[Milton-L] The irrelevance of Satan's character

Harold Skulsky hskulsky at email.smith.edu
Fri Jul 21 00:26:37 EDT 2006


Clearly Milton's God doesn't recognize a general obligation to forgive
every sort of offender; no doubt that makes Milton's God morally
repulsive. 

But another interpretation is possible: that there is no such general
obligation , and forgiveness is a free gift, given or withheld without
constraint. No guilty person has it coming. Is there an obligation to
forgive Pol Pot? Hitler? Vlad the Impaler? Many have conscientiously
believed otherwise, and many have conscientiously withheld their
forgiveness; are these unforgivers morally repulsive? 

(The common lore of Christianity, by the way, displays the Son as the
Judge on the Day of Wrath, as well as the preacher of the Sermon on the
Mount. Origen or no Origen, Christianiity is ambivalent on this point.)

Anyhow, Milton shares God's view of the obligation to forgive; he does
not think he is presenting a morally repulsive character. So if there is
an interesting question of character in PL, it will have to include the
character of the author. 

For what it's worth, it seems to me that not all mistakes about moral
theory are traceable to the depravity of the theorist; the people who
disagree with us may simply be mistaken. So, for that matter, may we.


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