to them. 
Fred Newman


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Postmodern Therapies NEWS
April 1,  2001


Fred Newman was Here!

If you read PMTH NEWS last month, you know that February 18th was the big day for our Fred Newman Event.  It was quite engaging,  and I have saved every word of it for you to peruse at your lesiure.  That is, you can find the record of our PMTH conversation with Newman just  by clicking here 

But before you do, please picture the context.  Before the Fred Newman event started a group of us busied ourselves reading some of Newman's papers. As the event approached we became more and more involved in talking about the issues Newman was discussing.

Then, on February 18th, the bit event happened.    You must picture a group of PMTH people sitting at their computers typing in questions at a quite rapid pace.  Then, imagine Fred Newman sending back his answers just about as fast as we could ask them.  I am calling the methodology "rapid email," for reasons I imagine you can guess.  In the future, PMTH will experiment with other methods for running events.  But, for now this method seems to work very nicely.  We are all posting in a steady stream and reading the emails as soon as they hit our mailboxes.

And the information we exchanged in the Fred Newman Event case was very informative.  If gave me the best picture yet of what Fred Newman and all the other social therapists believe. I hope you read the transcript and  see if you agree.  I think it is a sterling introduction to Fred Newman's thought.  I think I underestand it better, too, when I re-read it in the transcript than I did while it was happening. 

But for my busy readers, I'll also summarize what, for me at least, were the highlights of this event. That is,  I will put some of the Newman communications in my own words.  I'll let you check the transcript for your own reading.  When you do, notice that the transcript is organized around comment numbers.  I will use these as a system of reference.  This means that you can refer to the comments I am summarizing by noting the comment numbers I have inserted in parentheses.  if you print out the transcript (again, by clicking here) you can simply page down and read the original to check out the basis for the summary.   If you are reading this article online, you will be able to click your way through to the referenced remark at the point a reference is made.  Just click on the number in the parentheses.

In response to questions I (Lois Shawver) asked (1) Newman explained he is  interested in deconstructing the dichotomy between the individual and the group and also deconstructing the parallel dichotomy between the particular and the universal  ( 2 12).    To elaborate on this point as I understand it, our culture has taught us to think of people as doing things as individuals -- and this means that it has taught us that we should be blamed and credited as individuals.  the chemistry between people and the effects of the group culture is simply largely ignored in our understandings.  For example, if you say something that I think is offensive, my culture has taught me to see this as either "your fault" or "my fault" and not the result of either our collaborative interaction as a 2 person group nor the social culture we have created that contains and interprets our interaction. 

I think of Newman's suggestion that we deconstruct the dichotomy between individual and group as part of the postmodern critique of individualism.  A similar point has been made by other postmoderns, for example, by McNamee and Gergen.  I believe this issue of our need to deconstruct  individualism was central to Newman's concerns in his visit here on PMTH.  However, after creating the deconstruction of iundividualism a frame in his initial remarks on PMTH, most of his subsequent remarks addressed how this concern is played out in the way Newman sees his work with clients.

For example, Newman made a related point in his  response to questions by Val Lewis (3).   In his response to Lewis, Newman objected to therapists individuating problems in a way that blames the individual or conceptualizes the individual as somehow in need of being fixed (4). 

Elaborating further on this theme, Newman told Riet Samuels (7) that what guides his work as a therapist is his belief in the creative impulse that can be fostered in groups.  This group creative ability fosters "cure" or resolution of problems that people bring to therapy (8).

But, more specifically , how does this work?  Newman explained to  Jerry Shaffer (15) that he fosters this creative impulse by encouraging people to improvise their responses in a way that fosters their development (16).  He answered Judy Weintraub's questions (11) by saying that he felt that it was easier to deconstruct indivualism when the group was larger than two (12). 

Riet Samuels (13) asked if he does individual therapy at all.  He explained that while he no longer does individual therapy himself, his co-therapists do.  Individual therapy helps people bring their problems into the group context.  In therapy, of course, people can continue to talk as though they were individuals.  His own therapy work consists, in part, in encouraging people to listen and connect with each other in ways that help people avoid individuating problems, that is, to avoid thinking of problems as belonging to individuals as opposed to groups (20).

Newman also talked about the way positivism in psychology bothers him.  He told Nick Drury (31) that he feels that 

for too long many forms of traditional psychology have been rooted in the postivistic notion that you could reduce emotional expressions and emotional language to certain combinations of core emotional states. (32)

Instead of looking at our emotions as 'core states' Newman follows the latter work of Wittgenstein.  which, so Newman said, "reflects on the fundamentality of process..." 

Judy Weintraub, who is a student of Wittgenstein, asked him what language he preferred over the language that talks of individuals being  fixed (9,).  Newman answered that he preferred to talk in terms of "development and "growth" 10). 

And, George Spears, who has worked with Newman,  pointed out that he felt that Newman's type of therapy helps people  stand up and choose who they they want to be.

"Right on," said the pleased Fred Newman as he sent us his last contribution to the February 2001 Fred Newman Event on PMTH.

Thanks to Fred Newman for visiting us, and also to Lois Holzman for her help in bringing the event off.  Remember, the entire transcript for the event is available.  Get to it by clicking here. 

Also, if you would like to learn more about Fred Newman and his colleagues,or about  upcoming events and publications please click here.

Do You Know What 
Analytic Philosophy Is?

What is "analytic philosophy?"  Do you know?  Well, if you are intersted in the kinds of things you might read in PMTH NEWS, you really should know what "analytic philosophy" is.  And, now, you have come to the right place to find that out.

Jerry Shaffer, will guide you through a clear, crisp and remarkably brief explanation.  Shaffer, as you will see by clicking on his name to read about him,  was chairman of a philosophy department for many years before he retired.  In this account of analytic philosophy he  tells us analytic philosophy is , today  the most widespread kind of philosophy in English speaking philosophy departments.  So, you want to know what it is.  Right?

Okay.  So, what it is?  Well, here's the link. Read it, and you'll know.  Just click here.

Elmer and Ellen
New Imaginary Conversations

Two more imaginary conversations have taken place in the lives of the Ellen and Elmer.  Ellen and Elmer, I you may recall, are fictional characters that are part of an ongoing collaborative composition project on PMTH. The hope is that the construction of such imaginary characters can help us explore therapy related issues and create a conversation about how to deal with such. 

In reading about Ellen and Elmer, you should keep in mind that we compose their lives almost entirely through our creation of the dialogues and conversations which we preserve in the form of transcripts.  No single author has complete control over what happens between the characters.  Each author, however, is committed to composing the next interaction in a way that makes sense within the frame of previous conversations.

Here is a brief summary of their story so far:  Elmer and Ellen have been married for six years and they have one son.  Since the son was born they have had little sexual contact.  Elmer confronted Ellen sometime ago expressing his dissatisfaction with their fairly asexual marriage.  His confrontation seemed thoughtful and perhaps even loving.  (We observed two online imaginary therapy sessions that Elmer had that may have encouraged him to be gently confrontive in this way.) 

When Elmer confronted  Ellen, however, she  made excuses.  And, at first, her excuses did not seem to explain much. Ellen said that she had gained some weight, for example, and it made her feel not sexy.  But Elmer said he had gained some, too, and that he was very attracted to her as she was.  Ellen said she was very busy at work, and had much to do when she finally did get home.  But Elmer selected moments to invite sexual contact in which she wasn't busy or particularly tired.  He made dinner for her one night.  He listened to her and spoke to her in a caring way.  And on all those occasions, Ellen  turned him down.  We have also seen Ellen talk with her boss.  She comes across as a person who can take up for herself without being aggressive.

Now, we have two new  conversations.   These give us a bit more of the puzzle as to what the problem is. One of these conversations is  between Ellen and her friend Jan.  In this conversation we learn that Ellen had at least a suspicion that Elmer has had an affair with a woman at work and that this affair was six years ago when Ellen was pregnant with their son Jeremy.  If this is so, it would explain a lot.  A glance at the transcript of the conversation between Ellen and Jan suggests that Ellen is harboring resentment about this possible affair.  Still, it is curious that this problem has not come up in the conversations that Ellen and Elmer have had to date.  Does Ellen know for sure that Elmer had had an affair?  Does Elmer know that Ellen knows or thinks he has had an affair?  You must make your own judgment at this point, and you can do do that by clicking here to read the transcript.

There is additional evidence on the possibility of an affair, too, in the second new transcript.  In, the second new transcript, Elmer had a fascinating conversation with Jill and it is clear something happened between them.  But what?  Remember, we are committed to writing within the context being created by these conversations so you can use them to guess what information will eventually come out.  You can read Elmer's conversation with Jill by  clicking here. 

And, that's where the Elmer and Ellen story is to date.  However, as i say, more is planned.  We already have another therapy session, for example, on the drawing board.  So watch for the next issue of PMTH NEWS to see what happens in the troubled but hopeful imaginary life of Elmer and Ellen.

Send a Note to a Friend 
about PMTH NEWS?
Lois Shawver

Would you like to tell someone about PMTH NEWS?  Just fill out the form below  and  click on the "send" button.  The invitation that goes out will include a special link that your friend can click on to arrive at this site.

Friends email:

Your name:



New Discourse Software 
for Us!

PMTH has access to a fabulous new software!  I am calling this software Discourse.  I don't know if the name will stick, but it seems appropriate, so I'll call it that here, at least.

Discourse was developed under the administration of Andrew Lock at Massey University.  The programming code was provided by Damian Brooks from New Zeland.  If you would like to learn more about  Lock and his development of Discourse, please read the transcript of my interview of  Lock by clicking here.  It's a good story.

And for anyone reading PMTH NEWS, Andrew Lock is worth reading about.  He is the architect of a much anticipated online University program which will offer a postgraduate diploma in Discursive Therapies.  (Click here to read more).  The Discourse sofware was developed to facilitate some of the special work the online faculty will do with student therapists.  I think it was especially tailored for the work PMTH will do when it joins the Lock's project eventually.

Allthough this new online university program is not yet subscribing students  we are studying the software, using it and working out any bugs.   But Discourse will, allow for the automated generation of transcripts while protecting the anonymity of the speakers.  Not only will this make it possible for us to talk about therapy process while protecting the identities of clients, student therapists and supervising therapists, but we will also be able to write imaginary transcripts collaboratively.  That is we can pool our experience as therapists to stage mock disputes, or discussion of mock problems and then work collaboratively to stage mock therapy sessions for the purpose of discussion and mutual training.

I had been discussing this software with Lock since its inception and followed its development with great interest and anticipation.   Many thanks to Lock's innovative work and also to his technical staff, particularly Damian Brooks.  I hope to provide you with some examples of these automated transcripts with the next issue of PMTH NEWS.  But do check out the interview of Andrew Lock in the meantime, in that it was done very quickly by using the Discourse.
To do that, just click here

Is Wittgensein a Behaviorist?
Part I

Tommy Parsons started a big discussion about a very important topic here on PMTH when wrote us all saying, "One issue that I have wondered about for some time now is whether or not a Wittgensteinian philosophy of language commits us (at least at some level) to the theoretical position of behavioral psychology."   Parsons reminded us that a classic article by Chihara and Fodor has argued that Wittgenstein is a "logical behaviorist."

Wittgenstein a behaviorist?  Not in my book.  But, of course, my simple knee-jerk opinion was hardly enough here in this philosophical forum.  There was just so much to be discussed.  Specifically, why did anyone think Wittgenstein was a behaviorist?  And why did I, or anyone else, think otherwise?  These were the questions we launched into over the next few weeks, and many posts flew back and forth on the topic. 

Both Jerry Shaffer and I turned exactly to the same section of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.  It is the section where Wittgenstein  talked about people thinking he might be a behaviorist.  I'll give you the section, but when you read it, remember that  Wittgenstein uses quotes to indicate that he is imagining someone is asking him a question.  Then, he speaks without quotes when he answers that qusetion.  Here are  the Wittgenstein quotes that both Shaffer and I independently provided:

307 "Are you not really a behaviourist in disguise? Aren't you at bottom really saying that everything except human behaviour is a fiction?" -If I do speak of a fiction, then it is of a grammatical fiction.

Then, in the very next passages, Wittgenstein added:

308....And now it looks as if we had denied mental processes. And naturally we don't want to deny them.

Grammatical Fictions

So, the question now becomes:  What does Wittgenstein mean by 
a "grammatical fiction"?  If Wittgenstein had thought it was a fiction that humans had "mental processes" then we would all have agreed that he was a behaviorist in the most most radical sense.  But, Wittgenstein denied that he thought mental processes were a fiction.  But he did say that he saw mental processes, at least in part, as "grammatical fictions."

So, what are grammatical fictions?  Shaffer and I worked on this together for a while, in unison.  Although we had similar examples to explain what we each thought were "grammatical fictions,"  I particularly liked Shaffer's example, which he said he took from a lecture he once heard by G.E. M. Anscombe, a disciple and translator of Wittgenstein.  Here's the example Shaffer gave from Anscombe:

In this example, a person goes down the stairs, stumbles at the bottom, and explains, "I thought there was another step there."  The way we talk about things makes it seem as though there was actually an introspective moment in which the person had the thought "I think there is another step there."  But, in truth there typically isn't such a moment.  We talk as if there is, but a little reflection suggests there is not.

I think that's a perfect example.  It is a grammatical fiction, however, only we are a bit surprised that there was not an introspective moment.  The fact that we expect there to have been an introspective moment of thought in order for the statement "I thought there was another step there" means we are mystified by the grammar of our language and do not often notice our introspective experience that would show us otherwise.

Here's another example of a grammatical fiction.  It is expressed a phrase that makes it seem as though there must be a a thought taking palce even though, when one looks introspectively, that thought is typically not there:

"Words are the expression of thoughts."

But what thoughts?  When you know what you want to say, don't you sometimes just say it?  Is there always a moment in which the thought hovers in mind and then words push the thought out through your mouth?  I think Wittgenstein would say this example also reveals a grammatical fiction because   while you might sometimes be filled with thoughts and looking for the right words, there are other times when the thoughts and the words emerge as one.  Still, if our practice is to talk as though words are the expressions of thoughts then we sometimes simply expect thoughts to be there that are not there.  In that case, we are looking at our "grammatical ficitons."

Nelson Thall and Nick Drury then give excellent examples of grammatical fictions other than the particular fictions of mental processes that Wittgenstein was addressing in the quote above.  This notion of "grammatical fiction" is really large, and it is useful to elaborate it by looking at grammatical fictions in a wide range of cases.  I believe that one of the most important thinkers to talk about them is George Lakoff, but there are others. 

However, back to the topic of mental processes and what it means when Wittgenstein says he thinks they are sometimes a grammatical fiction.  After all, our topic for this discussion is:

Is Wittgenstein a Behaviorist?

At this point, both Shaffer and I were saying that Wittgenstein was not a radical behaviorist.  My interpretation of Nick Drury's remarks at this time were that he, too, felt Wittgenstein was not a radical behaviorist.

And, Tommy parsons  added:

I do agree.  Wittgenstein asks us to notice our mental processes rather than rely on our grammatical fictions to know if we have them.

Issues remaining in discussion

Now, don't think that this ends our discussion.  There are still a number of important threads that we must work through.  We have pretty much decided Wittgenstein is not a radical behaviorist, yet perhaps he is a behaviorist of another type.  But what type?   And, if he's not a behaviorist of any type, then we still have the question of what it is that Wittgenstein believes about mental processes.

I believe that you're likely to have an article that details our explorations of  this important topic the next issue of PMTH NEWS.  Certain themes in our continued deliberations have already emerged.   Here's a preview of topics you can expect to be discussed because we have already begun discussing them.

We will talk about the "criteria" for mental processes that Wittgenstein talks about in aphorism [580].  Both Shaffer and Parsons have tried to return us to this topic which is the basis of the original article by Chihara and Fodor that inspired the whole discussion. 

We are also studying Wittgenstein's "beetle in the box" aphorism [293].  I In fact, I see a note on this topic in my PMTH mailbox by Judy Weintraub.

And so the plot thickens.  Is Wittgenstein a behaviorist?  It seems clear that he is not a radical behaviorist.  Is he a behaviorist at all?   Important question if you want to understand the thinking of this brilliant philosopher.

But, our judgment is not in yet.  We have much work to do.  If you want to know what we think on the basis of our deliberations, then I suggest you tune in next month for the next report on our investigations. 

Want to Read Past Issues of 

Thirty-two prior issues of this newsletter, Postmodern Therapies NEWS(also called  PMTH NEWS), are now available.  You can reach alisting of all prior issues, together with the names of the articles inthose issues, by clicking here.

Another way to read articles published in past issues of PMTH NEWS, or to read articles that were published as links from the PMTH NEWS front page, is by doing a search on the topic that interests you.  Justput the word or words you wish to look up in the search engine at the upperlefthand corner of this newsletter.  Notice that there are two kindsof searches.  One is for a search within PMTH NEWS documents and oneis for a search across the internet. 

Want to Join Us?

PMTH is a closed community for professional therapists, as well as scholars,professors and graduate students with specialities related to therapy. We keep our list reserved this way in order to have a special place for people who are concerned with doing good therapy to discuss their personal issues about therapy in some depth.  We go to other lists to discuss things with people who don't fit this profile.  If you want to inviteone of us to a list you're on, there is a way to do that.  Or, if you fit the profile for membership to PMTH, you can consider joining us.  Whichever you want, you can write me, by clicking


This will send a post to me, Lois Shawver.  Tell me of your interest. If you are looking to join us, also give me a little information aboutyourself that tells me how you fit the profile for joining the PMTH onlinecommunity.  And, in either case, .tell me that you got the idea towrite by reading PMTH NEWS.



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