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

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Mon Sep 7 23:39:08 EDT 2009

Thanks for the replies again, Carol.

> 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.

The most simplest of commands are muddied by reasoning.  Her one
mistake was engaging the snake in dialog, but even that took her by
surprise.  I think it wouldn't be hard to follow her conversation with
the snake to see how she was talked into it.  The point here is the
limitations of reason, and what happens when we rely upon it too much.

I think you tend to ascribe fallen psychology to prelapsarian Eve,
though.  Here --

> 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.

You present a self-willed Eve who wants something wrong and knows it,
but pursues it anyhow.  That's hardly an innocent Eve.  I don't think
it can be Milton's Eve.

>>> 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 ascription of motives to God reveal the nature of the person
ascribing motives to God in Milton's poem, not Divine motives.  We
reveal the truth about ourselves here, not God.

> I don't see why reason is amoral, Jim (isn't it a God-given faculty?).

Well, reason itself is good, if we're talking about reason as a
faculty.  If we're talking about any particular reasoning process, or
the act of reason itself, the act itself is usually amoral, like the
act of adding.  Whether we are counting out the bullets we're going to
use to murder someone or counting out drops of medicine to save
someone's life, the act of counting itself is amoral.  Eve's reasoning
was guided by the snake to a wrong conclusion (hence, deception),
which illustrates the limitations of reason, but not the immorality of

Jim R

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