[Milton-L] two small queries

Jameela Lares Jameela.Lares at usm.edu
Tue Dec 2 17:55:04 EST 2008


Gregory said and 12/2/08, "For my students this semester, the nature of Adam and Eve's knowledge of what Jameela Lar[e]s calls the "less-than-perfect" (and that I'll call, in a word, evil) became a topic of intense concern."

Just for the record, I really was talking about "less than perfect" rather than "evil," since I was referring to "irksome."  I appreciate your linguistic placeholder idea, but I will again reiterate my concern that modern thinking has tended to strip Paradise of all its prelapsarian depth and ambiguity by making anything interesting or different into "evil" that can only be known after Adam and Eve disobey.  We like roller coaster rides because they are perilous but ultimately safe, not because we won't be really aware until they crash.

Jameela Lares
Professor of English
The U. of So. Mississippi
118 College Drive, #5037
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
601 266-6214 ofc
601 266-5757 fax




-----Original Message-----
>From Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu>
Sent Tue 12/2/2008 10:41 AM
To John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Subject Re: [Milton-L] two small queries

Dear Miklos,

For my students this semester, the nature of Adam and Eve's knowledge of
what Jameela Lars calls the "less-than-perfect" (and that I'll call, in a
word, evil) became a topic of intense concern.  My students began with the
assumption that one can only truly know one thing by knowing its opposite.
(So God is at fault because Adam and Eve can't really know the good they
have until they try evil, etc.)  But we spent a lot of time reflecting on
the implications of Adam's comment "whate'er death is, / Some dreadful
thing no doubt," which seemed to us to suggest that, for Milton, there *is*
a degree and kind of knowledge that one can have about one term in a
binary, even if one only has direct experience of the other term.  Our
thought experiment was to consider the question "What is the opposite of
wind?"  Well, there's no one thing, but presumably, whatever it would be,
it would be static (rather than in motion), visible (rather than
invisible), etc.  One can get a general sense (Adam's "some dreadful thing,
no doubt) about one term in an opposition by reasoning from other terms.

I take it Adam's "irksome" and "toilsome," work this way.  They are
provisional linguistic placeholders, essentially carrying the meaning of
"the-no-doubt-unpleasant-opposite-of-sweet."

Be well,

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College

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