[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Thu Sep 10 00:10:51 EDT 2009

What was so clearly laid out below might be a plausible argument if
the knowledge of good and evil were equivalent to other forms of
knowledge; i.e., knowledge of arithmetic or geology or astronomy or
literature, in other words, pleasure-giving to attain and amoral in
itself.  But since the -only- way to attain the knowledge of good and
evil is by breaking a command, the knowledge of good and evil can only
be -experiential- knowledge.  We can only know good and evil by
becoming evil, or by experiencing evil, so that only by our experience
of evil do we know how to distinguish it from good.

To think of the situation any other way is to ascribe special
"knowledge-of-evil-giving" properties to the fruit, as if the
knowledge of good and evil inhered in some property of the fruit
itself -- the fruit would contain evil or the knowledge of evil the
way citrus contains vitamin C.  But this reasoning would be to make
evil a -thing- that has been -created by God- and thus communicable
directly through God's creation.  In short, it is to assume that God
contains the principle of evil as well, so is not all-good.

However, if the fruit as created by God is good, as all things created
by God are good in traditional Christian thought, it is the act of
disobedience, not the fruit itself, that imparts knowledge of good and
evil, so that the actor is responsible for his or her own attainment
of the knowledge of good and evil, not God.

In short, our choice of the two options above is a choice we make
before we reason about the text (and the fruit), not afterwards.  We
either assume from the beginning that God is all good, or assume from
the beginning that God is not (or not -necessarily-; faith comes down
on the positive side, lack of faith on the side of agnosticism or
atheism), but either way, we adopt this assumption pre-rationally and
go on from there.  As a result, to begin to reason about the question
of eating the fruit at all is to begin to go wrong.  If you have
faith, you've already made up your mind.

Milton believes we can reason about evil "safely" now because we have
all already gone wrong.  I believe there are comments in the
Areopagitica to this effect.

Jim R

> Suggestion: what Satan means by "God is not the real God" is that authorship of the fruit-prohibition is incompatible with being all-good - nobody can prohibit this fruit and be good at all, much less all-good. I think this is clearly what Satan is arguing: that knowledge of good and evil is a good that cannot be justly withheld from anybody capable of enjoying it, including A&E. Here, it is not immediately clear that Satan is wrong, much less lying -  in the absence of a plausibly deflationary definition of "knowledge" in this context, or in the absence of a reason for supposing that it is sometimes just to deny a good to somebody capable of enjoying it.
> I leave the latter task as an  exercise.

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