[Milton-L] Abdiel

Kim Maxwell kmaxwell at stanford.edu
Thu Jun 26 16:59:53 EDT 2008

Some Thoughts

1.  M. Bell argues for a fallen state before falling on an explicit argument from cause.  Any argument that attributes a causal chain to Adam's act, as she rightfully points out, must take us back to God.  She does not reject causal explanations, but she should have.  Causal chains are descriptions, not explanations.  If God caused the fall, the poem makes almost no sense.

2.  Thoughts did not cause the fall, but they are in integral part of evil,  God requires voluntary service.  Adam and Eve must intend what they do for it to be wrong.  Whether Eve was deceived or not is less important than that she thought her way to the act.  The act itself underdetermines its nature as evil (and its consequences).

3. Abdiel's role seems to me to be as much to distinguish Christian and spiritual power from political power (how Satan sees the world) and to allow Satan to meditate on his origins, as Adam does in Book  8.  They come to different conclusions, but as Adam says, how himself beginning knew.  Neither can logically justify his view.  This is one of many examples in the poem in which Milton compromises if not abandons his rationalist agenda.  Otherwise his role seems too small to allegorize into a moral position.

Kim Maxwell

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