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Ames, Edward Scribner, (1870-1958.) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Name: Ames, Edward Scribner, (1870-1958.)

Historical Note:

Edward Scribner Ames was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on April 21, 1890.  He was the son of a Disciples of Christ Minister, and became a minister himself after his graduation from Drake College (A.G., 1889, A.M., 1891).  Ames received his B.D. from Yale in 1892, and accepted a doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago in 1894.  Ames studied under James Hayden Tufts, and in 1895 he became the first person to receive a Ph.D. from the University's newly formed philosophy department.  He spent the next two years as an instructor at Disciples Divinity House (1895-1897) and also served as docent in the University of Chicago's philosophy department.

In 1897, Ames took a teaching position at Butler College in Indiana.  He returned to Chicago in 1900 to become the pastor of the University Church of the Disciples of Christ and served in that capacity for the next forty years.  Also in 1900 Ames resumed teaching in the philosophy department at the University of Chicago where he remained for thirty-five years, serving as its chairman from 1931 to 1935.

Ames was the youngest member of the "Chicago School" of pragmatism which also included James Hayden Tufts, Addison Moore, George Herbert Mead and John Dewey.  Ames's primary interest was the philosophy of religion.  "The redemption of men is a social as well as religious problem, and it therefore requires a social institution," he wrote in his autobiography, Beyond Theology (1959).  "All the great persistent interests of humanity embody themselves in social organizations.  The church is a natural product of the religious life."  In 1905 he introduced a course in the psychology of religion, a subject formerly taught only in theological schools.  His books, The Psychology of Religious Experience (1910), and Religion (1929), were essentially the same views later expressed by John Dewey in A Common Faith (1934).

Ames was a charter member of the Campbell Institute, a voluntary organization of the Disciples of Christ, designed to promote spiritual life and an interest in religious ideas and work.  From 1925 to 1951 he served as the editor of The Scroll, the monthly bulletin of the Campbell Institute. Ames died on June 29, 1958.

Note Author: Pam Hackbart-Dean

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