The social philosophy of John Milton evolved out of a well-defined theology which contained numerous unorthodoxies. It employed ideas which appear to contradict each other without regard for philosophic consistency or coherence. This nebulous condition of Milton’s social thought was not enhanced by the various mediums through which he chose to express it. Although Milton did write what may be considered a few serious political treatises, many of his prose writings were for the most part rhetorical as well as abrasive. But this compound problem does not obscure the fact Milton possessed a genuine social as well as religious philosophy. In this essay this philosophy will be viewed as a system, operating under the assumption that this framework was both logical and had a definite end in mind. While Milton was an ideologue and rhetorician par excellence, very little use was made of quixotic or philosophically unsound material in his works. When he described an idea with an upper-case letter it was always for a reason. While the roots of his thought were bound up in a quagmire of cross-currents, his explication was generally cogent and to the point. It does not require any serious reading between the lines to recognize that when Milton addressed himself to a correspondent such as Hartlib he also addressed himself to the larger, philosophic problem which Hartlib may, or may not, have symbolized. This was merely the style of this particular thinker. To use the hackneyed expression, Milton was a private man with a public cause. The private man never quite involved himself fully in the public realm but rather made his contribution by explicating contemporary ideas through a very private mode of thought.
KeywordsHuman Affair Social Philosophy Political Society Political Affair Religious Philosophy
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- 1.Denis Saurat, Milton: Man and Thinker (London, 1946), p. 152.Google Scholar