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Virtue of SympathyMagic, Philosophy, and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England$
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Seth Lobis

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300192032

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300192032.001.0001

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Paradise Lost and the Human Face of Sympathy

Paradise Lost and the Human Face of Sympathy

(p.156) 4 Paradise Lost and the Human Face of Sympathy
Virtue of Sympathy

Seth Lobis

Yale University Press

This chapter argues that Milton revises and rehabilitates the moral ideal of his divorce tracts in the final books of Paradise Lost. For this new concept of sympathy, which after the Fall is no longer rooted in the sympathetic nature of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Milton develops a moral lexicon purged of occultist terms of art. The reconciliation of Adam and Eve after the Fall hinges on their ability to sympathize with each other. Human sympathy, Milton suggests, compensates for the loss of universal sympathy. The chapter goes on to argue that, in the final movement of the epic, Milton moves sympathy further into the realm of moral philosophy by extending his analysis from economics—that is, domestic relations—to ethics and politics. Adam receives an intensive education in sympathy from the angel Michael, who uses theatrical scenes to inculcate an ethical ideal based on temperance and poised between narcissism and over-identification. Michael goes on to show Adam that a sympathetic polity is possible in the fallen world, but is continually vulnerable to the ambitions of the sinful. In identifying sympathy as a fundamental moral challenge in human experience, the chapter concludes, Milton anticipates David Hume’s “modern” philosophy.

Keywords:   John Milton, Paradise Lost, Sympathy, Moral philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Theatricality, Modernity, David Hume

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