[Milton-L] Perspectivism and Chaos

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Sun Sep 23 13:04:45 EDT 2007


Picking up on Yaakov's suggestion: it seems to me we take wrong ways if we
try to figure out what Chaos "is." After all, Chaos "isn't" anything at all.
It is just Milton's intentional construct. More promising, perhaps, is the
purchase this construct has on its traditional and intellectual
subject-matters, including atomism. However, it seems unlikely that M,
neither a scientist nor a philosopher, is treating the latter
authoritatively. 

What does Milton know about? Texts, traditions, and interpretations.
Accordingly, it seems important that Chaos is Hesiodic, the starting-place
of Greek cosmogony/theogony. As such it is exactly the universal substratum
that Satan, determined to construct himself as the inheritor of pagan
tradition (albeit avant la lettre), sees and needs to see. Ditto corpuscular
mechanism, and reductive determinism, for Satan's determination to construct
himself as empiricist and objectivist. 

"Is" Chaos? It simply doesn't matter. In book 7 the Son stills it with the
word -- that is, with himself. It matters that Chaos doesn't matter to the
son; and that it does matter to Satan.

Finally: I have always loved God's instruction to Raphael: "Whence warn him
[Adam] to beware he swerve not too secure." What the heck does that mean,
anyway? JD Fleming

On Sun, 23 Sep 2007 06:24:08 +0200 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> Dear All:
> 
> A brief note in this erudite debate to propose a different way to	
> interpret the role of Chaos in Milton's PL: what would happen if we	
> were to read the nature of this ambiguous and problematic realm from	
> the perspective of the single protagonists who face it throughout the  
> epic. Meaning: the Word, Satan, Death and Sin. How does Chaos appear	
> to each of these? And if there is a difference, how must we interpret  
> the fact that the same thing is seen in different (very different)	
> ways? Let me ask an even simplet question: why does Chaos interlocute  
> with Satan, but it does not with the Word? Why does it react	
> rebelliously to the building of the bridge by Sin and Death, while it  
> placidly undergoes a "similar" act by Gd?
> 
> If there is an issue of perspectivism in Milton's conception of	
> Chaos, would this help us to understand the different versions we	
> have of it" Boundless, bounded, inchoate, fertile womb of creation,	
> good matter, destructive forces, infernal dregs, etc.
> 
> Hope this may ignite further discussion on a subject I am much	
> interested in.
> 
> Best regards,
> 
> Yaakov Mascetti
> 
> --
> Yaakov A. Mascetti PhD
> Dept. of Comparative Literature
> Bar Ilan University
> Israel
> 
> On Sep 22, 2007, at 9:43 PM, Harold Skulsky wrote:
> 
> > Hi, Michael!
> >
> > I share your doubt about whether (unlike heaven, hell, and nature	
> > [the physical universe]) chaos deserves to be included among	
> > Milton's multiple worlds. For one thing, it is the womb of nature-- 
> > the quarry for the basic raw material of the physical universe. In	
> > other words, it's part of that universe in which God puts forth his  
> > goodness in an inchoate form; the atoms may be powerless to form	
> > objects spontaneously, but they obey dynamic laws that doom them to  
> > an endless cycle--unless the Creator intervenes.
> >
> > I think this last is the point of what amounts to a thought  
> > experiment: Democriitus and his modern epigoni are wrong to think	
> > that the natural order results from the chance collisions of	
> > elementary particles in the absence of intelligent design. "Swerve"  
> > isn't enough to give us galaxies. Atomism (on this view) would be	
> > well advised to beef up its explanatory hypothesis with a clause	
> > about intelligent design. In short, part of M's literary project is  
> > to produce a Christian materialist corrective to Lucretius or	
> > Manilius. I can imagine an alternate history in which we had a De	
> > rerum natura (in characteristically marvelous Latin) from M's hands.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Harold
> >
> >>>> Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> 9/20/2007 3:16 PM >>>
> >  I'm not sure Chaos ought to be listed in series with the three	
> > created places as one
> > of	four "worlds."
> >
> >
> >
> >
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James Dougal Fleming
Department of English
Simon Fraser University
(778)-782-4713
cell: 778-865-0926

Nicht deines, einer Welt.


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