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The 'Radical Empiricism' of Jonathan Edwards

Lazarus Belle

Image of Jonathan Edwards Image of Jonathan Edwards
Join the Nineteenth Century Forum for a Lazarus Belle's dissertation workshop.

This dissertation chapter asks a simple question: to what extent does America's "first philosopher," Jonathan Edwards, demonstrate a strand of philosophical argument that resembles and sets the intellectual conditions for William James's doctrine of radical empiricism? A corollary to the more well-known method of pragmatism, radical empiricism has received less attention, despite being a major concern for James in his later years. Not against but in relation to the obvious reasons why radical empiricism emerges in the history of western philosophy, my gambit is that there are precedents within American religious culture from the antebellum revivals to the postbellum Social Gospel movement that generate the intellectual conditions calling for the radicalization of classical empiricism. This chapter deals specifically with Edwards's place within the so-called first great awakening of the 1730s-40s and his revision of empiricism to explain religious experiences. This examination of the theological underpinnings of American revivalism is the first step in a larger intellectual history about the religious "origins" of pragmatism.

Please Contact Rachel Cawkwell at for a copy of the paper.
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When and Where

Map Angell Hall - 3184

November 2017

1:00pm - 2:30pm

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