Rex Olson, director of Counseling Services at Alfred State College, served as a discussant at the symposium, “Psychology as a STEM Discipline and as Logos of the Soul: The Critical Necessity of the Humanities for Psychological Science,” at the American Psychological Association Conference in Washington, D.C., in August.
In response to the presenters that took a hard-line stance against scientific psychology, Olson sought to provide a theoretical context for how we should understand the deep division in psychology today between its scientific and humanistic forms.
In part he argued “while the title of the symposium may suggest that psychology as logos of the soul could simply be an ‘add on’ or a ‘supplement’ to psychology as a STEM discipline, the collective vision of these papers insists that both must be inextricably linked if we are truly to understand what we mean by psychology. The word ‘logos’ from the Greek, meaning both thought and speech, and the critical eye of the humanities, allow us to see what role the philosophic and the poetic play in co-constituting the foundation on which psychology as a STEM discipline can be said to exist. Although these papers argue against conceiving psychology as a STEM discipline, their critiques should not be understood as coming from a place wholly ‘outside’ and diametrically opposed to psychology in its scientific form. Rather, they should be viewed as radically contingent and parasitic to the discipline of psychology. In other words, to the extent that psychology and its criticism share ordinary language as their common ground, the meaning of psyche for these psychologists will always be something more and something other than the ‘rational mind,’ but never something separate and apart from it. The problem is that the discipline of psychology, as mere logos, as pure reason in a formal scientific sense, is empty without eros and blind without soul. So without the benefit of the humanities, psychology is at risk of producing knowledge that, in the final analysis, becomes irrelevant to understanding the psychological experience of our existence as human beings. The clearly defined limits of scientific psychology certainly give the discipline its much sought after prestige but at the cost of realizing a meaningful relationship with the humanities, and thus foreclosing, ironically, on the possibility of what it means to be psychological.”
Olson, of Wellsville, a member of the Alfred State staff since 2001, oversees a staff which offers personal counseling to students.
He holds several degrees: a PhD in clinical psychology and a master of arts degree in psychology from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh; a PhD and a master of philosophy degrees in the humanities, as well as a master of arts degree in sociology, from Syracuse University; and a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Additionally, he is the author of several scholarly articles.
Prior to joining the professional staff at Alfred State College, Olson worked as a therapist and as a classroom teacher of psychology and college writing courses.