Aesthetics and Ethics: Jonathan Edwards and the Recovery of Aesthetics for Religious Ethics

Journal of Religious Ethics 31 (2):277 - 297 (2003)
Abstract
This is a tricentennial riff on the Edwardsean idea that beauty is both the first principle of being and the distinguishing perfection of God. What is really distinctive about Edwards's view of beauty is that it is an ontological reality and consists in joyfully bestowing being and beauty more than in being beautiful, in creative and beautifying activity more than in being beautiful. Edwards was also a pioneer in the way he envisaged a lively universe created by God, not out of nothing or out of something, but out of the very fullness of God's own life overflowing into a world as a self-enlargement of the divine life. Edwards dares to offer a vision of God as the animating soul of the universe who governs the universe by the attractive and creative power of God's own beautifying life. What might it mean for religious ethics to take this as a description of the context for its work? The answer, in part and in brief, is that a life of true virtue, grounded in the heartfelt piety of holy affections, is a beautifying life. My aim in spinning out some Edwardsean themes is to encourage the reader to think about religious ethics outside the box within which beauty and beautifying activity play no part in defining the agenda of religious ethics. Inspired by themes unique and central to Edwards in his time, we may learn things of importance to religious ethics in our time that Edwards neither knew nor believed
Keywords Edwards  beauty  Jonathan  ethics  aesthetics
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DOI 10.1111/jore.2003.31.issue-2
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