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Book Review – Free Will: Jonathan Edwards’ Psychological, Ethical, and Theological Philosophy in his Freedom of the Will. [Review by Dr. Marco Barone]

Peter B. Jung, ed. Free Will: Jonathan Edwards’ Psychological, Ethical, and Theological Philosophy in his Freedom of the Will. Resource Publications, 2019. 424 pp. $49.00 [Review by Dr. Marco Barone]

This book is an annotated version of Jonathan Edwards’s famous Freedom of the Will, first published in 1754. The volume also contains 5 appendixes: two letters by Edwards, one by John Erskine, Thomas Reid’s notes on Freedom of the Will, and Edwards’s proposal for printing his work on free will.

Jung’s introduction is faithful to the full title of this edition. In fact, Jung offers a good account of Edwards’s psychological, ethical, philosophical, and theological thought as contained in Freedom of the Will, without ignoring the historical context and the rest of Edwards’s works. Additionally, the editor offers a helpful overview of the relevant Edwardsean scholarship and a justification for the editorial work done to Edwards’s text.

In addition to footnotes aimed at clarifying both the content and the history behind Edwards’s book, Jung has divided each chapter into titled paragraphs. This will help the reader (especially the beginner) not only to understand better Edwards’s ideas but also to take the necessary breaks while reading Edwards’s often challenging, long, and demanding arguments.

Although Jung has done good editorial work, one minor criticism I have is that there are several typesetting errors (i.e., page 5). The helpful critical apparatus would have benefited here and there from some more academic oversight for accuracy’s sake (i.e., see the arguable claim at page 208, note 7, according to which the doctrine of double predestination was “refuted” by Arminius).
Personal experience should not excessively influence a critical review. Nevertheless, I cannot avoid mentioning that while examining Jung’s edition I could not help but think about my twenty-five year old self trying to read with understanding Edwards’s work, an attempt that, even though successful, required much effort.

Although Paul Ramsey’s critical edition of Edwards’s Freedom of the Will is now a classic, Jung’s edition can be very helpful to the reader who is not too acquainted with Edwards’s thought and who would like to read Edwards’s Freedom of the Will for the first time. The book will also benefit scholars such as the present reviewer who will at times find themselves in need of a refresher of Edwards’s arguments found in his work on free will.

Marco Barone, PhD