Jonathan Edwards' Relational Metaphysics of Love

Dissertation, Harvard University (2002)

Jonathan Edwards' earliest philosophical writings explore a metaphysics of relationality which is then further developed in his subsequent thought into, what I argue is, a relational metaphysics of love. This study blends the chronological, contextual and interpretive perspectives for the purpose of providing an understanding of Edwards' thought that shows its authentic and lively organicism. The detailed analysis of Edwards' early texts that is offered in support of this interpretation is the first of its kind to have the full benefit of reliable dates for the early material. While many interpreters have struggled with how to hold his philosophy, ethics, and theology together as one piece, this study shows that it is through understanding his metaphysics, ontology, aesthetics and morality as relational that his thought can be grasped as a whole. The chronological reading of the early material that I provide in this study shows a continuous pattern of inter-relational development of his ideas and provides the basis for the argument that his early metaphysics is directly relevant for understanding his later work in metaphysics and morality, Two Dissertations. ;My interpretation will show that Edwards' relational metaphysics of love frames the "prime reality" of all entities as manifestations of God's continuous communication, or emanation, of His relational Being. All creation is therefore by virtue of its dynamic relationality with God's activity according to His eternal laws and stated order. Human beings and the rest of creation conspire together to achieve God's end, or purpose, in creating the world, which is achieved through the perception of this "prime reality" of God's activity and emanation by conscious perceiving beings who actualize their own 'being as loving' through consenting to being in general, thereby enabling them to further actualize God's loving as it is manifested in all creation. All beings, including God, exist by virtue of their relationality to God's dispositional essence to emanate or communicate His love according to his eternal laws and are what they are through the quality and intensity their own remanations of this creative and expansive love
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