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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Edwards' Freedom of the Will: An Essay

Edwards’ Freedom of the Will may be construed as a psychological discourse. As an annihilation of false views of the Will that prevailed in his century and in the present, in order that men may learn how to have Christian belief and be saved, and as a reply to the discourse of Arminian Minister Whitby, this work is indeed evangelical. Edwards has put emphasis on the “faculty of choice” (Tappan 1839, 16), the Will which the mind chooses as being judged by the faculty of understanding. Although this discourse may not be as authoritative as Calvin’s Institutes, the author of Freedom of the Will is undeniably one of the great and enduring masters when religious emotion is being talked about.

When it comes to reasoning in his work, Edwards can never be more crafty. Simply put, Freedom of the Will is the work of a genius. In the section where Edwards distinguished Will from Desire, he has agreed with the argument of Locke but he has put more understanding and correlation connecting these two things.

I do not suppose, that Will and Desire are words of precisely the same signification: Will seems to be a word of more general signification, extending to things present and absent. Desire respects something absent… A man never, in any instance, wills any thing contrary to his desires, or desires any thing contrary to his will. (Edwards 1754, 2)

In his discourse, Edwards has analyzed and made into view that although Will and Desire are distinguishable from each other, these two are in fact the same faculty of the man’s soul where the Will is being determined by the “strongest motive” (Edwards 1754, 4) acting over the man’s soul and thereby choosing what is, at that moment seems good to Him, which is his inclination. With this attack on the common arguments in his Freedom of the Will, Edwards is meritorious of all the credits.

Moreover, in the section where Edwards has discussed on the deliberate and free choice of Man to do something “evil and painful” (Colonial and Revolutionary Literature, n/d), he has offered his readers sharp logic. He has noted that if the Man errs it is due to his free choice given the full knowledge of good and happiness versus evil and pain and such an action, to choose evil with suffering, is monstrous and is very incomprehensible. As this can be logical, it is also very difficult to practice. Man generally chooses the good but circumstances do not allow him to stay choosing and practicing the good.

Analyzing the discourse, Freedom of the Will speaks of the truth. Edwards is no optimist when it comes to his philosophies. He has made it a point in his discourse that evil do exist in this world and how his teachings sprouted from a deep hatred of evil.

The thing which makes sin hateful, is that by which it deserves punishment; which is but the expression of hatred…. Thus, for instance, ingratitude is hateful and worthy of dispraise, according to common sense; not because something as bad, or worse than ingratitude, was the cause that produced it; but because it is hateful in itself, by its own inherent deformity. (Edwards 1754, 65)

On the last note, the discourse has came up with and is correlated to what are called “ethics or the rules” (Tappan 1839, 265), which are not compelled to be obeyed by everyone but impose a strong power upon the conscience of the majority, especially those who believes in an Almighty being and those who do not want to feel the uneasiness of the evil and the persecuting nature of the Man. Disobedience to these manly imposed rules are considered as a “state of sinfulness” (Tappan 1839, 265) or the corruption of human sensitivity disposed to violate the harmony and fitness of the spiritual constitution.

Henry Philip Tappan, A Review of Edwards's "Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will" (New York: J.S Taylor, 1839).

Jonathan Edwards, The Freedom of the Will (Florida: Soli Deo Gloria, 1754).

The Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). Volume XV.

You are to read the following article and do a critque of the article. Reflect on specific concepts and principles. You can have as many resources as you want. This is about the freedom of will by Edwards.

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