[Milton-L] Eve's curls (reply to Jim Rovira)

Carol Barton cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Mon Sep 7 18:03:57 EDT 2009

Thanks for a good (and genial) post, Jim. (I hope you knew I was 
teasing, about the cake--and sometimes, I think He should, though he 
hasn't yet.)

Interlineally, because the alarm rings at 5:00 and I've miles to go 
before I sleep . . .

> I like your reading from this point forward, and the following seems
> to have been anticipated by the context of Eve's discussion with 
> Adam
> that we were quoting from earlier:
>> He has planted the seeds, but it is Eve herself who MISUSES her 
>> right reason
>> to carry the argument to its logical (but blasphemous) conclusion:
> But I think the point of the temptation scene is that Eve is
> -deceived- into thinking bad was good.  Being unfallen, she has to 
> be
> tricked into thinking breaking the command is a good act:

CB: But I take you back to the first line of the poem, Jim: how (in 
Milton's epistemology) can she **ever** be "tricked into thinking that 
breaking the command was a good act"? It is the sole command, the sole 
interdiction, in an environment of otherwise complete freedom and 
abundant good. Her loving Father has told her not to do it--told her 
also, that if she does, she will suffer dire consequences. How can she 
think that the arguments of a suddenly speaking and reasoning creature 
are superior to that commandment? (She tricks **herself** into 
thinking it's a good act, because she wants nothing more than to be 
equal/sometimes superior to Adam . . . like Gawain, who is impervious 
to every temptation save the one that touches the heart of his 
terror--that the Green Knight will exact his just reward, and thus 
furtively accepts the kirtle, and conceals the gift from his 
host--duplicity in which he would not otherwise engage.) To put it in 
more modern terms, Satan has assumed that Eve has "a price," and honed 
in on its nature. Once that carrot is dangled before her eyes, she 
sees and hears nothing else--especially not if it's contrary to her 
achievement of that goal.

>> Great are thy virtues, doubtless, best of fruits,
>> Though kept from man, and worthy to be admired;

The "kept from man" is blasphemy, in this context--withheld from man, 
out of God's spite, as Satan has implied. God has deliberately 
deprived man of a good--and not good, not God, as Satan observes.

> The point is, I think, that an unfallen creature can be motivated to
> act wrongly only by a defect in reason and in thought, but not by a
> defect in desire.  Reason is amoral, and reasoning incorrectly may 
> not
> be any worse than adding incorrectly (prelapsarian, unmotivated
> reasoning incorrectly).

I don't see why reason is amoral, Jim (isn't it a God-given faculty?). 
Eve does not consciously desire to disobey God (the way Satan does), 
any more than the daughter in my example to Jeffery *wants* to disobey 
her father--she just wants something else **more,** and that makes her 
obedience a secondary priority. That is, I think, precisely Milton's 
point: when we put our own desires above our filial obligations to and 
our love for God, we make God's commandments subordinate. How many 
people know and agree that (conceptually) adultery is wrong--but 
engage in it anyway, because the passion overrules all other 
prohibitions? Are they "deceived"?--or do they actively choose to put 
gratification above the need to avoid sin?

Best to all,

Carol Barton 

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