[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Gardner Campbell gcampbel at mwc.edu
Mon Jan 26 11:00:25 EST 2004

I don't think Satan has a bad argument. Rather the opposite, which I
think is one of the brilliant facets of Milton's epic here. No doubt I'm
writing too casually about "specious" logic. The argument is bad not
because the logic doesn't work (though I'd still say that there are some
dodgy premises here), but because it invites certain conclusions about
logic and its self-sufficiency that interact with one's experience of
interiority and emotion in such a way as to lull the conscience to

Gardner Campbell
Mary Washington College

>>> jfleming at sfu.ca 01/26/04 10:05 AM >>>
I must say I remain somewhat uncomfortable with the suggestion, voiced
on this thread by Gardner but widely approved both here and elsewhere,
that in the passage under consideration M is demonstrating "the limits
of reason." I am uncomfortable with this view because the people who
hold it always seem to pair it with the claim that Satan has a bad
argument (which I think is in fact the case, for the very simple reason
that he uses false premises). But how can M be demonstrating the limits
of reason by representing a bad argument? Doesn't that strategy, rather,
demonstrate the sovereignty of reason?
J.D. Fleming


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

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