[Milton-L] both because they're his and because they're just

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Thu Apr 10 13:07:18 EDT 2014

The question of the *Euthyphro*: does God love what is pious, or is the pious just what is God-beloved? 

My gut says that M holds the former. But that may just be my gut. JDF 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Gregory Machacek" <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> 
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Sent: Wednesday, 9 April, 2014 19:13:10 
Subject: [Milton-L] both because they're his and because they're just 

Howard Skulsky writes: If the rules we we're talking about are the rules of moral right and wrong, Milton surely doesn't believe that "God makes the rules." On the contrary, in our poet's consistent judgment, "God hath taught us to love and to extol his laws, not only as they are his, but as they are just and good to every wise and sober understanding." 

Well, first, I don't think it is those rules that we are talking about; it's the more specialized tests of obedience he sets. But I'm not sure that matters one way or another relative to what I regard as the more important point, which is this. The quote you give can be read as supporting the sense I've been trying to argue for. It gives two grounds for loving and extolling (and presumably obeying) God's laws: 1) that they are his, and 2) that our understandings can find them just and good. Milton doesn't say "we love and extol God's laws only once we have deemed them just and good," and doesn't even simply say "God's laws always are just and good." The twofold grounds for extolling God's laws allows for one to obey them even in cases where one has not yet independently determined their conformity to the just and good. If God's laws, as they do, always conform to the just and good, then the two grounds effectively conflate. So the sentence does also effectively say "God's laws always are just and good." But I would suggest that one reason for breaking out the two grounds is precisely to allow for the time period during which the agent in question does the intellectual work of confirming that the laws conform to the just and good (which can sometimes take a while). The laws can be followed even before that work is completed, just because they're his. And the sentence actually puts that grounds first: We extol the laws because they're his; not only that, they turn out upon examination and reflection always to conform to the just and good. 

The sentence can (I think) be read the way I just have and to the effect that I'm trying to turn it. I'd have to to a study of Milton's use of "not only . . . but" phrases to argue that it must be read that way, where he places the "only" when he wants to negate what. Because I'm aware that it could be read: God does not ask us to extol his laws for the insufficient reason that they are his; he only expects us to extol them because they're just and good. "not only . . . but" could mean that, too. 

This DDD passage may bear on God's therefore and the Son's response to it in even more interesting ways, but it will take me a while to work those out. 

Greg Machacek 
Professor of English 
Marist College 

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J ames Dougal Fleming 
Associate Professor 
Department of English 
Simon Fraser University 

Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada. 

And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev.22:3. 

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