[Milton-L] Relative intelligence

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Wed Apr 9 09:26:57 EDT 2014

Evan, you are right that it's not a matter of how much knowledge. There is
a traditional claim that the angels' intelligence is intuitive--they just
"see" the truth, like when you suddenly had an insight into a geometrical
theorem in the 8th or 9th grade. By contrast, human intelligence is more
discursive and proceeds through a chain of reasoning. Raphael explains this
at 5.486-90, but adds that they are differing only in degree. In the
temptation, Eve gets caught up in chains of reasoning and forgets the
simple truth that she has well understood.

Another important point is that Milton, and Christian humanists before him
(like Hooker), thought of reason as a moral faculty that tells right from
wrong: "reason is our law."

On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 8:52 PM, Evan LaBuzetta <evanlabuzetta at cantab.net>wrote:

> Hi all,
> A question born of sheer ignorance on my part.
> There's a claim that's come up a few times in this discussion of obedience
> and the relative culpability of fallen angels vs. fallen humans, and it's
> one that I've never questioned before - namely the claim that the angels
> (Lucifer especially) are intellectually superior. Earlier today, Michael
> Gillum put it, "The angels had a higher order of rationality which would
> have made truth and right more obvious to them than to the humans." and
> Oydin reposted a comment that "Adam and Eve had been misled and deceived by
> an angelic being who was created with much more intelligence."
> But what would "more intelligent" mean in this context? What's the quality
> of "intelligence"? This is a tricky enough question in real life without
> trying to extrapolate onto fictional supernatural characters, but it seems
> like in PL intelligence is a matter of assembling proper knowledge and
> rationally understanding the relationships between those pieces of
> knowledge. I think this is how Adam reasons at, for example, 4.412-421:
> "needs must the Power / That made us, and for us this ample World / Be
> infinitly good, [we] can performe /Aught whereof hee hath need, hee who
> requires / From us no other service then to keep / This one, this easie
> charge," At this point Adam has massive gaps in his knowledge, but draws
> conclusions based on what he knows.
> So if intelligence is based on the interaction between knowledge and
> reason, how does this difference in intelligence arise? If it's simply a
> matter of being more knowledgable about the created universe, then of
> course there's no question about it; the angels are more intelligent in
> that sense. And I suppose we can imagine that this superior level of
> knowledge gives the angels more material to work with, so to speak, and
> could perhaps give an angel an advantage in an argument, if only by virtue
> of being able to spin out more complicated chains of reasoning and to
> appeal to this advantage in their knowledge base. But this isn't really
> intelligence or even reason. I guess where I'm getting stuck is this idea
> that "thinking rationally" can be a matter of degrees. What's the angels'
> higher-order rationality? What would that even mean?
> And the reason I think this matters for the current List discussion is
> that if the difference of "intelligence" between the angels and mankind is
> really just a matter of the angels being better informed, then that reduces
> the difference of moral culpability quite drastically. Oydin is, I think,
> right that Adam is "undeceived", but if there's no difference in reasoning
> capacity between Eve and Satan, then so, in an important way, is Eve.
> If this is a ridiculous question, I apologize, but it seemed like an
> intriguing one to me and I'd be very interested to hear what the list
> collectively thinks.
> Best,
> Evan
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