[Milton-L] Free Will, Forgiveness

Jeffrey Wilson jrwilson at uci.edu
Thu Jul 27 10:42:27 EDT 2006


Mr. Rovira,

One possible response to your question (indeed THE question),  
"wouldn't that go against Milton's stated intent to 'justify the ways  
of God to man?' ", is to consider theodicy as the intent of the  
speaker in the poem, who is no less a character than any other, and  
not necessarily the person writing the poem (i.e. John Milton). From  
where I stand, if _Paradise Lost_ was intended to answer the  
theodical question - i.e. given God's omniscience, omnipotence, and  
moral perfection, where does evil come from and why? - then the poem  
is a failure. But, then again, from where I stand that's not the  
intention of the poem.

  Jeff Wilson

On Jul 27, 2006, at 9:06 AM, James Rovira wrote:

> Much appreciation for Prof. Herman's reply -- but wouldn't that go
> against Milton's stated intent to "justify the ways of God to man?"
> How does one justify God's ways to man by presenting God as unsavory,
> cruel, and mendacious?  I can accept a deliberate presentation of that
> kind of a God given a -different- intent by Milton, but not that one.
>
> My guess would be that the rightness of God was presumed by Milton and
> presumed by Milton to also be presumed by his audience, so his
> presentation of God was to be read in that light.  The Romantic
> rereading of Milton's Satan would then signify a dramatic shift in the
> nature of Milton's audience.
>
> But still, my question is sincere.  My guess is just a guess.
>
> I appreciate Jason Kerr's reply too and feel it advances the
> discussion well, and look forward to the day his email settings are
> tweaked...
>
> Jim R
>
> On 7/27/06, Peter C. Herman <herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu> wrote:
>
>>  Jim Rovira's choices repeat a paradigm that is very common in  
>> treatments of
>> Milton's God. Faced with a depiction of God that goes against  
>> expectation,
>> critics either attribute the anomaly to an artistic failing on  
>> Milton's part
>> ("he is poorly written"), or the impossibility of the task, the  
>> assumption
>> being that Milton could not possibly have meant for God to come  
>> across as a
>> narrow-minded tyrant. However, as I've demonstrated elsewhere,  
>> critiques of
>> God were far from uncommon in the latter seventeenth century  
>> (commentaries
>> on the Book of Job, for instance, rocket during this period), and  
>> given the
>> vast amount of evidence within PL that God is a deeply unsavory  
>> character,
>> who is not only cruel, but mendacious, perhaps we should assume  
>> that Milton
>> knew what he was doing (he did not fail artistically in other  
>> parts of the
>> poem, so why here?), and deal with poem Milton wrote, not the poem  
>> we wish
>> he would have written.
>>
>>  Peter C. Herman
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