[Milton-L] Directly

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Mon Jul 31 08:51:06 EDT 2006

My understanding of Prof. H's reasoning is this: If someone speaks
inaccurately, we must assume that s/he either does not know the truth
(at least not completely), or is lying.  Since God is omniscient, then
if God speaks inaccurately, He is lying.  God speaks inaccurately when
he claims that Satan is traveling "directly" to earth, therefore God
is lying.

Given this chain of reasoning, we can make at least three possible responses:

1. "Directly" does not refer to a physical path but to Satan's intent,
and his physical path follows the best course possible to serve his
intent given his lack of knowledge of the exact location of earth.  I
may intend to drive directly from Orlando to Dallas, but may have to
drive (unknowingly) out of the way to the AAA office to pick up maps
first -- this is still a part of my direct route.  Satan unknowingly
traveling "out of the way" to the steps of heaven, then to the sun,
then to earth is the most direct route he can follow given his lack of
knowledge, but his intent is to go nowhere else but earth -- to go
there directly.

This is very different from, say, me choosing to stop at Athens, GA
knowing it is out of the way of my direct route to Dallas.  Then it
could not be said I traveled to Dallas directly.

2. Satan does indeed travel directly to earth, as there was no other
way to gain entrance to the physical universe but through the hole
located near the steps of heaven, and the stop at the sun was on the

3. God is not omniscient.  Prof. Herman may have considered this
possibility during discussion, but I don't recall.  But to argue for
this possibility is to argue against God's dishonesty.  To try to
assert both at once would be to reveal that one's intent is only to
attack Milton's representation of traditional attributes of God in PL
regardless of the accuracy or coherence of these attacks.

I don't think Prof. Herman's responses were clearly organized to
demonstrate how they meet Prof. Skulsky's very good criteria, but I
think they did attempt to meet them. The "unambiguous moral criteria"
would be that every word of God's must be completely truth -- the
whole truth accurately told.  Furthermore, it is assumed that God is
capable of meeting this criteria given His omniscience. I don't think
either of these assumptions would be foreign to Milton's audience.
While Prof. Herman did provide a text and a reading that attempts to
demonstrate that God is being dishonest, I have only seen assertions
that his reading can be the only right one, not an argument why this
reading can be the only right one.

So I do think Prof. Herman's argument is a bad one, but largely for
reasons given in another post.

Jim R

More information about the Milton-L mailing list