The Human Person as Communicative Event

Jonathan Edwards on the Mind/Body Relationship

Authored by: Marc Cortez

The Ashgate Research Companion to Theological Anthropology

Print publication date:  February  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472410931
eBook ISBN: 9781315613673
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041320


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Jonathan Edwards’ metaphysics has received considerable attention from people writing on issues like idealism, empiricism, dispositionalism, Neoplatonism, occasionalism, panentheism, and theocentrism, to name just a few. 1 And others have delved into anthropological issues like his view of the affections, volition, free will, and original sin. 2 However, relatively little attention has been given to the ways in which Edwards’ general ontology impacts his approach to human ontology—in particular, his view of the mind/body relationship. That is unfortunate given that Edwards’ ontology offers unique resources for today. First, Edwards’ ontology offers a perspective on the human person that differs radically from the materialism most commonly encountered in the modern world. As we will see, Edwards maintains an idealist ontology that is hostile to materialism in any form. 3 Although some might be inclined to reject his conclusions on that basis alone, he offers a unique perspective from which to challenge modern assumptions about what it means to be human. Secondly, although Edwards’ metaphysics can be understood in several ways, it seems likely, as we will see, that he should be viewed as affirming some form of panentheism. 4 Given the growing popularity of panentheistic ontologies for understanding both the God/world and mind/body problems, 5 studying Edwards may offer insight into the unique strengths and weaknesses of this approach to the mind/body relationship. 6

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