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Understanding Jonathan EdwardsAn Introduction to America's Theologian$
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Gerald R. McDermott

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195373431

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373431.001.0001

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Edwards and Philosophy

Edwards and Philosophy

(p.151) 13 Edwards and Philosophy
Understanding Jonathan Edwards

Miklos Vetö

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Jonathan Edwards’s work as a philosopher, discussing what that phrase means, and reviewing the possible sources of his thought, mainly among certain English philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Then this chapter analyzes three major domains in Edwards’s philosophy—his ontology, theory of knowledge, and understanding of the will. First it shows that Edwards’s “idealism” can be seen properly only through the prism of his ontology and epistemology. Then it unpacks Edwards’s complex doctrine of spiritual knowledge, an intriguing synthesis of aesthetic, ethical, and religious elements. This chapter’s explanation of knowledge as committed and morally qualified leads naturally to Edwards’s description of the power of the will. The chapter tries to do justice to some of the implications of this doctrine. In the last section, it measures Edwards’s significance in the history of philosophy.

Keywords:   philosophy, ontology, epistemology, will, idealism, aesthetics, history of philosophy

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