Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"...but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe..."

Miku’s post in response to Rachael’s commentary on evil ties into Milton’s discussion of censorship in his Areopagitica. He argues for the liberation of the Printing Press using Miku’s same observations on evil; that it is ubiquitous and unrecognizable. He states:

“Good and evill we know in the field of this World grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involv'd and interwoven with the knowledge of evill, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discern'd, that those confused seeds which were impos'd on Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out, and sort asunder, were not more intermixt. It was from out the rinde of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evill as two twins cleaving together leapt forth into the World. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evill, that is to say of knowing good by evill. As therefore the state of man now is; what wisdome can there be to choose, what continence to forbeare without the knowledge of evill?”

I held off researching (Wikipedia-ing) Areopagitica until after this post, so I don’t know if the historical information is correct. It seems that he is protesting some sort of licensing restriction imposed in response to the texts produced in the Reformation. I guess this is why he uses the extensive Garden of Evil image. I think that the image does lend itself nicely to the representation of good and evil as intrinsically inseparable. He addresses the tendency of the two to be mixed, making the distinction between the two blurry.

It is very difficult to say that one person, idea, or work is completely good or completely evil. Milton points out the Bible’s use of evil characters to further illustrate good. The more interesting literary characters challenge our ideas of good and evil. Example: Lolita. Sympathizing with evil characters seems to bring us down to the very questions of humanity. Milton tackles this in his big ol’ book Paradise Lost. He gives character to the Devil and sympathy to Eve. Only after truly knowing a character, the Devil or the men in Funny Games, can we really decide if they are good or evil.

Here are some questions I have: Is it possible to categorize anyone as good or evil? Aren’t we all human? Do we look the forces in that person’s life (family, society, hardships) for the source of evil and blame that? Do we take accountability for our character strengths and flaws? Shouldn’t we all be totally accountable for our actions?

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