Sunday, October 28, 2012

Paper Flowers

In Memoriam to Dr. Harry Aron, My Master's of Psychology Thesis Professor and Friend. I want to share a few thoughts and part of a paper he presented at a symposium that I participated in, too.

I just found out about the death of my one time mentor in graduate school, a professor that was of absolute necessity for me in earning my Master's Degree in Psychology. I was being nostalgic about my past and I looked him up on-line only to find out he died. Perhaps another hard lesson learned by me.

Soon after meeting him, I discovered we had a common love of Asian culture, intellectual honesty, and a variety of artistic endeavors found in Japanese culture such as history of the samurai, haiku, cooking with a wok, and Noh theater. He found it amusing that I had an interest in both Italian and Chinese Opera as well as Boxing and Sumo Wrestling.  

I was working rotating 40, 48, and 48 hour work weeks at the time with a family to support while I was taking 16 units of course work. It was difficult but doable. We both believed in my work-ethic at the time but, he also believed in my intellect, which I never did nor ever will, and without him, I literally would not have entered Graduate School, presented my Master's Thesis to a meeting of The Western Association of Psychologists, or earned a Master's Degree in Psychology. 

He was personally kind and considerate to those he respected but it was rumored his classes were difficult to pass and the work assignments were massive. While an undergraduate, I took an Abnormal Psychology class from him that started with 165 students and ended with about twenty-five students. Over fifty students dropped the class the first week after he mapped out the curriculum and testing standards. He also told everyone it would be the most difficult class they ever had and there were two other Abnormal Psychology classes available being taught by other Professors. The class 'gulped.' The rumor was true.

It turned out he gave his lecture every other Tuesday, and traditional reading assignments on Thursdays and gave a test every-other Tuesday. Six major comprehensive tests and an unbelievably difficult final exam to master in a sixteen week course with four textbooks to read from cover-to-cover. Very few students passed his first test (the second week of class) and another fifty or more students dropped out. The third week more students dropped before the deadline was past. Of the twenty-five students that completed the class there was a mixture of C's and B's, no D's or Failures, and 3 A's.

I received a "fail" grade on the first test and went to see him. He told me, as most students, I had to learn how to answer the questions exactly rather than write my own opinions. He looked at my failed exam and said, "Not to bad, you should stay in my class, keep your opinions to yourself, and you might be capable of learning something."

The next test (the third week in class) I received a "C" grade and by the third test an "A." I stuck with the class and discovered he traditionally dropped one test grade and the final would be worth one-third of the final grade achieved. With my "fail grade" being dropped I went into the final with a chance at an "A" grade for the course.

Two students went into the final test with an 'A' grade and after the final, a third 'A' grade for the course was awarded that semester. I was graduating that year and had applied to the School of Psychology's Graduate Program. I had made it to the "stand by list" of students with a good chance, but not a guarantee, of being admitted. He called me to his office and asked if I wanted to be his Graduate Assistant. I told him I was on standby and he said not any longer as he showed me he personally had me admitted. He said anyone that could ace one of his final exams should be in graduate school.

I'll always remember on the day my daughter was born, by then I was his Graduate Assistant, Professor Aron came to the hospital with a Japanese-made folding paper flower as a gift for my beautiful baby daughter, Tracy Renee. Actually, at first I was worried she wasn't beautiful because a nurse said she looked "just like me."

To this day, I'm sentimental when it comes to paper flowers . . . what an elegant and thoughtful gift.

Perhaps there are future memories to be lived and to write about as these sixty-seven years of old memories fade away into a past not so consequential or meaningful to anyone alive but me, after-all.  

This is part of Dr. Aron's paper presented at that Association meeting held in San Francisco:

The argot which allows primacy to the 'one of one' relationship has totally swallowed Freud. Let me give an FDA caveat to this ingestion. This mongrel claim (see: the ordinary language philosophers) that an account of 'psycho-therapeutic' interchange is 'one on one,' reveals hope dragged out as knowledge (remember Mr. Dawson's quoting Koch on this bit of legerdemain). One careful account (impossible for Freud the reductionist) of the exchange termed therapy is: 'One on zero.' (This phrase emerged in one of my lectures.) The 'zero' is you, me, everyone, or that part of every person ('just that part' Freud was after) which is different; that which in the Classical Age (as Foucault has demonstrated) wasn't there (remember G. Stein 'On Oakland'); and which in the Modern age was locked into 'existence' by the Modern episteme. That very presence, the knower, radicalized (as we now say) the episteme, signaled (among other facets) the Modern episteme's total break with the Classical discourse (hence the sleight of hand comparisons of Kuhn and Foucault). The knower (Foucault's MAN-an expanded definition of that critical term in a moment) is authorized in the Modern age as inalienable authority, along with and separate from the authority of science. The knower, called forth in the break with the discourse of the Classical age, saw as his legend the demise of a single authority, namely; the word. Representation was the calendar of the Classical age. The 'word knew.'I have attempted to sketch for you Foucault's arguments: 1. That neither science nor psychology can speak of/as MAN; 2. That the human sciences (those parts of psychology, linguistics, sociology, ethnology, et al, which attempt to speak of/as MAN are not science, but imitation of the philosophical discourse of the 18th century, and 3. That the standard explanations for the lack of progress of the science of psychology are delusion. I am suggesting that to speak of/as MAN is to violate the guarantees of our founding documents: the guarantee of equality (which I read as the inviolability of differences), and the guarantee that power to govern (e.g. speak) rests solely in the people (which I read: in the individual). Since a professed aim of psychology is to draw man into science, into nomotheticness, thus into sameness, a collision course has existed ever since that aim was enunciated at the birth of psychology. The archaeological analysis of Foucault has exposed the double folly of that aim.

For those of you who would push aside Foucault, to rescue psychology (whatever that is): let me alert you to another older combat, Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein takes man (the language user) out of nature-thus out of the grasp of science. He eliminates, as factual discourse, any part of psychology involving language usage. Wrestle with that. 

Knowledge shall not, finally, know the knower. And, add to that: whatever Psychology is, MAN is not a part of it.

Aron, H. (1977, September). Psychology OR man. In Dawson R. E., Ralph, K., Sharma, S. L., Aron, H., Psychology OR Man: Neither Nor Either or. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the American Psychological Association.


  1. Mr.Dawson,

    Remember I reader who comment on your wonderful book. Sorry for loss of your Professor. I cannot find nomotheticness in dictionary. What is meaning?

    Your Reader,

    Naoko Nakagawa

  2. Ms. Nakagawa,

    Thanks again for the previous comment about my novel and thanks for your comment and question now.

    You would have to look up the adjective: nomothetic and drop the "ness" to find it in the dictionary. Nomothetic means "of or relating to the study or discovery of general scientific laws." Dr. Aron created his own word by adding "ness" which general means a "state of being." So one of the things he is saying is that Psychology is trying to achieve (by abusing language) a state of having or discovering general scientific laws (Of Man)that are coequal to that of the laws of physics which cannot be done in his view. He refers, earlier to my lecture "(remember Mr. Dawson's quoting Koch on this bit of legerdemain)" as pointing to using language(legerdemain = trickery or deceit)which does not lead to "laws of man" but to senselessness (i.e., the state of being senseless). My paper was on misuse of language in psychology. One of my points was that by psychology "borrowing from" the language of medicine and applying it to so-called psychological laws via Descartes's mind/body dualism, psychology fell into nonsense. As you can imagine, not well received by the participants at the symposium.

    I hope my explanation answers your question.