Chapter 11 “The Law Inscribed in the Mind”

On the Meaning of a Biblical Image in Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
Giovanni Licata
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The image of the law inscribed in the hearts or minds of human beings is constantly repeated in Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise. Despite this, scholarship on Spinoza has not focused specifically on this topic. In this paper, I will elucidate the metaphor and show that this image became a literary topos of theology and philosophy from Patristics until the 18th century, since it is rooted in the Old and New Testaments. In order to understand Spinoza’s extensive use of the metaphor, I will show that this image was already used with radical outcomes by some heterodox philosophers, jurists, and theologians in the context of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and early modern thought: for example, to prove that the fundamental laws of morality, such as the Golden Rule, can be known without the help of revelation and are sufficient for salvation; or that Christianity, in its purified form, is tantamount to natural religion.

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The Philosophers and the Bible

The Debate on Sacred Scripture in Early Modern Thought

Series:  Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, Volume: 333