Friday, 4 March 2016


  • Argues against use of licensing and freedom of speech
  • Written in response to Licensing Order of 1643- published on 23rd November 1644
  • Name derives from an ancient Greek council situated on the hill of Areopagus in Athens. Isocrates sought to restore the power of council
  • Didatic purposes- not in favor of empty flattery
  • The value of books
  • Milton appeals to history, demonstrating the lack of censorship in enlightened Greek and Roman societies + censorship= Catholic tyranny
  • Faith in human ability to reason and decide; God has gifted us with this rationality 
  • "Knowledge of is so involv'd and interwoven with the knowledge of evill"
  • "He that can apprehend and consider vice... and yet abstain...he is the true wayfaring Christian."
  • Controversial books of religion are more of a danger to the learned than to the ignorant- "likeliest to taint both life and doctrine"
  • "Evil manners are as perfectly learnt without books"
  • "ordain wisely as in this world of evil"
  • Censorship only masks vice, it does not eradicate it from its roots: "though ye take from a covetous man all his treasures, he has yet one jewell left, ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness"
  • Virtue must temper the passions- Aristotelian influence- Golden Mean between extremes
  • Motives for working as censor? If they are only financial the work loses its value- they are merely playing up to desires of leaders. Undermines trust in society, discourages writing and scholarship
  • "When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him"- the thought and care put into work is not to be lightly dismissed. 
  • If we are so suspicious of men "as to fear each book...before we know what the contents are," then we are facing "a second tyranny over learning"
  • "Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopoliz'd and traded in by tickets and statues, and not standards." 
  • Repression has opposite effect to that intended...."instead of suppressing raises them and invests them with a reputation."
  • "Our faith and knowledge thrives by exercise...Truth is compar'd in Scripture to a streaming fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sick'n into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition"- censorship stands in the way of progress the search for Truth
  • Blind obedience to authority is not true faith; it is unreasoning and ignorant - encourages personal, genuine relationship to God and search for religious truths. 
  • England is the new chosen nation of God- it is an earthly type of the City of God
  • "When there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinions in good men is but knowledge in the making."
  • Licensing makes priests and clergymen lazy- no need to better instruct their congregation as their truth is forced
  • "Let Truth and Falsehood grapple in the open. Truth will win."
  • Doctrine of Limited Tolerance: "If all cannot be of one mind."
  • If nothing else will work: "It would be no unequal distribution ... to suppress the suppressors themselves."
  • To set right the wrong that has been done is the highest and wisest thing that Parliament can do- flattery- "We can grow ignorant again, brutish, formall and slavish.... but you then must first become that which ye cannot be, oppressive, arbitary, and tyrannous, as they were from whom ye have free'd us."  

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