Ascent: Philosophy and paradise lost

Tzachi Zamir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Paradise Lost has never received a substantial, book-length reading by a philosopher. This should surprise no one. Milton associated philosophy with deceit in his theological writings, and made philosophizing one of the activities of fallen angels in hell. This book argues that Milton’s disdain for philosophers’ vocation should not prevent them from turning an inquisitive eye to Milton’s greatest poem. Because it examines puzzles that intrigue philosophers, instead of neatly breaking from philosophy, it maintains a penetrating rapport with it. Paradise Lost sets forth bold claims regarding the meaning of genuine knowledge, regarding what counts as acting meaningfully, or as taking in the world fully, or as withdrawing from inner deadness. Other topics touched upon by Milton involve some of the most central issues within the philosophy of religion: the relationship between reason and belief, the uniqueness of religious poetry, the meaning of gratitude, and the special role of the imagination in faith. This tension–disparaging philosophy on the one hand, but taking up much of what philosophers hope to understand on the other–turns Milton’s poem into an exceptionally potent work for a philosopher of literature. Ascent is a philosophical reading of the poem that attempts to keep audible Milton’s antiphilosophy stance. The picture of interdisciplinarity that will emerge is, accordingly, neither one of a happy percolation among fields (“philosophy,” “literature”), nor one of rigid boundaries. Overlap and partial agreement clash against contestation and rivalry. It is these conflicting currents that this book aims to capture, not to reconcile.

Original languageAmerican English
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages204
ISBN (Electronic)9780190695088
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press 2018. All rights reserved.


  • Aesthetics
  • Gratitude
  • Knowledge
  • Literature
  • Milton
  • Paradise lost
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Sin
  • Vitality


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