[Milton-L] human intellectual & moral capacity

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sun Apr 6 16:09:17 EDT 2014

Not saints and sinners -- redeemed and lost, and worthiness is conferred by
God to the redeemed by grace. Worthiness before God is moral perfection,
hence the need for grace (no one is worthy by this standard), and the
poem's resultant emphasis upon God's acts of mercy and prevenient grace.
The problem is that at times Milton seems to want it both ways. Human
beings reasonably make distinctions in degrees of morality among other
human beings (we have to), but that's not necessarily applicable to Divine

Jim R

On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 4:04 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:

>  What is "worthiness before God?"  That is the big question.  For Luther,
> Calvin, etc, there is no such thing for humans.  For Milton, I think there
> was such a thing, and that it consisted of the classical virtues (ideally
> together with faith in some version of the biblical God) -- this may not
> have been "all," but it certainly was not nothing.  The on/off switch makes
> no sense -- that would mean a world of only saints and sinners.
>  ------------------------------
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of James Rovira [
> jamesrovira at gmail.com]
> *Sent:* Sunday, April 06, 2014 2:45 PM
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] human intellectual & moral capacity
>   I'm more interested in the reasoning than the fact: does it matter that
> Eve's sin is somehow lesser than Satan's, or for that matter, why does it
> matter at all that there was an element of deceit in Eve's fall and none
> whatsoever in Satan's? If grace is undeserved, Satan's sin being either
> worse or somehow different without being worse shouldn't matter. If Adam
> and Eve can only repent because of God's prior act, why doesn't God so act
> upon Satan? He doesn't deserve it? That's not grace, then.
>  I think we need to wrap our heads around the idea that worthiness before
> God (though not people) is an absolute quality: the difference between
> being worthy and unworthy is infinite because it is qualitative. It's like
> an on/off switch -- all or nothing.
>  Jim R
> On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 3:31 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:
>>  "Eve is not Satan's intellectual match, and neither are we."  I think
>> this vastly underestimates Milton's belief in human intellectual and moral
>> capacity (see "Of Education," Areopagitica, etc, etc).  As Satan says --
>> I think correctly -- in PR, the positions that the Son articulates in
>> the dialogue between them show the Son to be "th'utmost of mere man both
>> wise and good, / Not more."  For the Son to show himself to be "more,"
>> something else is required (and happens, of course).
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Dr. James Rovira
Associate Professor of English
Tiffin University
Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
Continuum 2010
Text, Identity, Subjectivity
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