According to John Toland, the only intelligible content of the Gospel is the commendation of mutual love as a social virtue. The chapter situates this claim in the context of Toland’s rhetorical use of the primitive Church as an authority for a pluralistic account of society, and tries to determine his stance on the question of the foundation of morality. In spite of his constant recourse to the vocabulary of natural law, there is little doubt that Toland does not share Shaftesbury’s Stoic views and that he locates the foundation of morality, not in the providential organization of the universe and its acceptance by a self-cultivating individual, but in the interest of society. The moral teaching of the Gospel is somewhere between Epicureanism, the doctrine of utility, and the nineteenth-century idea of a religion of mankind.
Keywords: John Toland; Earl of Shaftesbury; Gospel; morality; Epicureanism; natural law; utility; love
Chapter. 7817 words.
Subjects: History of Western Philosophy
Full text: subscription required