I'll interact with the post in small bites.
What, then, shall we say about the formula according to which such freedom comes to nothing more than the ability to act differently if we please, or if we will? On Edwards understanding, a conditional analysis is in the offering here. “I can A” is always “I can A, if I choose,”
Edwards does not utter a word such as “can” without enormous qualification, for one reason because of the vulgar-language baggage that comes with such a word. These qualifications that are embedded throughout Edwards’s writings are a deterrent for most people to try to muscle through Edwards’s view of the will, or any other treatment of his, which spanned a vast multitude of subjects. But in any case, given such a broad-brush portrayal of Edwards view of the will in light of conditional analysis, it can safely be said that “I can A, if I choose” can only mean for Edwards that “I can A, only if my strongest inclination at the moment of choice is to A.” Also, “I can” must presuppose no external prohibitor, for “can” in this discussion is not a matter of natural ability (a common use of the term, hence Edwards’s qualifications) but rather must be thought of as metaphysical claim that also implies “I cannot A, unless I’m inclined to A.” (I can grab a taco, only if my strongest inclination at the moment of choice is to grab a taco.)
“I can A, if I choose,” which in turn goes to “If I choose to A, I will A.” So to say I can lift this rock is to say that if I choose or will to lift it, I will lift it. So far, so good, perhaps.
Given the terms being employed, the statement, again - if it is to reflect Edwards’s thought, must mean “If my strongest inclination at the moment of choice is to lift the rock, then I will lift the rock.” It is most equivocal to use “will” in two different ways in the same sentence, and to equate “choose” with “will”, especially without explication, is hazardous. It’s doubly criminal to do so when trying to critique another person’s view, especially one who was hyper-careful in this regard.
But if responsible freedom belongs to the operations of will as well as to overt action it must also be the case that I can choose to A, and – to turn Edwards’s own argument against him – there the analysis clearly doesn’t work. We get, “If I choose to choose to lift this rock, then I will choose to lift it,” which is completely implausible, and leads to a regress.
The interpretation of Edwards that leads to “If I choose to choose to lift this rock, then I will choose to lift it,” is based upon a gross imprecision having to do with the tagging of terms. Anyone even half-way acquainted with Edwards appreciates that he denies that one ever chooses his inclinations, and that his argument against such an Arminian implication took the form of a reductio that led his opponent into that very problem of regress. So only a reckless (or malicious) interpretation of Edwards can construe that Edwards's arguments implied such a thing. In fact had his arguments been so blatantly flawed, one would expect such gross inconsistency to have been observed and exposed even moments after he penned such notions. But the reason that didn't happen is not because the philosophers of his day didn't see the inconsistency; rather, the inconsistency was not there to be seen, for the inconsistency is based upon a formulation that is not Edwards's. At the very least, I know of no person who claims to be Edwardsian that holds to that supposed formulation of Edwards's view of the will, which in turn leads to inconsistency. The contributors for JEPT have erected a classic straw man by employing equivocal terms, and then knocked it down. Again though, given the terms being employed, the statement, if it is to reflect Edwards’s thought at all, may only be taken to mean, “If my strongest desire / inclination at the moment of choice is to lift the rock, then I will lift the rock,” which does not imply a position that under analysis implies regress, let alone an internal contradiction within Edwards's own view.