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American Spaces of ConversionThe Conductive Imaginaries of Edwards, Emerson, and James$
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Andrea Knutson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195370928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195370928.001.0001

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“Something That Is Seen, That Is Wonderful”

“Something That Is Seen, That Is Wonderful”

Jonathan Edwards and the Feeling of Conviction

(p.54) Chapter 2 “Something That Is Seen, That Is Wonderful”
American Spaces of Conversion

Andrea Knutson

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 builds on chapter 1 by examining the continuities of thought between Jonathan Edwards and the previous generation of Puritan divines surrounding the concept of conversion and his theological departure from the high preparationism represented by Thomas Shepard. Through an analysis of his major concepts such as the affections, the “sense of the heart,” “actual” ideas, and “attention of the mind in thinking” in works such as Religious Affections, “The Mind,” and his “Miscellanies,” this chapter presents Edwards as an important transitional figure between Calvinist theology and Emerson’s transcendentalism, specifically in the ways he conceptualized the roles of consciousness, perception, the will, and habit in the conversion process. Focusing on his adoption of objective idealism and Locke’s theory of epistemology, it argues that by making consciousness a creative force bringing God’s universe into being, Edwards was able to characterize conversion as an affective, yet orderly, process taking place at the horizons of consciousness, a space of indeterminacy, where abstract and concrete truths, certainty and uncertainty, and perception and objects perceived are in constant flux, generating new beliefs about the world and self. In this way, conversion is responsible for the continual process of creating original relations to the universe.

Keywords:   conversion, religious affections, consciousness, actual idea, perception, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Shepard, belief, will, habit

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