[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Harper, D. CPT ENG David.Harper at usma.edu
Thu Jan 22 09:43:31 EST 2004


Perhaps I should have said that the argument is unsound while the logic
is valid. However, the premises as stated ("petty Trespass") and implied
(that the creator shouldn't be feared simply because he isn't God) are
problematic. 

Perhaps it is more interesting to wonder why Eve doesn't question these
premises? One is tempted to excuse prelapsarian Eve because one might
accept all assertions as true in Edenic existence. Surely falsehoods
aren't possible before the Fall? But we know this isn't right. There is
ample evidence that Eve is not unarmed at this battle of wits.

(1) Her first experience in life shows her that appearances aren't what
they seem. She is beguiled by her own reflection until warned by God (IV
460-469).

(2) Further, the courting scene described by Adam ("That would be woo'd,
and not unsought be won") demonstrates that the rituals and feigned
indifference of courting are (Alas!) present even in Eden.

(3) The discussion between Adam & Eve about separating to do the
gardening is full of points where she questions and undermines his
assertions: most notably when Adam asserts that she is safest by his
side. His statement that "The wife, where danger or dishonor lurks, /
Safest and seemliest by her Husband stays" (IX 267-8) is immediately
challenged by Eve. "His fraud is then thy fear, which plain infers / Thy
equal fear that my firm Faith and Love / Can by his fraud be shak'n or
seduc't;" (285-7)

Eve can tease out inferences and question assertions. She knows there is
a Foe in the garden. Why does she accept the serpent's admittedly
twisted logic? I wonder if perhaps it isn't related to politics. The
Creator has withdrawn from creation and send his warnings only through
emissaries. His distant claims cannot stand against the immediate ones
of Satan. He isn't out "pressing the flesh" so-to-speak; God has become
an abstraction. Is it perhaps easier for Eve to believe that the absent
Creator has lied (or made empty threats) than to believe the gentle
serpent in front of her is lying?

Dave

Captain David A. Harper
Assistant Professor, Department of English
United States Military Academy
(845) 938-2643
 
A nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its
warriors 
will have its laws made by cowards and its wars fought by fools. 
	
-Thucydides 

-----Original Message-----
From: jfleming at sfu.ca [mailto:jfleming at sfu.ca] 
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 7:19 PM
To: milton-l at koko.richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] help interpret a line


I think that you are right -- except in your opening distinction. I
suppose my initial point was that the convolutedness of the claim "your
fear itself removes the fear" is no argument against its validity. I
hold to that view. As you go on to show, against your opening comment,
Satan is indeed wrong, but for the simple reason that his premises are
faulty. He has not eaten the fruit; he is not a talking snake; it is far
from clear that the tree is a test that Eve will pass by cheating; etc.
Satan's syllogisms fail. But their failure is a simple failure. It is
not reflected, as far as I can tell, in the logical form of "your fear
itself removes the fear."  J

On Wed, 21 Jan 2004 16:55:22 -0500 milton-l at koko.richmond.edu wrote:
> I think some previous posters (I cannot recall your names - sorry) are

> on the mark. It is not "faulty logic," but perhaps convoluted
> (serpentine?) logic that rests fragilely on a key assumption: =20
> The key to the passage is found in the preceding lines (700-701):
> =20
> God therefore cannot hurt ye, and be just;
> Not just, not God; not fear'd then, nor obey'd:
> Your fear itself of Death removes the fear.
> =20
> The fact that Eve fears God will punish her  ("Your fear itself")
> removes the fear of Death. Satan claims that her very fear of God
proves
> he isn't God (and therefore can't provide this "Death" thing). This
> hinges on his assertion that partaking of the fruit is not a crime. In
> fact, his logic makes it impossible for her to have faith in God and
yet
> fear death. If she buys that this is a "petty Trespass" (693) that is
> outshined by her "dauntless virtue" (694), then she has to admit that
> either (1) the True God can't punish her because he can't be unjust,
or
> (2)  this "not God" can't punish her simply because he is not God. In
a
> sense, Satan is using the tried and true problem of evil against Eve.
> =20
> Can this line of reasoning be argued against? Sure. Eve might have
> questioned the underlying assumption (that this is a "petty Trespass"
> outside the realm of justice to punish for). Or, she might have
worried
> that just because the command came from "not God"doesn't mean that
being
> can't make good on Its promise to deliver Death.  Eve is sucked in to
> this argument through her vanity. Satan offers her the chance to
display
> "dauntless virtue." Besides which, he offers "evidence" that this
"God"
> can't deliver Death - he says he ate the fruit and it has not hurt
him.
> Far from it. It is this, plus the allure of the Fruit itself that
> ultimately allows his "words replete with guile" to win the day.
> =20
> Just my two cents.
> =20
> Dave Haper
> =20
> =20
> =20
> =20
> Captain David A. Harper
> Assistant Professor, Department of English
> United States Military Academy
> (845) 938-2643
> =20
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gardner Campbell [mailto:gcampbel at mwc.edu]=20
> Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 1:47 PM
> To: milton-l at koko.richmond.edu
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] help interpret a line
> 
> 
> Yes, but isn't this particular line of reasoning suspect because it 
> can't be argued against? Satan claims that contrary evidence is 
> actually supporting evidence. All evidence is thus supporting 
> evidence. Neatly, the very notion of "evidence" vanishes away. An odd 
> thing emerges: persuasive nullity. =20
> Does every assertion of consistency between underlying principles and
> instances of their application necessarily render all possible
> contradictions invalid? (That's a real question, actually.)
> =20
> Gardner Campbell
> Mary Washington College
> 
> 
> >>> jfleming at sfu.ca 01/21/04 10:35AM >>>
> 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; but isn't that rather reductive and 
> convenient? It seems to me that "your fear itself of death removes the

> fear" is the kind of enthymeme that we quite often employ when trying 
> to examine the consistency between underlying principles and instances

> of their application.=20
> 
> J.D. Fleming
> 
> ------------------------
> 
> Dr. James Dougal Fleming,
> Assistant Professor of English,
> Simon Fraser University,
> (604) 291-4713
> 
> Laissez parler les faits. 
> _______________________________________________
> Milton-L mailing list
> Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu 
> http://lists.richmond.edu/mailman/listinfo/milton-l


------------------------
Dr. James Dougal Fleming,
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713

Laissez parler les faits.
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