Thomas Cogswell Upham

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Thomas Upham (January 30, 1799 – April 2, 1872) was an American philosopher, psychologist, pacifist, poet, author, and educator. He was an important figure in the holiness movement.[1] He became influential within psychology literature and served as the Bowdoin College professor of mental and moral philosophy from 1825-1868. His most popular work, Mental Philosophy received 57 editions over a 73-year period. Additionally, he produced a volume of 16 other books and the first treatise on abnormal psychology, as well as several other works on religious themes and figures. Specific teachings included a conception of mental faculties - one of these restoring the will to psychology be developing a tripartite division of mental phenomena into intellectual, sentient, and voluntary. The intellect subsumed sensation and perception, attention, habit, association, and memory as well as reasoning. Sensibilities included natural emotions and desires, such as appetites, propensities, and affections, and also moral emotions, such as a feeling of obligation. Finally, the last division was the will, which allowed for volition as a basic component of human nature. This positing of a will free to choose between desires and obligations reflected the author's own spiritual journey from a Calvinistic background to the Wesleyan holiness perspective. However, perhaps his most critical contribution to the field of psychology was Upham's concept of Positive psychology which asserts that there are fundamental, transcendent laws, and living in harmony with them is the key to mental and spiritual health. This concept laid the foundation for a healthy kind of religiosity, and a spiritually-based positive psychology.

Upham also had an influential relationship with Harriet Beecher Stowe while she resided in Brunswick. The Stowe and Upham families were close; Stowe described them as “delightful . . . such a perfect sweetness and quietude in all its movements . . . It is a beautiful pattern of a Christian family."[2] Stowe and Upham frequently debated the abolitionist cause. Upham was a member of the Colonization Society, and while sympathetic to the anti-slavery cause, he believed that maintaining peace and obeying the law were more important.[3][4] Stowe, a more fervent abolitionist, described an argument she had with Upham on the subject in a letter to her sister. She states that she and Professor Upham “had over the tea table the other night that sort of argument which consists in both sides saying over & over just what they said before, for any length of time—but when I asked him flatly if he would obey the law supposing a fugitive came to him Mrs. Upham laughed & he hemmed & hawed."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bundy, David "Thomas Cogswell Upham and the Establishment of a Tradition of Ethical Reflection" Encounter 59.1-2 (1998)
  2. ^ Stowe, Charles Edward (2004). Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Honolulu: University of the Pacific. p. 133.
  3. ^ Packard, Alpheus S. (1873). Address on the Life and Character of Thomas C. Upham: Late Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy in Bowdoin College : Delivered at the Interment, Brunswick, Me., April 4, 1872. Brunswick, ME: Joseph Griffin. p. 19.
  4. ^ "Bowdoin College's Gentle Apostle of Peace". Lewiston Joural Illustrated Magazine Section. February 27, 1915.
  5. ^ "Letter from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Catherine Beecher." In Harriet Beecher Stowe Correspondence from Yale Library, Gift of Alfred H. Fuchs, The Stowe Collection. Yale Library: George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library. Undated.

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