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

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 13 15:42:03 EDT 2008

James, on the first question, I was being cagey. In the purity-impurity system, I think that anything evil would be impure. As a dynamic force, impurity stands in opposition to divine holiness, so there's definitely something bad about it, but I don't find that the Old Testament clarifies its origins in evil. At any rate, an impure thing would not necessarily be evil. The swine is impure, but that would be an unfortunate consequence of not fitting into the classification system of Leviticus -- a disorder in creation whose source is left unexplained, but presumably not the pig's fault, and the pig is not an evil creature. Nor is a high priest who inadvertently contracts impurity an evil person.
On the second question, you're arguing that the command not to eat the fruit is not arbitrary because once God has made a connection between that tree and a certain sort of improper knowledge, then the command is reasonable. My argument is that in Milton's thinking, God's choice of that particular tree is arbitrary, for he could have chosen oranges over apples -- or something else entirely -- and in this sense, the command is arbitrary, grounded in God's free choice of the 'apple' as a test. That's why, in Paradise Lost, the command has to be explicitly revealed to Adam and Eve, for their reason would not lead them to conclude that this particular tree should be avoided.
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Sun, 7/13/08, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] potestas ordinata, potestas absoluta, reason, and arbitratry commands
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Sunday, July 13, 2008, 7:29 AM

Jeffery -- when you associate "evil" with the "impure," do
you mean
that evil is one of many things that are impure (so that some things
may be impure but morally neutral), or do you mean all impure things
are also evil things?

Could you give me a brief description of how you think I'm using the
word arbitrary, how you're using the word arbitrary, and how they


Jim R
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