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Thomas Cogswell Upham's Psychology of Holiness and Peace

Thomas Cogswell Upham's Psychology of Holiness and Peace

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Published by John Uebersax
Information on American psychologist Thomas Cogswell Upham (1799 – 1872)
Information on American psychologist Thomas Cogswell Upham (1799 – 1872)

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Published by: John Uebersax on Oct 26, 2013
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Home
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Psychology and Religion
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[Thomas Cogswell Upham]
Thomas Cogswell Upham
(1799
 – 
1872) dominated American academic psychology inthe mid-19'th century. Though little remembered today, there is much in his work towarrant attention by modern readers and scholars. In particular, Upham attempted, and, toa very significant degree, succeeded, to meld scientific psychology with practicalspirituality.1 Life2 Works3 Theories3.1 Epistemology3.2 Anthropology3.3 Mysticism: The Unitive Life3.4 Positive psychology4 SignificanceReference NotesUpham BibliographyResources
Life
 At first glance, Upham's biography might suggest the stereotype of a dutiful academic,quietly teaching and publishing in a university career spanning many decades. His popular and extremely successful textbooks brought prestige and funds to Bowdoin College,nestled in the picturesque, coastal hamlet of Brunswick, Maine. Upham's personality --shy, bookish, conscientious and, self-effacing to a fault -- only contributes to thestereotype. Yet at the same time we must recognize the extraordinary
activity
of Upham,not in the sense of an obvious, frenetic energy, but in his ability to accomplish so much,through persistence and diligence, in so may fields. Besides his long and distinguishedacademic career, Upham was an accomplished poet, a recognized leader in the NewEngland anti-war and abolition movements, and, if we may characterize his involvementwith the 'holiness movement' in such terms, a religious reformer.A chronology of Upham's life is as follows:
l
Born, 1799, Deerfield, New Hampshire
l
Father, Nathaniel Upham, a U.S. Congressman from New Hampshire and aJeffersonian Republican 
l
Family moved to Rochester, New Hampshire
l
 American Sketches
(1819) - poetry
l
Graduated Dartmouth College, 1821
l
Marriage to Phebe Lord (1804
 – 
1882)
l
Andover Seminary (3 years; outstanding student)
l
Pastor at the Congregational Church in Rochester, NH (2 years, 1823 - 1824)
l
Professor of Moral and Mental Philosophy, Bowdoin College, Maine (1825
 – 
 1867)
l
 Elements of Intellectual Philosophy
(1st. ed., 1827)
l
 Mental Philosophy
(2 vols; 1831)
l
Treatise on the Will 
(1834; "regarded perhaps as his ablest production")
l
 Religious Offerings
(1835) - poetry
l
 Manual of Peace
(1836)
l
Collaboration withPhoebe Palmer (1839
 – 
40), Methodist and pioneer of the'holiness movement'
The Legacy of ThomasCogswell Upham
 
An American Psychology of Holiness and Peace
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l
Outlines of Imperfect and Disordered Mental Action
(1840)
l
 Prize Essays on a Congress of Nations
(1840)
l
Vice-president,American Peace Society(1843 - 1872)
l
 Principles of Interior or Hidden Life
(1844)
l
 Religious Maxims
(1846)
l
 Madame Guyon
(1847; 1858; 1862])
l
 American Cottage Life
(1850) - poetry
l
The Uphams befriendHarriet Beecher Stowe(early 1850s); hosted her while shewrote
Uncle Tom's Cabin
); the Upham home was reportedly part of theUnderground Railroad.
l
Travel - Upham visited England and Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany andItaly, Egypt and the Holy Land (1852)
l
The Life of Faith
(1857)
l
Treatise on Divine Union
(1857)
l
Retired from Bowdoin (1867)
l
Moved to Kennebunkport (Phebe's hometown)
l
Honorary Doctor of Law, Rutgers College, New York (1870)
l
Christ in the Soul 
(1872) - poetry
l
Passes away following stroke; last coherent words reportedly: "My soul... is withGod" (1872)
Works
 Upham's written corpus can be divided into four categories: (1) academic psychology; (2)spirituality (with an emphasis on interior mental life, ascetical psychology, and Christianmysticism); (3) peace; and (4) poetry. Most of his major works are listed in theBibliography section below.Many of Upham's books, especially his academic texts, were reprinted many times. His
 Elements of Mental Philosophy
, for example, was printed and reprinted in various formsover 50 times during his life. This complicates citation slightly -- and one is never quite surewhat minor editing occurred from one version to the next -- but this is a negligible issue.Upham wrote in a deliberate, thoughtful style, ever precise in its choice of terms, and subtlein nuance. His psychological works are not difficult, but their precise style does requireattentive reading. A practical suggestion for the prospective student of Upham would be to begin with his more accessible works, for example, his biographies of Catherine of Genoaor Madame Guyon, in order to gain familiarity with his style, before tackling the more
academic works.
Theories
 Here we do not attempt a comprehensive or detailed presentation of Upham's theories.Rather, the goal is to present some of his leading ideas -- chiefly by means of extracts --with the hope of eliciting in readers an interest in consulting Upham's works directly.Upham's theories can be understood with reference to four areas: his epistemology, hisanthropological model, his view of the end,
telos
, or good, towards with human activity isdirected, and, last, what we may term his ascetical-mystical psychology.
3.1 Epistemology
 Upham accepted introspection as a legitimate and indispensable basis of scientific psychology. He repeatedly asserted the value of introspection, as, for example, in theintroduction to
Treatise on the Will 
:"In entering upon a discussion of the various questions, connected with theWill, it is perhaps proper to remark upon the course, which we deem itexpedient to pursue. It will be our desire to rely mainly upon facts, and theobvious deductions from them; and to avoid, as much as possible, merespeculation. The indulgence of speculation is often flattering to pride of intellect, and is perhaps indicative of the consciousness of mental power; but itis not on all subjects, unless controlled and mitigated by a frequent recurrenceto facts, favorable to the ascertainment of truth. The inquiries before us, so far at least as the mode of conducting them is concerned, ought to be prosecutedin essentially the same manner as our inquiries into the physical world. Whatwe wish to know are the simple facts that exist, and the general laws which
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they obviously develope and prove, in distinction from mere conjectures,however ingenious they may be." (
Treatise on the Will 
1.1, p. 17)The "facts" here include the conscious awareness of mental processes and states, madeevident by introspection. Thus, for Upham, introspection is consistent with, not opposed to,the scientific method of the physical sciences. Reliance on introspective data is, in part, anecessity, since many of the most important elements of psychological life
 – 
- for example,happiness, love, insight, virtue -
 – 
are by nature private. A scientific method that neglectssuch private events, or which suggests that, because they are not capable of publicobservation and measurement, they are of little scientific value or interest, is of limitedvalue.To affirm the value private mental events in scientific psychology, Upham appealed to boththe subjective salience of these states -- that is, it is plainly evident to each person that heor she has such experiences -- and to the reasonably uncontroversial premise that thesestates are universal, such that all men and women experience them in at least fairly similar ways:"As the emotions are simple states of the mind, it would be of no avail toattempt to define them; but the knowledge of them must be left to thetestimony of each one's consciousness. But it is to be presumed, that no oneis ignorant of what is meant when we speak of cheerfulness, of wonder, of melancholy, of beauty, grandeur, and the like." (
Treatise on the Will 
3.25, p.55)Another example will help show the importance Upham placed on introspection andcommon experience:"It is exceedingly desirable, that every one should reflect carefully and patiently upon the nature of desire and the nature of volition, as they presentthemselves to our internal notice in those various circumstances of enticementand temptation and action, in which we daily find ourselves placed. Thosecases in particular deserve notice, which not unfrequently occur, where thevolitions exist, and where we resolve to carry our plans into effect, indisregard of certain opposing desires, which have been overruled and baffled.Has not every man had this experience?" (
Treatise on the Will 
5.47, pp. 87-89)He understood the negative reaction this approach might provoke:"We are aware, that this proposed course is not altogether in accordance withwhat is termed the spirit of the age, which seems to call constantly for exaggeration; for what is novel, strange, and unprecedented; for somethingthat will arouse and astonish, rather than convince. But this diseased andinordinate appetite for novelty and excitement ought to be rebuked rather thanencouraged; and least of all should it be permitted to find nourishment andsupport in the calm regions of philosophy. Let us then proceed
relyingchiefly upon facts and the legitimate inferences which they furnish, andindulging as little as possible in speculation, be content with what we may beable to establish on a firm foundation, without complaining, that our limitedand imperfect powers require some things to be left in obscurity. (
Treatise onthe Will 
1.1, pp. 18-19)Upham's approach, uniting introspection and
mental philosophy
, follows theEnlightenment tradition pioneered by John Locke, and perhaps even more reflects theinfluence of the Scottish
Common Sense
school of philosophy. That tradition, associatedwith Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart, Sir James Mackintosh and others, upheld the value of introspection and maintained that any true psychology must conform to the common viewsof humankind, which are generally a more reliable guide to truth than elaborate theories.Further, colloquial language, which tends to express the common views and insights of humankind, was also considered to constitute valid empirical data on which to basescientific analysis and theoretical inquiry.Partly due to this epistemology, Upham's psychology was able to place strong emphasis onthe interior life of the person, exploring its subtleties in ways that would be difficult or impossible if one were restricted to a positivist, behaviorist, or physiological reductionistscientific method.
3.2 Anthropology
 There is a remarkable unity and coherence to Upham's writings, psychological,
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