One of the characteristics of existentialism (for good or ill, depending on
one's reaction) is just this radical liberty and responsiblity for
I'm not sure Thatcher gets it. Why do "families" exist any more than society
if one is not born with relationships?
Perhaps the quotation from Desmond Hamlet gives a clue to Thatcher's
thought: Families are established by a deliberate choice of free
individuals. (And perhaps she just thought it sounded cool.) Milton, as
many critics have noted, goes to a lot of trouble to make the marriage of
Adam & Eve freely and consciously chosen.
I know little about existentialism, though I'm aware of the point you make
-- and I think it rather outrageous! It is obviously one of the many paths
that can start with the premise of the "autonomous" individual. Hamlet just
wants "recalcitrants"* to burn in some other world; the existentialists want
them to be miserable right now! (I vaguely recall a couple short stories
that left the protagonist emptied of humanity for life because of one
unavoidable 'mistake' or act.
*He has Empson particularly in mind. In fact quite a few Milton critics in
the '70s as much as condemned Empson to hell for his recalcitrance. But a
recent book on Milton is entitled _The Atheist Milton_. (About 40 years a go
while scribbling a draft of a draft of a draft I remarked that a very thin
line separated Paradise Regained from Diderot. I couldn't figure out a way
to develop it so I let it drop. A couple weeks ago I post the following to
the Milton list:
Someplace nearly half a century ago I remember a casual remark in one essay
on Milton (perhaps one of the essays in Kermode's collection, The Living
Milton). The remark dealt with the rather large number of readers over the
last two centuries who had rejected religion as a result of reading PL. It
wasn't exactly that but close to it in spirit.
Now, if PL has affected some of its readers in that way, could not the first
of the readers to be so affected have been John Milton himself?
I offer this as a sort of footnote to a book mentioned on this list a few
months ago: Atheist Milton.
Maritain in one of his books describes theodicy as piously preparing the way