In 1664 John Milton wrote what is now one of his most famous works, the Areopagitica.

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        In 1664 John Milton wrote what is now one of his most famous works, the Areopagitica. It was labeled by him as “A speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the parliament of England.” (Milton, 1). Milton wrote his Areopagitica during a time of social change that saw the breakdown of authoritarianism and the dawning of libertarianism. Milton believed in the freedom of speech and was against the harsh printing laws that existed at the time. He wrote the Areopagitica to advocate the abolition of censorship; he believed in a free marketplace of ideas and felt that the restrictions on the printing press were only hindering the spread of wisdom.

        Milton explores many ideas throughout his piece, but the first argument that he starts discussing is the issue of censorship in relation to the church. Milton was very much against the Catholic Church. He disagreed with its values, and blamed the emergence of the censorship of the press on them, saying that they stop perfectly good books from being born, by implementing their law of prior restraint: “…first the inventors of it to be those whom ye will be loath to own; next what is to be thought general of reading, whatever sort the books be; and this order avails nothing to the suppressing of scandalous, seditious, and libelous books, which were mainly intended to be suppressed.” (Milton, 3).  Milton felt that Catholicism does not tolerate ideas or beliefs outside of its own and implemented these laws in order to avoid defamation of the church.

The law that Milton speaks of is that of censorship before the fact; banning books before they even get printed or published. This law angered Milton as he saw it as unjust. He explained it in a nutshell: “…by judging over again that order which ye have ordained to regulate printing:--that no book, pamphlet, or paper shall be henceforth printed, unless the same be first approved and licensed by such, or at least one of such, as shall be thereto appointed.” (Milton, 2). Milton saw books as living creatures, or as a part of the authors mind, and that by killing a book one kills that persons mind and their ideas: “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.” (Milton, 3). People’s thoughts are revealed through books, and by banning them one is stopping these ideas from being transmitted to, or absorbed by others. Milton felt that people were intelligent enough to judge the content of a book themselves, without somebody else doing it for them. The implementation of this censorship hinders people from acting wisely, and underestimates their intelligence and ability.

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This brings Milton to his second main argument, that wisdom comes from the search for knowledge, and one should be able to exercise their mind in search of this wisdom, or truth. He accepts the fact that there are both good and bad books, but that people will never be able to find the good unless they also experience the bad: “…what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear without the knowledge of evil? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer ...

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