Jonathan Edwards and the Limits of Enlightenment Philosophy

By Leon Chai | Go to book overview

Preface

WHEN I FIRST BEGAN work on this book, I could hardly have imagined what it would finally turn out to be. Initially, I envisioned something quite different: an attempt at tracing resemblances between Jonathan Edwards and various Enlightenment sources in order to demonstrate the probability of influence, or, at the very least, affinity. At the time, this seemed a point well worth making. During my years of graduate study, I had become convinced that Edwards owed far more to Enlightenment philosophy than had hitherto been acknowledged. My feeling was that this debt involved something besides the mere borrowing of a few ideas or concepts. Instead, the very nature of both his method and his objectives appeared to be dictated by his Enlightenment predecessors. At that time, however, such a belief was unfashionable, if not unacceptable. I was told Edwards did not share the same concerns as Pascal. Nevertheless, as I continued my study of Edwards and Enlightenment philosophy, the conviction grew on me. I had had, vicariously, the sort of experience Cardinal Newman describes so vividly in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, of discovering, as he began to investigate the history of early Eastern Christianity, that he himself was a Monophysite. This moment of recognition came to me in a similar fashion as I read Edwards and his Enlightenment sources. At some point in my researches, it began to dawn on me that here in Edwards were the same problems, the same objectives, and the same passions I had encountered in Enlightenment philosophy. For various reasons both internal and external, however, I was not able to pursue my discovery at the time. Instead, the course of my studies was to take me first to the American Renaissance and its Romantic foundations, and, subsequently, to an exploration of Aestheticism before and after the fin de siècle.

When I finally returned to Edwards, quite a few years later, I found the situation of Edwards studies somewhat changed. More than anything else, the careful and exhaustive work of Norman Fiering had dramatically altered the picture of Edwards's intellectual position. In contrast to the Edwards of earlier accounts, a figure rendered magisterial by his lonely isolation, what Fiering offered was a

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Jonathan Edwards and the Limits of Enlightenment Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Contents *
  • Introductory 3
  • Part I - The Problem of Sensation 7
  • Chapter 1 - The Argument for Empiricism 9
  • Chapter 2 - Religious Affections 22
  • Part II - Ideas, Objects, Mind 37
  • Chapter 3 - Idea and Object 39
  • Chapter 4 - Idealism 56
  • Part III - The Ends of Causal Analysis 73
  • Chapter 5 - Causation 75
  • Chapter 6 - Freedom of the Will 94
  • Conclusion 114
  • Epilogue 117
  • Notes 121
  • Primary Sources 159
  • Index 161
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