[Milton-L] The War in Heaven
mgillum at unca.edu
Wed Jul 12 11:41:20 EDT 2006
What gets me about the fire passage is that it's such a guy thing.
As soon as Adam rouses from his funk, he reaches for the duct tape
and WD-40. He seems to forget temporarily about Eve and the
repentance project as he thinks about all the ways he might jerry-rig
a system to keep warm. Milton may be smiling at Adam here. But it is
necessary and good to keep warm. I think we need to remember that
Milton's Christian humanism is tempered by elements of the "modern"
in the sense Swift meant. Milton was clearly interested in science
and sympathetic towards Bacon. I doubt that he was hostile to
technology per se. I don't think Milton evaluates things in terms of
broad objective categories, but, as Fish says, from the inside out.
Each social process and individual action has to be judged by the
conscience obedient to God's will, in the light of motives and
ethical consequences. Satan's invention of gunpowder is bad, but
Adam's invention of ways to start fires is good. God's clothing A&E
in skins is good.
J. D. Fleming called our attention to the passage (9.390-92) where
the gardening tools are either the product of "art guiltless of fire"
or gifts provided by the angels. The idea that fire is "guilty" does
lend support to the anti-technology argument. It might be related to
the trope about mining and metallurgy amounting to rape of mother
earth, found in Ovid's history of of the Four Ages and picked up in
PL I with the construction of Pandemonium out of metals. But if an
angel gave Eve a pruning saw, it would be a good use of metal.
Otherwise the gardening tools would be limited to sticks and brooms.
Paradise Lost does seem informed by something akin to what we call an
ecological conscience, and I agree that Milton would object to
techological solutions that are massively destructive to nature or to
human dignity. But postlapsarian humans must depend on technology to
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