[Milton-L] Absolute Freedom

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Wed Apr 15 13:59:31 EDT 2009

Unfortunately, the demands of grading prevent me from turning my own feeble
faculties to this problem, but I do recall that Steve Fallon has an article
(which I believe reappeared in Milton Among the Philosophers) that takes up
your very question and would make a nice quick crib before tomorrow's class.

"'To Act or Not': Milton's Conception of Divine Freedom." JHI 49.3 (1988):

I don't mean to suggest that Steve's article is or should be the last word,
but it does frame the problem quite nicely in a form accessible enough to
read in time for class tomorrow. In any case, I think it's great that you're
reading from DDC with your students, and I hope it goes well.

Jason A. Kerr

On Wed, Apr 15, 2009 at 1:14 PM, Ross Leasure <trleasure at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear mentors and colleagues,
> I write humbly to ask for some guidance (as I plow through excerpts of
> De Doctrina Christiana from the recently published Modern Library
> edition) in preparation for teaching tomorrow's class.  I'm sure I'm
> missing something, my own feeble faculties insufficient to comprehend
> Milton's logic.  My particular difficulty is in wrapping my mind
> around what seems to me a problematic contradition presented briefly
> in the following to passages:
> "In God a certain immutable internal necessity to do good, independent
> of all outside influences, can be consistent with absolute freedom of
> action" (c. 3; p. 1155).
> "God always acts with absolute freedom, working out his own purpose
> and volition" (c. 5; p. 1174).
> If an immutable God, of internal necessity, can only do good, is he
> not limited in his freedom since he cannot will evil?  How can God's
> incapacity to will evil be "consistent with absolute freedom of
> action" in other words?  Or could God will evil, but chooses not to?
> Wouldn't that change the essential nature of Milton's good God?
> I'm anticipating that some of my students might ask similar questions,
> and I don't yet have sufficient understanding to untie what seems to
> me a indissoluable logical knot.  I look forward to reading whatever
> correction or redirection will be forthcoming regarding my inquiry.
> Thank you in advance for your assistance and consideration.
> --
> T. Ross Leasure
> Dept. of English
> Salisbury University
> Salisbury MD 21801
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The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

          —Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
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