Absolutist Knowledge and Hermeneutic Faith: Hobbes and Milton on the Problem of Fallen Language

  • Lucas Simpson


I compare the conceptions of metaphor within
the works of Hobbes and Milton. Fearing its rhetorically
protean capacity, Hobbes condemns metaphor as a “cause
of absurdity” insufficient for the advance of science and civil order, while Milton embraces metaphor as a redeemed
mode of post-lapsarian language. By reconciling the problem of reference, metaphor, in Milton’s conception, enables
post-lapsarian faith, from which follows the civil and epistemological order that Hobbes claims can only be established by the sovereign. Building on Timothy Rosendale’s
discussion of Milton’s Reformed faith as a personal process
of reading and interpretation, I explore the function of metaphor and interpretation in Milton’s Reformed conception
of faith in light of how they shape both his politics and theology.