[Milton-L] Areopatigitica

John Rumrich rumrich at mail.utexas.edu
Sat May 27 12:47:08 EDT 2006

This passage also seems pertinent:

"For God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous  
person more than the restraint of ten vicious."

John Rumrich

On May 26, 2006, at 7:46 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:

> Mike Selby <mike at mikeselby.com> wrote:
>>> The whole argument appears to boil down to how can
> anyone know what is best without realizing the worst.
> But Milton seems to be arguing for the general good of
> the English people, and I am having difficulty
> applying this, or finding where Milton applies it to
> the individual.<<
> Mike, here's the passage that I was thinking of:
> "Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow
> up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of
> good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge
> of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to
> be discerned, that those confused seeds which were
> imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labour to cull
> out, and sort asunder, were not more intermixed. It
> was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the
> knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving
> together, leaped forth into the world. And perhaps
> this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good
> and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil. As
> therefore the state of man now is; what wisdom can
> there be to choose, what continence to forbear without
> the knowledge of evil? He that can apprehend and
> consider vice with all her baits and seeming
> pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and
> yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true
> wayfaring Christian.
> I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue,
> unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and
> sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where
> that immortal garland is to be run for, not without
> dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into
> the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which
> purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is
> contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a
> youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not
> the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and
> rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her
> whiteness is but an excremental whiteness. Which was
> the reason why our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom
> I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus
> or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the
> person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through
> the cave of Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss,
> that he might see and know, and yet abstain. Since
> therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this
> world so necessary to the constituting of human
> virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation
> of truth, how can we more safely, and with less
> danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than
> by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all
> manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be
> had of books promiscuously read. "
> This argument seems to be about individual moral
> development, as this sentence would confirm:
> "He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her
> baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet
> distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly
> better, he is the true wayfaring Christian."
> Milton is such an idividualist that I can't imagine
> him not thinking of individual moral development, so I
> think that we're warranted in reading the above
> passage in this way.
> Milton is a nationalist, too, of course, so he'd want
> this moral development to add up to the good of the
> English nation.
> Jeffery Hodges
> University Degrees:
> Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
> (Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic  
> Texts")
> M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
> B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University
> Email Address:
> jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
> Blog:
> http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/
> Office Address:
> Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
> Department of English Language and Literature
> Korea University
> 136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
> Seoul
> South Korea
> Home Address:
> Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
> Sehan Apt. 102-2302
> Sinnae-dong 795
> Jungrang-gu
> Seoul 131-770
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