A Note
List of Charts and Tables
I. Milton, Reason, and Faith 15
II. Self-Knowledge in Paradise Lost:Conscience and Contemplation 22
III. Physics: Knowledge of Natural Things 45
IV.Revelation and Accommodation 89
V. The Doctrines of Christian Assurance 107
VI. Logic in the Garden 119
VII. The "Back Parts" of God 167
VIII. The Ultimate Knowledge of God 197
Bibliography 213
Index 223

Paris, the Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1976

Sudden Apprehension: Aspects of Knowledge in Paradise Lost  is an examination of the role of knowledge, beginning with the question of self-knowledge and ending with the knowledge of God, in Paradise Lost. Calvin pointed out the interdependence of these polarities in his Institutes. Between them lies a realm of issues which Milton felt must be comprehended thoroughly if we are to understand Paradise Lost and the issues which it ultimately examines.

The opening chapter treats the general position Milton adopts in the reason- faith debates, with an attempt to show how Milton avoids Socinianism while still emphasizing the role of reason in human affairs. Self-knowledge is discussed in light of the tradition Milton received, while emphasizing the role that conscience and the act of contemplation play in developing or preserving self-knowledge. Thus, the well-known scene of Eve at the poolside in Book IV can be interpreted as part of this tradition.

Milton's physics, and the epic pleasure he takes in discussing astronomy, implies, as he tells us in his Art of Logic, a "knowledge of natural things". Such knowledge is not to be disdained, since it leads one to God. For Milton it also becomes a manifestation of the value of sensory perception and a clue to the monism of the universe.

Revelation, Accommodation, and Assurance all represent forms of knowledge which have special importance to Adam and Eve. We have postlapsarian forms of these knowledges, but the dramatic character of Paradise Lost demands its own versions. The war in heaven and the knowledge imparted by Michael at the end of the poem can be understood in somewhat different lights because of their relation to these epistemological questions.

The longest chapter in the book discusses the issue of logic in the most logical book of Paradise Lost: Book IX. Perry Miller agreed that Adam and Eve spoke logically in the garden. Milton's attitude toward logic, his absorption of certain Ramist concepts, and his own writings on the subject offer considerable insight into the approach he takes in designing the temptation of man. What Milton does is a virtuoso performance: dazzling his literate seventeenth-century audience with his logical maneuverings while leaving undisturbed those more modern readers who do not know the Posterior Analytics or Dialecticae Duo Libri. The chapter offers a means of appreciating the performance.

The book ends with two discussions of the knowledge of God, with the first emphasizing the role of Christ as the efficient might and substantial expression of the Father. The last chapter emphasizes what is taught by Christ: that love alone can save man, since love implies obedience, which implies knowledge, which implies faith in God. All these are part of the lesson of the poem. They are also a substantial part of the fabric of the poem for those readers more interested in aesthetics than in lessons.