FREE BUT ENCUMBERED: FREE WILL AND CORPOREAL BEING IN PARADISE LOST
I will argue that there is an incongruity between God's description of man's free will in his Book 3 speech, and the exercise of that freedom in the subsequent poetry. This incongruity is the result of the difference between man's limited nature and that the infinite nature of God, and the particulars of this difference inform man's eventual fall, as well as the mechanism by which man is eventually renewed and redeemed. God's existence is one of omnipresence and eternity, omniscience and prescience, omnipotence. Adam and Eve have a different existence that radically affects the way they respond to situations. Their various limitations mean that Adam and Eve do not have the intuitive access to info that denizens of heaven do; instead, they have the ability to learn and the desire to do so. However, man is also subject to fits of emotion that color, for better or worse, the way that he interacts with different bits of knowledge, different elements of the natural world, and the way he responds to different circumstances. Recognizing and understanding the paradox of God's infinitude presenting a limit -- as well as the necessary gap between the divine and the humane that follows from it -- forces us to re-evaluate major issues like freedom (to what extent is God free if he is limited?) and major events like the Fall (if man is subject to passions, is he still really "sufficient to have stood?"). More crucially, it changes the way we address these issues by making the mechanics as important as their results or their reason for being.
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Minas, Steven Aaron (Georgetown University, 2015)A current divide exists in Milton criticism between those who view "Paradise Lost" as an indeterminate work composed of irresolvable choices and aporias (contradictions), and those who view the poem as a singular work of ...