[Milton-L] Free Will, Forgiveness--responses to Peter Herman

Stephen Fallon fallon.1 at nd.edu
Thu Jul 27 23:16:22 EDT 2006

>Perhaps I erred by not quoting the entire passage:
>Through all restraint broke loose he wings his way
>Not farr off Heavín, in the Precincts of light,
>Directly toward the new created World,
>And Man there placít, with purpose to assay
>If him by force he can destroy, or worse,
>By some false guile pervert; and shall pervert
>"Man" has been "plac't" in "the new created 
>World," toward which Satan "wings his way." 
>Given that Milton clearly has "Man" "plac't" in 
>the "new created World," I would say that it is 
>equally clear that by "World," God has in mind 
>Earth, not the entire universe.

The new lines don't change anything.   As Michael 
Gillum observes, Satan looks down on our cosmos, 
knowing all the while that paradise is somewhere 
within that world.

>>  And God does not let Satan in to heaven to speak with Uriel.
>The description of the stairs (ll.500 ff.) says 
>otherwise. They are, so the narrator reminds us, 
>sometimes "drawn up to Heav'n" (3.516), and 
>while it is true that nobody is quite sure who 
>exactly lets the stairs down, the choice the 
>narrator gives us once more leaves no doubt as 
>to where the stairs lead: "whether to dare / The 
>fiend by easie ascent, or aggravate / His sad 
>exclusion from the dores of Bliss" (3.525-26). 
>Third, Satan "scal'd by steps of Gold to Heav'n 
>Gate" (3.542). Satan then looks down "with 
>wonder at the sudden view / Of all this World at 
>once" (3.543-44), but by "world," the narrator 
>means "th'Earth" (3.528). In sum, when God says 
>that Satan wings his way toward "the new created 
>World," the reference is to Earth, not the 
>entire universe.

I don't see any of this.  Earth is within the 
world.  The fact that the passage opens directly 
above the Earth does not mean that Satan knew 
this or that he can discern the Earth from where 
he is or that he knows on which of the many 
planets Paradise is situated.  Why else would he 
need to ask Uriel "In which of all these shining 
orbs man" lives (3.670). The lowering of the 
stairs is not a sign that Satan might be admitted 
to Heaven.  It is like the punishment of 
Tantalus.  Heaven is so close, yet so far.  The 
narrator seems clear on this in lines you quote; 
the action here "aggravate[s] / His sad exclusion 
from the doors of bliss."

>>   Uriel inhabits the sun, itself a part of the 
>>"new created world."  Satan does see the sun 
>>from the stairs, but he is not admitted to 
>That's not clear, because Satan does not try to 
>enter through the "dores of Bliss." Perhaps they 
>would have been closed to him, perhaps not. 
>Satan voluntarily remains on the outskirts, 
>because he is not, I think, looking to get back 
>into Heaven. He wants Eden, and despite God's 
>earlier assertion, Satan does not know the 
>location of Eden, which is why Satan must find 
>someone "who might direct his wandring flight" 
>(3.632). By saying that Satan "wings his way / 
>.../ Directly toward the new created World," God 
>erases from his account both Uriel's partial 
>responsibility (he gave Satan the right 
>directions) and the responsibility for the 
>unknown agent who let down the stairs in the 
>first place. Which leads me to Prof. Fallon's 
>next point:

I think that these points have been answered above and in others' posts.

>>I'm troubled more by the implication that God, 
>>not to be judged cruel, must do everything he 
>>can do to prevent our temptation.
>I don't know about "everything," but certainly, 
>according to the story the narrator gives us, 
>God could have done a great deal more to prevent 
>the Fall than He does, and the narrative He 
>gives in Book 3, a narrative that is all about 
>blame, carefully elides all those moments that 
>make apparent God's contributions to the chain 
>of events leading up to the Fall.

I still question the logic here.  If human beings 
are free, falling is a possibility.  If, in terms 
of the Christian story, the fall took place, then 
it's hard to imagine any narrative of the fall 
for which one could not suggest that God could 
have done x, y, or z to prevent the fall.  But if 
one grants the premise that God wants human 
beings to be free, and that he wants their 
voluntary service as opposed to their 
necessitated service (3.100-11), then the 
imperative is not to prevent the fall, but to 
allow human beings to exercise their freedom.  If 
God prevented Adam and Eve from being tested, he 
may have kept them from falling, but at the price 
of the freedom of their will.

Steve Fallon
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