Event Title

Milton and Science: Depictions of the Universe and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Paradise Lost

Location

Exhibition Hall, DeVos Center

Start Date

28-3-2011 4:30 PM

Description

PURPOSE: To show how John Milton (1608-1674) incorporates contemporary scientific theories and discoveries throughout Paradise Lost to communicate his view of the correct context for pursuing knowledge based on his own personal theology. PROCEDURE: The ways in which Milton is commenting on the loss of religious perspective in contemporary science becomes clear by describing the relevant discoveries and controversies, particularly regarding astronomy, relevant in his time. While he undoubtedly sees developments in astronomy as interesting, the curiosity of Adam, advice of Raphael, and impact of human transgressions reveal that Milton is participating in the scientific dialogue of his time by contributing a cautionary appeal informed by his own religious convictions. CONCLUSIONS: Even though Raphael tells Adam to “Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid. / Leave them to God above,” evidence suggests that Milton encourages the pursuit of knowledge as long as a relevant, teleological purpose is ascribed to that knowledge (8:167-168). Taking this as a central premise in Milton’s theology, his purpose in Paradise Lost to “justify the ways of God to men” takes on a new meaning: Milton is describing God’s creation using modern astronomical theory rather than attempting to prove that God’s ways are right (1:26). IMPACT:Milton saw science pushing God out of people’s day-to-day experience as ill-advised, even dangerous. Despite Milton’s religious dogma feeling heavy-handed to modern readers, there is something deeply compelling and valuable in Milton’s idea that people should make “deeds,” whether spiritual or secular, “to thy knowledge answerable” (12:581).

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Mar 28th, 4:30 PM

Milton and Science: Depictions of the Universe and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Paradise Lost

Exhibition Hall, DeVos Center

PURPOSE: To show how John Milton (1608-1674) incorporates contemporary scientific theories and discoveries throughout Paradise Lost to communicate his view of the correct context for pursuing knowledge based on his own personal theology. PROCEDURE: The ways in which Milton is commenting on the loss of religious perspective in contemporary science becomes clear by describing the relevant discoveries and controversies, particularly regarding astronomy, relevant in his time. While he undoubtedly sees developments in astronomy as interesting, the curiosity of Adam, advice of Raphael, and impact of human transgressions reveal that Milton is participating in the scientific dialogue of his time by contributing a cautionary appeal informed by his own religious convictions. CONCLUSIONS: Even though Raphael tells Adam to “Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid. / Leave them to God above,” evidence suggests that Milton encourages the pursuit of knowledge as long as a relevant, teleological purpose is ascribed to that knowledge (8:167-168). Taking this as a central premise in Milton’s theology, his purpose in Paradise Lost to “justify the ways of God to men” takes on a new meaning: Milton is describing God’s creation using modern astronomical theory rather than attempting to prove that God’s ways are right (1:26). IMPACT:Milton saw science pushing God out of people’s day-to-day experience as ill-advised, even dangerous. Despite Milton’s religious dogma feeling heavy-handed to modern readers, there is something deeply compelling and valuable in Milton’s idea that people should make “deeds,” whether spiritual or secular, “to thy knowledge answerable” (12:581).