[Milton-L] potestas ordinata, potestas absoluta, reason, and arbitratry commands

susan allison jbase484 at gmail.com
Sat Jul 12 18:18:51 EDT 2008


Perhaps the impurity was rampant at one time, to prevent illness and  
death, these items (pork, lobster) became woven into the story.(In  
this case a much later part of the story.) There was nothing  
arbitrary about pork and lobster. Eat contaminated pork and you die!  
Eat contaminated lobster and you will become one. Ah, but they are so  
tasty! So to prevent temptation, to keep everyone above board,  
rituals, stories, practices re-iterated the command: "Don't risk it  
for the pleasure because you might die."

Perhaps there was at one time a luscious fruit that was delicious,  
and mildly intoxicating, but then, after 24 hours the digested fruit  
became highly toxic and anyone who ate it died. A specific fruit,  
long since disappeared, could have been woven into the story, as  
"apple" was, not arbitrarily but to signify or specify.  Perhaps the  
apple represented "over-eating" -- what kind of Apples grew back then  
anyway? What were their major characteristics? Did they look like the  
kind of Red Delicious we've come to know? Were they more yellow or  
the orange of Cranash the Elder? Perhaps the fruit/apple was chosen  
to explain why drought had come to those living in the dust east of  
Eden.


I'd say the force of impurity comes from death, disease, and pestilence.


As a new member I hope I have not over-stepped by sending out un- 
revised emails.

Thank you.
Susan Allison


On Jul 12, 2008, at 5:35 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:

> Professor Edelstein, concerning your remark about the arbitrary  
> nature of "the practice of kashrut -- no reason is needed not to  
> eat pork and lobster except that God has prohibited them -- health,  
> aesthetics and animal ethics don't come into it," doesn't the  
> purity-impurity system imply some reason for the prohibitions?  
> Impurity is a dynamic force (see Jacob Milgrom, Commentary on  
> Leviticus) that can contaminate pure things, and that being the  
> case, there is something there, intrinsic to the forbidden thing,  
> that makes the forbidding unarbitrary.
>
>
> Where the force of impurity comes from, of course, is a good question.
>
>
> Jeffery Hodges
>
>
>
> --- On Sat, 7/12/08, Marlene Edelstein <malkaruth2000 at yahoo.co.uk>  
> wrote:
>
> From: Marlene Edelstein <malkaruth2000 at yahoo.co.uk>
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] potestas ordinata, potestas absoluta,  
> reason, and arbitratry commands
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Date: Saturday, July 12, 2008, 2:22 PM
>
> Let me remark, humbly, that I don't believe that the command to  
> refrain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good & evil  
> is unambiguously arbitrary. If God had said don't eat oranges, or  
> don't eat bananas, that could be accepted as an arbitrary  
> restriction (on the lines of the practice of kashrut - no reason is  
> needed not to eat pork and lobster except that God has prohibited  
> them - health, aesthetics and animal ethics don't come into it).  
> But, doesn't the very name of the forbidden fruit invite a  
> different sort of interpretation, one which sees the prohibition as  
> a challenge or rite of passage rather than merely a test of obedience?
>      Adam in Eve in PL are both curious for knowledge, and both (as  
> the discussion on this list through the last couple of weeks  
> demonstrates) have the aptitude for sin and an innate intimation of  
> evil - these are the characters created by Milton, human, and on  
> the brink of full realisation. And why shouldn't they take the  
> final step to full humanity? They are, after all, formed in the  
> image of God, and, as God states (Isiah 45:7) "I form the light and  
> create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all  
> these things". I quote from AV. In Hebrew, the opposition - peace/ 
> evil - is shalom/ra, with shalom perhaps better translated as  
> harmony; in Genesis 9 the tree is of the knowledge of good - 'tov'  
> and evil - again 'ra'. Created in God's image, and motivated by  
> attraction to both good and evil, it was inevitable that A&E should  
> eat that fruit. And the 'ra', which is conventionally translated as  
> evil, is in fact a more complex concept: human beings are motivated  
> by two necessary drives, 'yetzer ha-tov' - the good impulse - and  
> 'yetzer ha-ra' - the evil impulse, but, as in Blake's Marriage of  
> Heaven and Hell, they are not necessarily good and evil in the  
> moral sense, since in this context 'tov' can signify a state of  
> passive conformity, whereas 'ra' signifies energy, originality and  
> endeavour - the two impulses should ideally mitigate each other.
>
>      A conception of God as purely good is not only unbiblical, it  
> presents Milton with an intractable problem, one that God tries to  
> reason his way out of in Book 3 (and elsewhere) - how can God be  
> absolved of responsibility for evil? Milton makes a poetically  
> powerful but philosophically clumsy attempt to deal with this issue  
> by means of the allegory of Sin & Death, which attributes the  
> origin of sin to Satan's dawning rebelliousness. But doesn't this  
> beg various questions?
>
>
>              MRE
> believe everything, believe nothing
>
> --- On Sat, 12/7/08, Horace Jeffery Hodges  
> <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
>
> From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [Milton-L] potestas ordinata, potestas absoluta, reason,  
> and arbitratry commands
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Date: Saturday, 12 July, 2008, 1:25 PM
>
> Professor Skulsky, I have a question, and I will echo your own  
> words to express it.
>
>
> I found interesting the distinction that you note between God's  
> ordained power (potestas ordinata) and his absolute power (potestas  
> absoluta).
>
>
> Milton, you explain, rejects the voluntarism underlying the view  
> that God might have to have established another moral law entirely  
> because morality for Milton is ontologically rock bottom and not a  
> matter of naked will.
>
>
> In contrast to this, Milton accepts the view that God could have  
> chosen a different physics, for efficient causality reflects the  
> potestas ordinata, not the potestas absoluta, thereby making Milton  
> a voluntarist in this respect.
>
> My question is this: Is the command not to eat of the tree of  
> knowledge arbitrary? Put differently, are there some commands that  
> forbid acts that ordinarily would be morally neutral? Could one say  
> that Milton would never accept that God might forbid the good or  
> enjoin the bad but that Milton might accept that as a test, God  
> might forbid or enjoin something otherwise morally neutral?
>
>
> That, you will recall, was the distinction that I was attempting to  
> make concerning the opacity of the command not to eat of the tree.  
> The command was opaque to reason, whereas rationality would have  
> guided Adam and Eve correctly on all other points of moral thought,  
> word, and deed.
>
>
> What is your opinion?
>
>
> Jeffery Hodges
>
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