Friday, August 01, 2014

John Milton's Reason says: "Eat it, just eat it."

Weird Al Yankovic
You Tube

I posted yesterday on John Milton's faculty psychology, and I do so again today, but in more humility, quoting from my comments on the Milton List:
I've had second thoughts about how Milton's faculty psychology works.

Yesterday, my point was 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.

But remain firm how?

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.

Moral reasoning seems to require a community that remembers moral laws - though, presumably, one could also remind oneself.

But only one thing in the garden is expressly forbidden by God - the fruit of the tree of knowledge - and what could reason dictate to the will about that negative command? Aside from the command, reason would find nothing wrong in Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. By reason alone, the tree and its fruit are good. "Eat it, just eat it," says reason (echoing Weird Al Yankovic). Memory countermands that advice.

So, how does Milton's faculty psychology work? From Five Senses to Fancy to Reason to Will, but from Memory back to Will?
Professor Todd Wayne Butler corrected my speculation:
In response to Jeffery's query on how Milton's psychology works, I'd hesitate to offer memory direct access to the will (or vice-versa). Rather, it's through the imagination that the information stored in the memory is recollected to reason. Once the past is thus again immediately present, reason can (much as it does with sensory data) assess this information and, if it chooses, direct action.
I then asked:
So "Fansie" - to borrow Milton's term - is the faculty through which both sense impressions and memories pass to reach "Reason"? . . . Does Milton somewhere make the point that memories pass through Fansie, or is this inferred to Milton's views from what is otherwise known about faculty psychology?
Professor Butler responded:
I'm not aware of any other places where Milton is explicit (at least in detail) about the cognitive mechanics of remembering, though the inference is supported by more specific explications of faculty psychology found elsewhere.
I therefore need to learn more about faculty psychology . . .

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