Receptive Human Virtues
A New Reading of Jonathan Edwards's Ethics
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Penn State University Press
Table of Contents
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Twentieth-century virtue ethics emerged as an attempt to overcome perceived inadequacies in modern moral thought. This discipline has been characterized largely by a return to premodern texts: Aristotle in philosophical circles, Thomas Aquinas in theological circles, and Plato and Augustine in the more recent workof scholars such as Robert M. Adams and Eric Gregory. Theological ethicists...
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I am indebted to a number of people who have supported my work on this book. I am grateful to Jennifer A. Herdt for her astute and diligent guidance in workingthrough the earliest versions of this argument and for her continued thoughtful feedback as I developed this book manuscript. I also very much appreciate the dedication of Jean Porter, Gerald P. McKenny, and George Marsden, who...
Chapter 1: An Ethic of Receptive Human Virtues
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Jonathan Edwards’s ethic is fundamentally an ethic of receptive human virtues.These Edwardsean virtues are in some ways continuous with the goals and purposes of twentieth-century virtue ethics, which has tended to focus on recovering Aristotle in philosophical circles and Thomas Aquinas in theological circles. Edwards shares ideas in common with both of these thinkers: like Aristotle...
Chapter 2: Love as Necessary and Volitional
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I suggested in chapter 1 that this study of Edwards’s human virtues complementsreadings of Edwards that focus on the God-centered character of Edwardsean virtues. Because Edwards’s human virtues are each necessarily tied to divine virtuein some way, it is helpful to consider Edwards’s account of God’s virtue morefully before turning to these human virtues. An exploration of Edwards’s divine...
Chapter 3: Charity as a Human Virtue
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It is appropriate for a discussion of Edwards’s human virtues to begin with ‘‘true virtue,’’ or Christian love. Edwards prioritizes this virtue above the others and conceives it as mirroring and participating in the divine virtue that was the subject of the previous chapter. Edwards’s characterization of true virtue as a reflection of God’s perfections underscores the continuity of his thought...
Chapter 4: Humility as a Human Virtue
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Chapter 3 describes how Edwards’s truly virtuous human love images and takes part in divine virtue. By characterizing true virtue as an excellence proper to and constitutive of God’s being, Edwards offers an account of Christian love as the fulfillment of the purposes for which humans were created. Humans are able to exercise this virtue in spite of original sin, but they need the assistance of God’s...
Chapter 5: Virtuos Repentance
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Chapters 3 and 4 both considered a type of human virtue with a direct relationship to divine virtue. True virtue in humans images and participates in divine love, and creaturely humility, at least as the incarnate Christ embodies this virtue, is an image or type of divine mercy. In this chapter I turn to virtuous repentance, one of a category of human virtues that God cannot be said to practice because...
Chapter 6: Justice and Partial Loves
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In addition to the attributes that he identifies explicitly as virtues, Edwards characterizes two additional sorts of qualities as in some sense meritorious. The first of these is justice; the second is a set of natural loves that are private or partial, directed toward a subset of creation rather than toward God and the totality of God’s created universe. Edwards resists calling the pursuit of these...
Conclusion : Virtues, Accountability, and Dependence
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Edwards’s ethic of receptive human virtues represents a compelling vision of the human moral life as fundamentally rooted in and dependent upon God. On one level, Edwardsean virtues are qualities proper to God’s being, but in A History ofthe Work of Redemption, Edwards expands this conception of virtue to accommodate multiple dimensions of human moral experience, including human nature’s...
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2010