Cosmology in Milton's Paradise Lost

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 747
  • Published : May 13, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "cosmos" as "the world or universe as an ordered and harmonious system," from the Greek, "kosmos," referring to an ordered and/or ornamental thing.  When God created the world he had this in mind. To have a harmonious system in the universe where everything can live in peace and free of all worry. God was on top and everything was peaceful. Until the angles in Milton's Paradise Lost had a fight. After the fight God banished these bad angels and had the last part of his universe created, hell. This completed a very complex picture of Milton's vision of the universe in the beginning.

The encyclopedic writers of the early Middle Ages communicated a modest assortment of basic cosmological information, drawn from a variety of ancient sources, especially Platonic and Stoic. These writers proclaimed the sphericity of the earth, discussed its circumference, and defined its climatic zones and division into continents. They described the celestial sphere and the circles used to map it; many revealed at least an elementary understanding of the solar, lunar and other planetary motions. They discussed the nature and size of the sun and moon, the cause of eclipses, and a variety of metrological phenomena. Another novelty was the frequent argument of the twelfth-century authors that God limited His creative activity to the moment of creation; thereafter, they held, the natural causes that He had created directed the course of things. Twelfth-century cosmologists stressed the unified, organic character of the cosmos, ruled by a world soul and bound together by astrological forces and the macrocosm-microcosm relationship. In an important continuation of early medieval thought, twelfth-century scholars described a cosmos that was fundamentally homogeneous, composed of the same elements from top to bottom: Aristotle's quintessence or aether and his radical dichotomy between the celestial and terrestrial regions had not yet made their presence felt. Cosmology, like so many other subjects, was transformed by the wholesale translation of Greek and Arabic sources in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Specifically, the Aristotelian tradition gained center stage in the thirteenth century and gradually substituted its conception of the cosmos for that of Plato and the early Middle Ages. This is not to suggest that Aristotle and Plato disagreed on all the important issues; on many of the basics they were in full accord. Aristotelians, like Platonists, conceived the cosmos to be a great (but unquestionably finite) sphere, with the havens above and the earth at the center. All agreed that it had a beginning in time - although some Aristotelians of the thirteenth century were prepared to argue that this could not be established by philosophical arguments. Nobody representing either school of thought doubted that the cosmos was unique: although nearly everybody acknowledged that God could have created multiple worlds, it is difficult to assume that anybody seriously believed He had done so. However, where Aristotle and Plato disagreed, the Aristotelian world picture gradually displaced the Platonic. One of the major differences concerned the issue of homogeneity. Aristotle divided the cosmic sphere into two distinct regions, made of different stuff and operating according to different principles. Below the moon is the terrestrial region, formed out of the four elements. This region is the scene of generation and corruption, of birth and death, and of transient (typically rectilinear) motions. Above the moon are the celestial spheres, to which the fixed stars, the sun and the remaining planets are attached. This celestial region, composed of aether or the quintessence (the fifth element), is characterized by unchanging perfection and uniform circular motion. Other Aristotelian contributions to the cosmological picture were his elaborate system of planetary spheres and the principles of causation by which the...
tracking img