[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sat Jul 5 13:35:51 EDT 2008

Responding to a couple of Jim R's points:

> Are you really sure Raphael is right to rebuke Adam for his
> curiousity?

--  No, but my working assumption as a reader of PL is to assume that Milton
meant the apparently authoritative speakers to be actually authoritative.
Raphael, though not omniscient, is smarter and more experienced than Adam.
The defensible point here is that "aesthetic reflection" (K) can be a
distraction from duty (e.g., I should be cleaning the basement instead of
typing this) or from focusing awareness on more pressing concerns (the
Adversary is near, don't eat the fruit). However, readers may disagree with
these speakers with respect to the real world, and critics may look for
cracks to expose in the fictive world.

>  I see in both these events,
> however, not so much a description of flaws in Adam and Eve, but weak
> points that can be exploited by their adversary.  In part this depends
> upon some of the assumptions we bring to the text: if God created Adam
> and Eve without moral flaw, then he cannot be blamed for their sin,
> but if God did, then he can -- but the latter is an odd assumption to
> bring to a text written to justify the ways of God to man.  If by
> nature, and uninfluenced by external temptation, either Adam or Eve
> are inclined toward sinful or wrong desires, this casts some shadow
> upon  the God who created them.

--What is the difference between a flaw and a weak point? I listed faulty
desires because "desire" was the term of your antinomian statement, but the
clearest example is Adam's love for Eve and its consequence. This love
proceeds from his created nature and it is good, but it is so strong as to
distort his perception of the real order of things. Presumably God/Milton
would say he had the capacity to correct this distortion by reasoning, but
he chose instead to let it carry him away. Yes, one could blame God for not
creating A&E stronger, but the same conclusion could be drawn directly from
the Genesis account. Milton just specifies the motives, opening them and
their underpinnings to inspection. Also these wrong desires or excessive
feelings are not sinful unless they lead to a willful violation of law
(whether natural or positive law). I think Milton would say that, since God
supplied A&E with reason as a corrective for their weaknesses, God is
cleared of direct responsibility.


More information about the Milton-L mailing list