The Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards: A Study in Divine Semiotics

By Stephen H. Daniel | Go to book overview

I

THE PROSPECT OF SEMIOTICS

Shortly before his death in 1981, Wallace Anderson was working on several projects that attempted to explain Edwards' belief that all objects of physical creation represent spiritual things. The general theme of such study, typology, had been of concern to a number of other researchers, but all other study had centered on issues of how typology functions in Edwards' thought, rather than on what would justify his theory of types. By contrast, Anderson identified the central problem underlying typology as that of providing justification for certain maneuvers in Edwards' reasoning. He was confident that the search for the principles guiding typological argumentation would explain how Edwards' typological work could be united with his more explicit epistemological and metaphysical writings. Though he did not have a chance to follow up on these insights, Anderson pointed to the need to discern the philosophical presuppositions in Edwards' writings that would account for how disparate elements of his thought are integrated. As I will argue, that investigation of the nature of reasoning in Edwards' typological thought extends beyond even what Anderson suspected, by revealing how reasoning in general is possible for Edwards.

As Anderson recognized, in trying to provide an account of the rationality of typology, Edwards was responding to a philosophical challenge posed by John Locke. It was not so much a critique of typology itself that engaged Edwards as it was the Lockean invitation to give a rationale for thought in general, including typological thought. For Locke, that rationale could be found only in the science of signs—semiotics—and it is his observation of this fact that furnishes us (and perhaps Edwards) with a key for understanding the problematic of reasoning for Edwards.

However, the Edwardsian project calls for a much more extensive study of the science of signs than Anderson's interest in typological reasoning would have shown. Such a study of the strategies of Edwards' reasoning highlights differences in whole networks of discursive practices. These differences are significant enough to identify them (in Foucault's term) as separate epistemes, mentalities, or fundamental ways of thinking. The purpose of this chapter is to indicate how a discussion of those general sets of discursive practices reveals the semiotic strategies that account for and give meaning to Edwards' writings.

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The Philosophy of Jonathan Edwards: A Study in Divine Semiotics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • I - The Prospect of Semiotics 11
  • II - The Discourse of Typology 41
  • III - The Logics of Creation 66
  • IV - The Trinity and Creation 102
  • V - The Ontology of Original Sin 130
  • VI - Freedom and Moral Agency 152
  • VII - The Knowledge of Beauty 177
  • Concluding Remarks - The Propriety of Christ 197
  • Bibliography 201
  • Index 208
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