Tag Archives: Miscellanies

Jonathan Edwards’s Argument Against Unitarianism in Miscellany 96

Today I’m finally putting pen to paper for a short introduction to two of Edwards’s miscellanies for a reader being published by Jonathan Edwards Press.

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In the reader I will be introducing Miscellany 96 which is on the Trinity and Miscellany 279 which is on the torments of hell. The plan is basically to introduce each miscellany and then explain how Edwards’s Trinitarian doctrine relates to his doctrine of hell.

Here is a pretty sloppy summary of Edwards’s two arguments against Unitarianism – a very early modern concern – in Miscellany 96.

Argument #1 – A Theological Argument

Claim: There must be more than a unity in infinite and eternal essence.

Argument:

  1. To be perfectly good is to incline to and delight in making another happy in the same proportion as it is happy itself.
  2. God is perfectly good, therefore God is inclined and delights in making another happy in the same proportion as he is happy.

This claim has to do with Edwards’s idea of communication. A perfectly good being desires and delights in communicating the fullness of itself to others, so that others may enjoy the goodness of that first being.

This however doesn’t get you Trinitarianism yet because a Unitarian God could “potentially” delight in making another as happy as God is himself. More is needed.

  1. Goodness is delight in communicating happiness.
  2. If “goodness” is perfect, the delight to communicate must be perfect.
  3. A delight is perfect if an only if the inclination to communicate happiness to the other is equal to an agent’s own inclination to be happy.
  4. To be the object of perfect delight one must be X and Y
  5. A creatures cannot (1)God cannot love a creature as much as God loves himself, (2) a creature cannot receive the fullness of God’s communication.
  6. Therefore creatures cannot be the object of God’s desire to communicate perefectly.
  7. If God exercises his perfect goodness then he must have fellowship with a person capable of receiving the fullness of God’s love and communication.
  8. If God is good then God must exercise perfect goodness.
  9. God is good
    1. Therefore God exercises perfect goodness
  10. God exercises perfect goodness
    1. Therefore God has fellowship with a person capable of receiving the fullness of God’s love and communication.
  11. It follows that there is an object to which God perfectly delight in communicating which is not a creature.
  12. It follows from this that there must more than a unity in the infinite and eternal essence.

Argument #2 – An argument from Experience

Experience shows that rational creatures, i.e. human beings, cannot be happy apart from communion and fellowship with others.

This is because:

  1. Rational creatures, i.e. a human beings, delights in communicating themselves to another and a rational creature, i.e. a human being, cannot delight without another to communicate himself to.
  2. If a rational creature, i.e. a human being, is happy then there is another.
  3. Experience shows that human beings can be happy, therefore human beings have fellowship with others.

Edwards then adds a “lesser to greater” argument:

  1. If this is true of human beings who are made in the image of God, how much more is this true of God who is perfectly happy?

Conclusion: God’s happiness consists in communion, just like the creature’s does.

Do these arguments convince you?

Do you have any suggestions for formulating these arguments in a tighter way?

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Jonathan Edwards Week – Ontological Argument(s)

Jonathan Edwards makes an interesting (and prior to a few weeks ago unknown to me) ontological argument in one of his miscellanies. But before we get to that, a little bit on Ontological Arguments[1]:

Ontological arguments are arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world—e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from nothing but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists.

The first, and best-known, ontological argument was proposed by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th. century C.E. In his Proslogion, St. Anselm claims to derive the existence of God from the concept of a being than which no greater can be conceived. St. Anselm reasoned that, if such a being fails to exist, then a greater being—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived, and which exists—can be conceived. But this would be absurd: nothing can be greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. So a being than which no greater can be conceived—i.e., God—exists.

There are several types of ontological arguments

  1. definitional ontological arguments;
  2. conceptual (or hyperintensional) ontological arguments;
  3. modal ontological arguments;
  4. Meinongian ontological arguments;
  5. experiential ontological arguments;
  6. mereological ontological arguments;
  7. higher-order ontological arguments; and
  8. ‘Hegelian’ ontological arguments;

The first three sorts of ontological argument are probably the most commonly thought of argument when we say “ontological argument.” The first one basically goes something like this:

1-God is a being which has every perfection. (This is true as a matter of definition.) Existence is a perfection. Hence God exists.

The second one goes something like this:

2- I conceive of a being than which no greater can be conceived. If a being than which no greater can be conceived does not exist, then I can conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived—namely, a being than which no greater can be conceived that exists. I cannot conceive of a being greater than a being than which no greater can be conceived. Hence, a being than which no greater can be conceived exists.

Argument 2 is closest to Anselm’s type of ontological argument.

The third argument goes something like this:

3- It is possible that that God exists. God is not a contingent being, i.e., either it is not possible that God exists, or it is necessary that God exists. Hence, it is necessary that God exists. Hence, God exists.

Now lets turn to Jonathan Edwards’ argument then we can classify it:

27a. God is a necessary being, because it’s a contradiction to suppose him not to be. No being is a necessary being but he whose nonentity is a contradiction. We have show that absolute nothing is the essence of al contradictions; but being includes in it all that we call God, who is, and there is no one else besides him.

The Modal argument has several premises:

  1. It is possible that God exists
  2. God is not a contingent being
  3. Hence it is necessary that God exists.
  4. Hence God exists.

Edwards arguments can be parsed out this way:

A.It is possible that God exists.
B.God is a necessary being.
(Arguments for why God is a necessary being: It’s a contradiction to suppose God is contingent. No being is a necessary being but he whose essence is just being.)
C. God Exists.

But it could also be parsed out another way:

  1. “God” includes being.
  2. It is contradictory to have “God” without being.

This reading looks a lot like the first sort of ontological argument:

  1. By definition, “God” is a being which has every perfection.
  2. Existence is a perfection.
  3. God exists.

All this to say – Edwards has a rather complex and maybe convoluted version of the ontological argument or maybe he has two in the same miscellany.

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[1] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/