Self-perception in Paradise lost
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Milton's God can derive satisfaction from relationships with the Son, the angels and Man, and hold these creatures accountable for maintaining this union only if he allows them free choice. Creatures demonstrate their love and obedience, and so maintain their relationships with God, by choosing to carry out the divine will. The choice either to maintain or break union with God must be deliberate, and involve an internal process if that creature is to be free and held accountable for their actions. The intellectual faculties of reason, will, and self-perception enable created beings to exercise their freedom consciously. All free agents must apply their self-knowledge to comprehend and fulfil their respective roles in Creation. An accurate creaturely self-perception involves creatures knowing their identity and nature; understanding the limits of their power to act; appreciating God as the source of their existence and their power to act; and recognising their places and roles in the divine order. Self-understanding is connected to happiness and together these form an appreciation that motivates free agents to establish and continue their alliances with God. The Son, Satan, Adam and Eve all behave in accordance with the way they understand themselves. The Son's selfless obedience to God is motivated by his appreciation for God as his Maker, and his perception of his role in the divine order as the physical manifestation of God's will. This frees the Son to pursue his desire to promote the divine purpose without consideration for himself. Inaccurate self-perception is self-deception, allowing creatures to believe that their happiness consists in independence from God. Satan deceives himself into believing that he can be God's adversary and that opposition to God is a realistic possibility. Adam's and Eve's individual acts self disobedience are the result of a gradually developing inaccuracy in their self-perception. Adam comes to believe that Eve is the source of his happiness, and this misconception is confounded with his fear of solitude. He disobeys God after allowing his immoderate love for Eve to become a higher priority than his relationship with God. Eve's self-perception is confused when she becomes aware of a disparity between her husband's assessment of her and her own understanding of herself because hitherto Adam has been her primary source of knowledge about God, Creation, and her being. The Serpent inspires a sense of injured merit that corresponds with Eve's impression that Adam judged her unfairly. She disobeys God's law because she comes to believe that obeying God impedes her happiness. These creatures behave in accordance with the way they understand themselves, and can make righteous choices by applying their reason in conjunction with their self-knowledge.