[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Harold Skulsky HSKULSKY at email.smith.edu
Mon Jan 26 12:44:57 EST 2004


Beth Bradburn asks if Eve's fear of eating the apple is not the same as
her fear of God. The short answer is no. The fears are distinct. Eve's
fear of eating the apple is DUE to her fear of God, or rather of what
God will do if she eats. But for that very reason the fear of God does
not directly involve the point of the Tempter's whole effort at this
point; Eve needn't actively fear God or death unless she eats--and
eating is what needs to be made fear-free if the Tempter is to get his
way. The "fear" that is the grammatical object of "removes" in 702 is
the fear of performing the act that will promote other fears (of God and
Death) from the status of deterrents to the status of live expectations.
(As a deterrent of course, nothing will remove the fear of God, and it
would not serve the Tempter's purpose to argue otherwise.)

Bradburn ends by paraphrasing the "literal" sense of 702 as "Your fear
of God removes the fear of death." This will not do, I continue to
think. The grammatical subject of "removes" in 702 is "Your fear itself
of Death," not "Your fear itself of God." It is simply  Pickwickian to
claim that the LITERAL meaning of the former is the latter. 

Playing fast and loose with the literal meaning of the much-abused
adjective "literal" is one the disastrous consequences of the late
Donald Davidson's malign influence on thinking about trope. I suppose
(given Gresham's law) that we will have to live with this for the
duration.



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