[Milton-L] lapsarian sex for Carrol Cox

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Tue Apr 15 11:48:52 EDT 2014

All linguistic conventions are "arbitrary" in the sense that they are
"conventional" and not "given to us by nature," but that doesn't mean that
they're random or capricious. We need to keep in mind that Milton's major
source text distinguished between a unified, unfallen human language and a
postlapsarian (and post Babel) fallen human language that Milton himself
probably would have taken to make some kind of true statement about the
outside world. In other words, his linguistic and theological tradition
identified a distinction between fallen and unfallen language, and that
tradition is among true facts about the world, even if we don't believe
that the tradition itself reveals any external truths about the world.

I think in both sex and language we don't want to isolate the mechanics of
these respective activities as wholly and solely defining their natures.
Sex has meaning (or can have meaning) for its participants that far
transcends the physical act. Similarly, a linguistic sign isn't a grammar
or a communicative range. We might consider that "knowing good from evil"
means "now possible to express evil," something not possible to Adam and
Eve in their unfallen state any more than hungry, self-gratifying sex was
possible in their unfallen state.

Jim R

On Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 11:01 PM, Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu> wrote:

> (Thanks to all who helped me on this.)
> Whether or not Milton 'intended' this, _after_ the suggestion is made it's
> going to be difficult for anyone not to have the possibility in mind when
> reading the two passages.
> As to fallen & unfallen language: _if_ the contrast exists at all it has to
> be an arbitrary one: there can be no liguistic signs of "fallen" as opposed
> to "unfallen" language: it is all simply English.
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