This paper resolves some puzzles regarding Spinoza’s appropriations and rejections of various aspects of Bacon’s methodology, and uses these solutions to resolve some long-standing puzzles concerning Spinoza’s modus operandi in the TTP. We argue first that, appearances to contrary, Spinoza takes a consistent line in his assessment of Bacon’s epistemic approach. We argue that Spinoza follows Bacon in grounding his overall epistemic method in a “historiola mentis” (a brief account or history of the mind), and that differences between Spinoza’s and Bacon’s respective historiola mentis can explain Spinoza’s embrace of this inductive method for his interpretation of Scripture in the TTP, as well as his general abandonment of Bacon’s inductive method in the metaphysical investigation of the Ethics. In short, we argue that the “historiola mentis” constructed by Bacon depicts the intellect as an error-prone faculty that needs be continuously restrained by observation and experimentation—a depiction which motivates Bacon’s reformed inductive empiricism. Spinoza accepts this depiction in regard to a subset of the mind’s ideas—the ideas of the imagination, and hence sees the inductive method as suitable for interpreting Scripture. But contra Bacon, Spinoza’s “historiola mentis” also shows that the human mind includes a subset of ideas that yield true, certain knowledge of things “infinite” and sub specie aeternitatis. Spinoza finds these “intellectual” ideas to be quite useful for systematic metaphysics, but of limited use for interpreting historical texts like Scripture.
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