[Milton-L] more on fallacious

cbartonphd1 cbartonphd1 at verizon.net
Thu Apr 17 08:35:34 EDT 2014

I would say it's more than that, though, Greg: the act is the same.  It's their attitude toward it that is different--like the difference (one hopes) between the way a man looks at the naked woman he loves and the way he looks at the Playboy centerfold (or a prostitute or pornographic movie), and for similar reasons. As others have pointed  out, though perhaps not in the same words, one is making love.  The other goes by more pejorative names.

Best to all, 

Carol Barton
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S®III

-------- Original message --------
From: Gregory Machacek <Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu> 
Date:04/17/2014  7:52 AM  (GMT-05:00) 
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] more on fallacious 

Oh, certainly, but I think it would intensify rather than diminish the experience of the word "fallacious" that I'm suggesting they would have.  If I see an ad for dexterous and sinister keyboards, I'll understand what is means and even know it is etymologically warranted.  But I'll also think to myself that that's striking usage because English has largely settled on a different application of those roots.

Anyway, on further reflection, I have realized that we do sometimes use language that blames our expectations on the thing that aroused them, even without that thing having made any actually deceptive claim:  "that sunrise promised a warmer day."  So "fallacious" here is "having aroused in Adam and Eve unwarranted and not-to-be-fulfilled expectations."

That gives a different way of addressing oneself to the observations about the two scenes of lovemaking that have prompted all of this inquiry.  To Lewis' "the contrast is not as sharp as it ought to have been" or Strier's even more emphatic "I have never thought that there was any real difference between pre and post sex, even though m obviously wanted there to be," one now gives this answer:  Lovemaking after the fall is exactly like lovemaking before, it's just that, I don't know, I had sorta thought it was gonna be better somehow, so . . . now I'm actually kinda disappointed by it.

Be well,

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College

-----milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu wrote: -----
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
From: John Hale 
Sent by: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
Date: 04/16/2014 10:23PM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] more on fallacious

Milton and his readers would readily hear Latin "fallax" ("liable to deceive, FALLERE) behind "fallacious".

John Hale
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Gregory Machacek [Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu]
Sent: Thursday, 17 April 2014 12:36 p.m.
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: [Milton-L] more on fallacious

"fallacious fruit" though, didn't seem right to me.  Arguments, claims, lines of reasoning--those are the kinds of things that I think of as being describable as "fallacious," even hopes, maybe.  I'm not claiming it has the same meaning as "falsifiable," but I think of it as applicable to the same kinds of things.  And fruits aren't falsifiable (just to illustrate how wrong "fallacious fruit" sounds to my ears).

Here's the interesting thing one discovers when one looks the word up in the OED.  The meaning I'm thinking of is the first given:  "containing a fallacy," and it's witnessed as early as 1509.  Extended meanings (of persons, deceptive; of things, misleading) have their earliest witnesses in the mid seventeenth century.  The OED thinks Milton's use of it in our passage is so much different even from those that it has to supply a special meaning--"that causes disappointment; mocking expectation, delusive"--for which our passage is the earliest witness!  If the OED editors are right, this word would have been, in any application other than to arguments, a relatively new one to Milton's readers and, in the sense in which he uses it, entirely new.  They would have been assigning its meaning from what the context clearly demands.  But we need the kind of meaning the OED gives it because it's not quite true, as Oydin frames it for us, that "it allegedly promised . . ."  It didn't promise anything.  It's name maybe promised something.  Satan promised something about it.  Or, to shift agency, Eve built up expectations about it, that were then disappointed.

But this is a pretty remarkable deviation from, or alteration of, the word's basic meaning because it locates agency differently.  A fallacious argument is itself the thing doing the misleading.  But a fallacious fruit is just failing to deliver the expectations that someone outside of it placed on it; the agency comes from that someone rather than the fruit.  Or, to flip it around, something that deludes only a result of someone else's disappointed expectations is being described with a word that would more normally be applied to something that intrinsically has a deceptive quality.  The chain of near synonyms in Oydin's subject line gets us from fallacious to delusive, but a very important shift has occurred along the way.

Now, if it were Adam and Eve calling the fruit "fallacious," I'd understand:  they'd be shifting the blame from their wrong expectations to the fruit, as having duped them.  But this is the narrator speaking.  He ought to know fruits can't be fallacious.  Why are actual special qualities now being assigned to this fruit that, we know better, was chosen for no special reason?

fellatio-inducing, I still don't know.  But there's more for us to milk from fallacious here.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College
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