[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Amy Kelly amykelly04 at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 22 16:05:50 EST 2004


Could somebody please advise me as to how to unsubscribe from this list serve?  I am a student who enrolled during a univeristy couse on John Milton and have been unsuccesful in having my name removed since then.  Your help is much appreciated!
Thank you!

jfleming at sfu.ca wrote:
Gardner:
> 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.
> 
If this is what is happening in the line or two under consideration (let's say 9.700-700), then you are right. Satan is, on your account, arguing in the manner of Foucault (and all his train): "the very fact that the evidence contradicts my argument proves the power and importance of my argument." But I'm not sure your account is correct. For one thing, I'm not sure what "contrary evidence" you mean. For another, I'm not sure that talk of "evidence" -- empirical talk -- is helpful to begin with, in our consideration of what Satan offers (at this immediate stage, _not_ elsewhere) as a purely logical argument. 

Now, logically speaking, I agree that we have a priori reasons for doubting unfalsifiable claims. An example of an unfalsifiable claim comes to me from _Sesame Street_: Ernie tells Bert that snapping the fingers keeps tigers away. Bert objects that there aren't any tigers in New York. Ernie says, "well, that's because I keep snapping my fingers. See?" Another example of an unfalsifiable claim is (perhaps) Chomsky's thesis of manufacturing consent: if you don't buy it, that is because your consent has been manufactured. Etc.

Is Satan's claim unfalsifiable in this way? I don't think so. "Your fear itself removes the fear" might be paraphrased as "the very fact that you are afraid proves that you have nothing to be afraid of." In and of itself, this claim seems to me not unfalsifiable. The claim is analogous to claims like "the very fact that you feel hot indicates that you should not feel hot," or "your very loathing for injustice indicates that you should not loathe injustice." The logical form of these claims is something like . Statements of this form -- which might be rewritten -- may indeed be false (as the examples I gave seem to be). They may also, as synthetic claims, be both true and meaningful. (Examples: "the morning star is the evening star"; "a commitment to utilitarianism is not the same as a commitment to communism.") It all depends on what values play the roles of and . But in any case, if such claims can be false, they are not unfalsifiable. And you ther!
efore need another tack to explain why we are justified in calling Satan's logic Satanic at this point.

None of which says anything about whether Satan's claim is logical or illogical. To answer that question, we would probably need to look into his previous characterization of the content of Eve's fear; and, probably, into his preceding summary of the argument of _Areopagitica_. 

As for real questions -- Gardner, they are the only kind worth asking! I wish I had the training to consider the one you put (below). J 

> 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.)
> 
> 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.
> 
> J.D. Fleming
> 
> ------------------------
> 
> Dr. James Dougal Fleming,
> Assistant Professor of English,
> Simon Fraser University,
> (604) 291-4713
> 
> Laissez parler les faits.
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> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 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.

> 

> 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.)


> 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. 

J.D.
> Fleming

------------------------

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

Laissez parler les
> faits.
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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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