[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 10 00:22:05 EDT 2009

Working from memory, I think that my formulation "Satan brings Eve to the point of wondering if God is the true God" was a more concise restatement of an earlier statement in a prior post: "Is the God who placed the tree of knowledge in the garden the true God?"
Or something like that.
Anyway, in terms of the way that you've gone on to express the issue of God's having withheld the knowledge of good and evil, I'd reply that what Milton's God withheld was not the intellectual knowledge of evil as distinct from good but the experiential knowledge of having committed evil and being no longer good.
Or so I argue in a paper published a couple of years ago.
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Wed, 9/9/09, Harold Skulsky <hskulsky at smith.edu> wrote:

From: Harold Skulsky <hskulsky at smith.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 10:53 PM

"Satan brings Eve to the point of wondering if God is the true God."

I'm not clear on what Eve is supposed to be wondering when she asks herself: "Is God the true God?"  If the subject of this sentence SUCCESSFULLY refers to some determinate thing in the world - call the determinate thing Fred - then to supply a "No" answer is to deny that Fred is Fred, and that is a flat contradiction. If the subject of the sentence FAILS to refer, then the sentence doesn't even rise to contradiction (necessary falsity) because it is nonsensical, and hence neither true nor false (it is like "Flapdoodle is not the real Flapdoodle" - if we assume that "Flapdoodle" fails to refer).

Maybe what saves the day for the logic and meaningfulness of "God is not the true God" is a special sense of "God" in the phrase "the true God." That is, maybe this second occurrence in the sentence of the  PROPER NAME "God" is being used to abbreviate a DESCRIPTION, such as "the Creator." If so, we still need to know whether or not the being that Satan and Eve are calling "God" is the Creator. But then we have to have a way of picking out which being is the subject of these denials; that is, which being is the one Satan and Eve are calling "God"? 

Suggestion: the being Satan and Eve are calling God is none other than the being who issued the fruit-prohibition ("the Prohibitor" for short). So the charge on the table (Satan's) is that the Prohibitor is not the Creator - is not the benign and infinitely fruitful Creator shown in PL 3 defending his prohibition and his creation of human nature, and shown on the job (via the Son) in PL 7. But by showing these things PL is saying that the Prohibitor is the Creator, no matter what Satan says to the contrary. (Indeed, in PL 5 Satan denies that anybody is the Creator.) PL is the story of Satan lying about God. 

Can this conclusion be avoided?

Yes. The description abbreviated by the second occurrence of "God" in "God is not the real God" need not be "the Creator." It can be another familiar monotheistic formula in the Judeochristian tradition: "the being that is all-powerful, all-wise, and all good." 

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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