[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)
Horace Jeffery Hodges
jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 3 16:38:14 EDT 2008
"Adam and Eve, being unfallen, can be trusted to make their own rules."
In my view, Jim, these rules that they 'make' will reflect God's rules, for unfallen reason, if carefully applied, does not lead Adam and Eve astray. They're not so much 'making' rules as inferring rules -- or perhaps recognizing rules -- by the light of their rational capacity.
But I suppose that I'd need to look more into what Milton meant by his term "reason."
As for the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge, I argue that it is an arbitrary command -- in the sense that God could have chosen some other test.
Whether it is arbitrary in some larger sense in Milton's theology, I do not know. Was a test of this sort -- obedience to a law not discoverable by reason -- necessary for the potential development of free moral agents? Perhaps not, for Satan faced a test that his reason alone should have enabled him to meet.
What do others think?
--- On Thu, 7/3/08, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:
From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Thursday, July 3, 2008, 1:13 PM
Jeffery -- I still need to read your article, but briefly, I'm not
sure that "reason" in the speech in question is necessarily as you
describe it. I think there are at least a couple ways to understand
"reason" here --
1. In, say, Epictetus's sense, in which reason is that which man has
in common with the gods, so that reason "dictates" and serves as
something simultaneously external and internal, like conscience. I
think you and Michael understand it in this sense.
2. In a more personal sense, as simply a human capacity. I read the
line "our reason is our law" with an emphasis on the "our"
is forbidden but the single fruit, so Adam and Eve are free to be
guided by their own thought processes and rational capacity, being
unfallen. The preceding line, "we live law to ourselves" supports
this reading. Adam and Eve, being unfallen, can be trusted to make
their own rules. Yes, the emphasis here is on antinomianism as at
least an ideal.
The command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good
and evil is not arbitrary -- the fruit contains (or is associated
with) what is itself forbidden to Adam and Eve: knowledge of good and
evil. You can say that the location of this knowledge in a fruit is
arbitrary, but once it has been located in the fruit the fruit is
necessarily that which is forbidden. I agree that it could be a
forbidden cabbage or a forbidden kumquat or a prohibition from
spending the night on fixed land (as in a C.S. Lewis novel), but once
this knowledge is associated with the object through the command, the
command is no longer arbitrary. Knowledge of good and evil is clearly
what is forbidden in all cases.
I'll try to respond in more detail after I read your article, though.
Thanks for posting.
Funny, I see Kierkegaard as a critic of the Lutheran tradition from a
Christian humanist perspective, hence the use of pseudonymous authors
engaged in a vast Socratic dialog, indirect communication serving a
purpose similar to the one stated by Plato in the seventh letter, a
line in Concept of Anxiety saying that we should understand
subjectivity as the Greeks did, or would have had they been
Christians, Either/Or being the product of disordered manuscripts
assembled by an editor who is named Victor Eremita, etc.
I think a distinction between conceptual and experiential knowledge of
evil is useful and certainly a propos to Milton as demonstrated from
various quotations, but is there really such a thing as an innocent,
conceptual knowledge of evil other than it is something to be avoided?
All knowledge of evil A and E are allowed and all knowledge that is
possible for them is, "do not eat." Again, all is wrapped up in the
prohibition, which defines their entire understanding of evil before
I think "knowledge of good and evil" in this context places emphasis
on moral evil rather than just undesirable things happening, but
clearly the latter is wrapped up in the former.
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