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Jonathan Edwards and the Development of American Democracy
Unformatted Document Text:  Harris 15 The New Divinity also created an Edwardsean backlash, as others who followed the teachings of Jonathan Edwards highlighted his own personal conservatism and emphasized those parts of his theology that were the least conducive to reform. In this way, Edwards’ ideas shaped both sides of debates that led up until the American Revolution, informing those who wanted some sort of republican style democracy and those who wanted a more rigid system of social stratification along the lines that Puritan Massachusetts had embraced since its inception. Conclusion Jonathan Edwards did not create American democracy out of whole cloth, and it is unlikely that he would have liked all the particular ways that democracy has proceeded in the United States. Nevertheless, his intellectual pursuits laid the groundwork for much of the later development of democratic theory and practice in America. By giving some limited support to the role of the emotions in sound thinking and action, he established an alternative tradition to that of the Founders, who unequivocally maligned the passions. Edwards most significant contribution to the American form of democracy was his support for individualism. He atomized every field of study, ranging from an agent-based study of virtue to an empiricist and quasi-sensationalist epistemology. In so doing, he placed the individual at the center of the American intellectual project and paved the way for democracy responsive to individual interests and desires.

Authors: Harris, John.
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Harris 15
The New Divinity also created an Edwardsean backlash, as others who followed the
teachings of Jonathan Edwards highlighted his own personal conservatism and emphasized those
parts of his theology that were the least conducive to reform. In this way, Edwards’ ideas shaped
both sides of debates that led up until the American Revolution, informing those who wanted
some sort of republican style democracy and those who wanted a more rigid system of social
stratification along the lines that Puritan Massachusetts had embraced since its inception.
Conclusion
Jonathan Edwards did not create American democracy out of whole cloth, and it is
unlikely that he would have liked all the particular ways that democracy has proceeded in the
United States. Nevertheless, his intellectual pursuits laid the groundwork for much of the later
development of democratic theory and practice in America. By giving some limited support to
the role of the emotions in sound thinking and action, he established an alternative tradition to
that of the Founders, who unequivocally maligned the passions.
Edwards most significant contribution to the American form of democracy was his
support for individualism. He atomized every field of study, ranging from an agent-based study
of virtue to an empiricist and quasi-sensationalist epistemology. In so doing, he placed the
individual at the center of the American intellectual project and paved the way for democracy
responsive to individual interests and desires.


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