[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Mon Jul 7 11:56:39 EDT 2008

Judith Herz:
Right, the text doesn¹t say that Eve in the dream ate. I began by thinking
Eve had censored her report to Adam by leaving that detail out, but, a
couple of days ago, Harold Skulsky persuaded me that she didn¹t taste the
fruit in the dream.
Jeffery Hodges:
I agree with your point that Eve cannot be morally responsible for anything
in the dream ‹ even if we suppose she tasted the fruit -- because her reason
is asleep. 

Jim Rovira:
You wrote, ³. . .we can't allow, say, fancy to desire the fruit with the
excuse that reason is sleeping.  If anything created by God desires evil for
itself, then God created a desire for evil -- and God is responsible for
evil.² I wonder if you are taking proper account here of the traditional
account of mental function that Milton more or less followed. The ³mimic
fancy² that Adam describes as the agency of dreams is incapable of evil, or
desiring evil, because it is not a moral agency. It is a blind mechanism
that shuffles and recombines memories at random, sometimes influenced by
physiology. If reason is asleep involuntarily, the person is in no sense a
moral agent. In the case of Adam¹s fall, he failed to consult reason at all,
acting on the basis of emotion alone. I think Milton would say this failure
was voluntary. On this understanding of mental function, what protects God
from the imputation of causing the Fall (by creating defective humans) is
God¹s provision of reason as a competent judge. It is not necessary to claim
that every feeling or impulse of the unfallen humans is perfectly pure,
proportionate, appropriate, etc., since reason is capable of correcting.

In a later post, you wrote, ³Unfallen humans can only desire evil
indirectly, mistaking it for something good, not for itself when seeing it
as it is.² I agree, and I the point helps us understand Eve¹s decisions, at
least.  Adam warns Eve that reason could be deceived by ³some fair appearing
good,² and that is exactly what happens to her, first in the separation
scene I think, then obviously in the temptation. Augustine in the
Confessions says that even the errors of the fallen involve pursuit of good
in some (lower) sense, but often complicated by the awareness of doing wrong
in another sense. I haven¹t seen any reason to think Eve had that awareness
of wrong. 

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