[Milton-L] pre-fallen knowledge of sin

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Wed Jul 2 15:08:21 EDT 2008

Knowing evil--
In addition to the two kinds of knowledge, conceptual and experiential,
there are two meanings of "evil" in early modern English, including Milton
and the KJV-- also in the underlying Hebrew so translated, or so I've read.
One is wrongness and the other is harm or unpleasantness. So the "king's
evil" is just a disease and has nothing to do with ethical or metaphysical

Therefore, when A&E are said to know evil through the fruit, this means (a)
they experience wrongness within themselves, but also (b) they suffer.
Perhaps this is another of the Father's ironies that drove Empson crazy
("another ghastly joke").


On 7/2/08 10:25 AM, "Dennis Danielson" <danielso at interchange.ubc.ca> wrote:

> 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 we
> take 'know' to mean." It certainly does.
> Somewhere in the Christian Doctrine Milton explicitly distinguishes
> *notitia approbationis* (which I take to mean something like ³knowledge
> which implies approval²) from mere *scientia*; and in the state of
> innocence it is the latter sort of knowledge of evil that A&E possess.
> Hence, ³Evil into the mind of god or man / May come and go, so
> unapproved, and leave / No spot or blame behind.² 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

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