Friday, August 04, 2006

Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom in Paradise Lost: Postscript

Go(o)d Intentions?
Michelangelo, God in Creation of the Sun and Moon
(Glowering Down From Wikipedia)

Due to the pressures of time as I rush to finish translating the third of three articles by the French political scientist Jean Klein from French to English in time for the Korea Observer's deadline, I'm again cannibalizing one of my posts from the Milton List.

On that list, Carrol Cox responded to the thread that I began yesterday with a post on "Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom in Paradise Lost":

"A text that sets out to justify explicitly the ways of god is going to set teeth on edge. I believe a number of critics (including several on this list) hold that that was Milton's intention."
Right, and it was Milton's intention (in my critical opinion) -- and that presented Milton with his problem. He didn't just set out to write a defense of God's ways but a full-blown theodicy. Thus, he couldn't easily take refuge in a mere defense and argue that God has not been proven to be unjust; rather, he had to construct a theodicy and show that God was justified in his actions.

If Milton were focused on the problem posed by the sheer amount of evil (as opposed to the mere presence of some evil), then the logic of his aim -- a theodicy -- would compel him to offer an answer that would justify God's ways.

I'm not sure that Milton saw this problem clearly, which is part of what motivated my question. Does Milton anywhere write explicitly about the problem posed for belief in a just God by the amount of evil permeating what God has created?

(This assumes that Milton believed God to be all-powerful, all-knowiing, and all-beneficient -- and I think that he did believe in this omni-God.)

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At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This heavenly speculation is hellish stuff! The only sources I can come up with relate to Milton's (possible) knowledge of the Merkabah. Possibly, the amount of evil created was not a problem because God always had the potential to re-create at a greater level?

At 6:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's a possible Miltonic response to the problem of the amount of evil in creation (since Milton does seem to have known of the Merkabah).

I guess that there are a lot of possible responses. I just don't know which one Milton would have opted for ... assuming that he had even focused on the problem.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't help but feel that he must have focused on the problem. Just from a political point of view: the Civil War was conceived as a Holy War (and that is clearly a central issue of PL). It was fought to rid England of evil. How then do you justify to men the return of a massive infectious evil? PL is enmeshed in exactly the nexus that you suggest.


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