Chapter 15 Wolff, Spinoza, and the Interpretation of Scripture

In: The Philosophers and the Bible
Matteo Favaretti Camposampiero
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It is well known that, in the 1720s, Christian Wolff was accused of Spinozism because of his metaphysical doctrines. It is less well known that he had already been suspected of Spinozism around 1705. The reason for this charge was the young Wolff’s exegetical method, which he used to defend Copernicanism against the received interpretation of Josh. 10:12–13. This chapter offers a reconstruction of that episode and explores the hypothesis that remnants of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise are present in Wolff’s early hermeneutics. In his treatises on astronomy, Wolff appears to recast the so-called accommodation doctrine to the effect that the Scriptural descriptions of natural phenomena do not belong to natural science but to natural history, which is composed ad captum omnium. He apparently agrees with Spinoza that Scripture cannot be a book of science, since it is designed to be understood even by common people. However, perhaps in order to avoid further suspicions of Spinozistic commitments, in later works Wolff rejects any affinity between the accommodation doctrine and his own.

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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