[Milton-L] pre-fallen knowledge of sin

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 2 14:34:48 EDT 2008

Perhaps I can be forgiven for pasting the abstract to a paper that I mentioned previously, for it seems appropriate to the issue that Jim Rovira raises and consistent with what Dennis Danielson writes:

"Like One of Us: Milton's God and Fallen Man"

Horace Jeffery Hodges

The paper analyzes God's announcement to the heavenly assembly in Paradise Lost 11.84-85, which begins with these puzzling words: "O sons, like one of us man is become / To know both good and evil." The words are puzzling because prelapsarian Adam and Eve already knew the difference between good and evil. The paper's argument turns on the ambiguity of the word "knowledge," which can be either conceptual or experiential. Thomas Blackburn noted this distinction in a 1971 article, but his argument is flawed in its conclusion that Adam and Eve come to share the experiential knowledge of evil that the faithful angels have from their fight against the fallen angels. Blackburn's argument fails because the faithful angels never experience evil within themselves. Rather, Adam and Eve come to share experiential knowledge of evil with the fallen angels, who have already experienced evil within themselves. God's words about man in 11.84-85 coming to be "like one of
 us" thus refer to Satan (and his minions), not to the faithful angels. That a fallen Adam and Eve are like Satan should not be especially surprising, but this reinterpretation of Genesis 3:22 is nonetheless rather bold, perhaps even unprecedented in the Christian tradition.

The entire article, "Like One of Us: Milton's God and Fallen Man," MEMES 14.2 (2004.11): 285-303, can be read here:
Michael Gillum assures me that this can be read outside of Korea . . . assuming anybody is interested.
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Wed, 7/2/08, Dennis Danielson <danielso at interchange.ubc.ca> wrote:

From: Dennis Danielson <danielso at interchange.ubc.ca>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] pre-fallen knowledge of sin
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 9:25 AM

I have been too consumed with other things to follow this discussion
properly, so please forgive me if I'm repeating points made by others.
But let me start with Kim Maxwell's statement "Much depends upon what
take 'know' to mean." It certainly does.

Somewhere in the Christian Doctrine Milton explicitly distinguishes
*notitia approbationis* (which I take to mean something like “knowledge
which implies approval”) from mere *scientia*; and in the state of
innocence it is the latter sort of knowledge of evil that A&E possess.
Hence, “Evil into the mind of god or man / May come and go, so
unapproved, and leave / No spot or blame behind.” This distinction can
be found in other writers too: *scientia visionis* vs. *scientia
approbationis.* The first of these also seems to be what Milton has in
mind when he uses visual vocabulary in Areopagitica: "The knowledge and
survay of vice is in this world . . . necessary to the constituting of
human vertue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth."

Unless we have this distinction firmly in mind, we inevitably get
confused when Adam and Eve seem to have knowledge of evil in the state
of innocence.

Best regards,
Dennis D

Dennis Danielson
Professor and Head
Department of English
University of British Columbia
#397 - 1873 East Mall
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z1
telephone: 604-822-3174
Author: The First Copernican
WEB: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/ddaniels/

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