[Milton-L] Relative intelligence

cbartonphd1 cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Wed Apr 9 09:50:29 EDT 2014

Evan, in Milton's universe, scientia is hierarchical: God is omniscient,  the Son is almost omniscient,  and the angels know a little less than the Son--including what we might call the corporate history of the universe.  Adam and Eve's ontology is less than the angels', and they know little of their own environment, which they are still exploring. The critical lack for them is the inability to discern hypocrisy--which did not exist, prior to Lucifer's revolt--and through which only God can see. Satan knows the OT (wrathful, vengeful,  Calvinistic) God; Adam and Eve only a benevolent Creator. The angels know the might of the Adversary; Adam and Eve, only that there is one. Adam and Eve have no experience with sophistry or philosophy . . . Satan is the Father of Lies, and his words, like Belial's, are "cloth'd in Reason's garb."

I hope that makes the distinction (at least as I've been arguing it) clearer.

Best to all,

Carol Barton

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S®III-------- Original message --------
From: Evan LaBuzetta <evanlabuzetta at cantab.net> 
Date:04/08/2014  8:52 PM  (GMT-05:00) 
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu 
Subject: [Milton-L] Relative intelligence 

.-------- Original message --------
From: Evan LaBuzetta 
Date:04/08/2014 8:52 PM (GMT-05:00) 
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu 
Subject: [Milton-L] Relative intelligence 

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.


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