[Milton-L] help interpret a line

Alanhorn3 at cs.com Alanhorn3 at cs.com
Tue Jan 27 03:16:21 EST 2004

I don't fear God, I just fear what He can do to me. Guns don't kill people, 
people kill people. Or rather, guns don't kill people, bullets kill people. But 
actually bullets don't kill people; shock, blood loss, and organ damage kill 

I didn't say the earlier reading was better than Skulsky's because it was 
less silly. The earlier reading--maybe I should call it the consensus reading, 
since everyone else seems to agree with it--is better because it's supported by 
the text. But, "pace" Skulsky, his version of Satan's argument IS sillier. 
It's unconvincing on its face, rather than apparently coherent but resting on 
false premises. I do think Milton wanted to show, as others have said earlier in 
this thread, that Satan's arguments are of the latter variety. This intuition 
does support the consensus reading, though the reading doesn't depend on that 
support and doesn't need to.

Skulsky writes: "There is no reference here, pace Horn, to a general 'greater 

Sorry if my accidental use of the phrase "greater good" was misleading. I 
meant not a general good but a good that's larger and more important than Eve's 
"petty transgress": the "happier life" to which knowledge of good and evil 
"might lead."

Skulsky continues: "...much less [is there reference here] to a recondite 
distinction between the proscribed evil act and 'other evils not explicitly 

I emphasized that Satan is talking about "other evils" to counter Skulsky's 
totally unsupported extrapolation that Satan argues that the act of eating the 
fruit, rather than prospective evil acts in general, will--if it is in fact 
evil--be "easier shunned" after having eaten it (that does sound pretty silly to 
me, or at least impractical). Where in the text does Satan say anything like 

We all agree that Satan in lines 698-9 is parsing the phrase which he has 
just used, "knowledge of good and evil," to demonstrate there's nothing wrong in 
having it. Knowledge of good is obviously good. Knowledge of evil is good 
because it helps us avoid evil more easily. Satan goes on to say in lines 700-702: 
"Therefore God can't punish you for trying to acquire something good--or if 
he does, he's not just, and therefore not God, etc." I don't want to take up 
any more of Professor Skulsky's time, but I would like to ask him to simply cite 
the line or lines in which Satan makes the point he says he makes.

Alan H

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