Enthusiasm and Historicism
Mosaic Law and the Narration of History
The central claim of Chapter One is that much early eighteenth-century historicist thought has been woefully overlooked because its historicist logic is couched in the language of religious tradition. I highlight the ways in which historicist thought has been presumed to take the form of a secularization narrative, and I challenge this assumption by arguing that the terms of historicism cohered in important ways in early eighteenth century theological texts. I show that Deists, political theorists, moral philosophers, and freethinkers historicized their present specifically in terms of the twinned problematics of religious sentiment and economic development. In readings of the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, John Locke, David Hume, John Toland, and Henry Stubbe, I show the ways in which religious historicisms were simultaneously histories of capital accumulation, and I argue that one of the critical ways that these authors documented the economic development of Britain was by generating religious histories centered on the problem of competing monotheisms. I focus on the historicization of Islam and Judaism, and show that historicizing monotheisms allowed philosophers and political theorists to think through the often contradictory relations between religion and national identity, as well as the uneven development of global economic systems and relationships.
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