Early modern secularism——and early modern religion——are plagued by tales of demystification, where each is made into the other's mutual secret, token of bad faith and self-alienation. This essay hopes to chart an alternative story, by looking at an early modern moment when the practices of legal and theological reason worked in tandem on the problem of sacrifice. Before the secular, it argues, sacrifice did not mark sacrality as such, but was rather the material that helped rethink both the functions of authority and the transactions between contingent humanity and the universal demands of law and God.

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