[Milton-L] help interpret a line

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Wed Jan 21 16:11:54 EST 2004

I'm afraid I disagree. Fire may not burn the same here and in Milton's imagined Paradise (there, after all, it doesn't burn at all); what is "wanton" here may not be "wanton" there. But logic, I think, is supposed to work the same here and there. That far I agree with all the critics who convict Satan of "bad logic." I just don't think that calling it "bad" is the same as explaining what makes it "bad." Neither do I agree that the answer "because it is Satan's" is satisfactory. (Indeed -- per Gardner's post -- _this_ popular argument is unfalsifiable.)

On Wed, 21 Jan 2004 12:36:06 -0600 milton-l at koko.richmond.edu wrote:
> Beth Bradburn wrote: But Satan isn't "trying to examine the consistency
> between underlying principles and instances of their application."  He's
> trying to persuade someone to do something that she already believes to
> be illegal [clip]
> jfleming wrote: Is there really anything "poisoned" or "Satanic" about
> the logic of "your fear itself of death removes the fear"? Granted, "bad
> logic" is the sort of thing that we think we are supposed to say about
> the sorts of things that Satan says [clip]
> -----
> The problem lies in the habit of so many Milton critics (especially in
> the 1960s, 1970s and into the '80s) to confuse _Paradise Lost_ with the
> universe, and to argue on the (sometimes explicit) premise that Milton's
> God was God, his Satan Satan, his Adam & Eve Adam & Eve (etc), and that
> hence in speaking of PL we were speaking of Reality Naked as it were.
> But if we see PL as having no more (and no less) relation to an external
> reality than the _Iliad_ or the _Cantos_, then we can treat Satan as
> satanic, eve as deceived, just as we can treat Achilles as a man of deep
> moral and political insight and Mussolini, Sisgismundo & Andrew Jackson
> as exemplars of humanity at its best in those poems.
> And of course in all three poems we can find a significance that goes
> far beyond the explicit intentions or beliefs of their makers. For
> example, the 'defenses' of Milton against the charge of male supremacy
> are utterly unconvincing as applied to Milton and his intentions, but
> they certainly are profoundly true as exhibiting the significance which
> we can see in the poem (reading over Milton's shoulder as it were).
> Carrol
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Dr. James Dougal Fleming,
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713

Laissez parler les faits.

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