Thursday, July 31, 2014

Faculty Psychology in Paradise Lost

But Not Miltonic
Early Faculty Psychology

The Milton List scholars have been discussing what "laws" Adam and Eve might have recognized in their prelapsarian state as depicted by Milton in Paradise Lost. In my confidence that in addition to the one exceptional command not to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, there were an unbound number of moral laws discoverable by reason, I quoted PL 5.100-119 for a closer look at the faculty psychology that Adam elucidates:
But know that in the Soule
Are many lesser Faculties that serve
Reason as chief; among these Fansie next
Her office holds; of all external things,
Which the five watchful Senses represent,
She forms Imaginations, Aerie shapes,
Which Reason joyning or disjoyning, frames
All what we affirm or what deny, and call
Our knowledge or opinion; then retires
Into her private Cell when Nature rests.
Oft in her absence mimic Fansie wakes
To imitate her; but misjoyning shapes,
Wilde work produces oft, and most in dreams,
Ill matching words and deeds long past or late.
Som such resemblances methinks I find
Of our last Evenings talk, in this thy dream,
But with addition strange; yet be not sad.
Evil into the mind of God or Man
May come and go, so unapprov'd, and leave
No spot or blame behind:
I added that while we might take this as Adam's description of an automatic system in which reason makes the right decision without need for deliberation, one should consider this other passage, PL 9.351-363, in which Adam elucidates faculty psychology further:
But God left free the Will, for what obeyes
Reason, is free, and Reason he made right
But bid her well beware, and still erect,
Least by some faire appeering good surpris'd
She dictate false, and misinforme the Will
To do what God expresly hath forbid,
Not then mistrust, but tender love enjoynes,
That I should mind thee oft, and mind thou me.
Firm we subsist, yet possible to swerve,
Since Reason not impossibly may meet
Some specious object by the Foe subornd,
And fall into deception unaware,
Not keeping strictest watch, as she was warnd.
Here, Adam warns Eve about the danger of temptation, and the language used prepares the reader for Eve's encounter with the serpent's temptation with the tree as provoking object, but neither Adam nor Eve suspects the tree's role yet (though they likely should, given Eve's dream).

But my point is that even though reason is addressed as though it works on its own, it can be tricked, and thus Adam and Eve have to remain firm and not allow reason to mislead. One might think they would do so through their will, which is free, but the text says the will is free when it follows reason. Milton instead implicates memory as the faculty that reminds one of what God has expressly forbidden. Adam is to remind Eve, and Eve to remind Adam. Presumably, one could also remind oneself. But only one thing in the garden is expressly forbidden - the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

I am thus less sure I understand Milton now than I was before I looked closely at these passages . . .

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At 1:00 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Compare Eve's conversion with the serpent to Lady's conversation with the "tempter" Comus in Milton's Comus. How do the "debates" compare and contrast?

I suspect the deceptions Adam and Eve should watch for are those that are neatly listed and represented in Bacon's Four Idols (I'll have to go back and read through Milton to look for this correspondence)... To these add the "deception of temptation," which is overtly sensual in the case of Comus's arguments with Lady, and implied in the case of what Adam and Eve are going through.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sounds like a big homework assignment!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:14 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

"Ill matching words and deeds long past or late."

This sound a lot like the Idols of the Market and the Idols of the Theatre.

I am up to "here" with other stuff right right now. Still, yes, this would be a terrific topic to look into.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Same over here - too much to do!

Jeffery Hodges

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