Reaction Paper about Areopagitica by John Milton

Milton wrote his speech to the parliament of England concerning the censuring of printing and laid his argument on freedom of speech. At this time, the parliament had set to monitor the press in everything that was published. Milton wrote the Areopagitica in response to this censure arguing that freedom of speech is the basis upon which ideas are generated. This would further enhance learning about God and Christianity through the published ideas in people who may not have the knowledge of interpreting the bible. The parliament aimed to implement the censuring through licensing printing so that all pamphlets published were checked. Milton’s response advocated for unlicensed printing and freedom of speech in terms of religion, considering there was a disagreement between Catholics and Protestants.

The Areopagitica advocates for freedom of expression in people citing that the truth ought to be known as it sets people free. As it is seen today, many press organizations have been fighting for freedom of expression in an effort to print what is true, as well as their opinions. Many times governments conceal the truth from the people through censuring what poses a threat to them. Freedom of expression in printing allows people to know what is happening around them as well as learn new things. Moreover, freedom of expression and printing allows ideas to flow from the source to others when they read them thereby knowledge can be advanced. Milton was right in advocating for printing freedom. However, just like in certain cases today, his argument was not considered by parliament let alone implemented until later after his time.

Books according to Milton represent a person and are not dead despite his being so, as they live to say what the particular person thought. Censuring or confining books and publications is the same as imprisoning a person for airing their ideas, which every man has been given a right by God. Every man has a right to express his or her views and no one has the right to deny them from stating the truth. Today, knowledge comes from books written by people in both the past and present. It is the easiest means of passing knowledge from one generation to the next, which without it, important knowledge from the past would not have been known today such as history. According to Milton (2006), “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.”

However, despite arguing for freedom of expression and speech, he does mention that censuring might apply in some cases citing the example of Athens where two kinds of writings had been banned. The first is one that is blasphemous and the second that which is libelous. There is a power in printing to influence people into something or even influence their thinking. Libelous writings can influence people to do the same or even change their thinking. Today, books have a great influence on readers since they are considered the primary source of knowledge as well as other printings. If some, such as the daily papers were allowed to print anything without censuring, or everybody allowed freedom of printing without having to seek licensure, there would be much misguiding information all over. However, censorship should not be practiced as it allows concealment of the truth from the people. Knowing the truth is better than living in the darkness where one might not understand why things happen.

Today many countries have managed to implement press freedom with many borrowing from the Areopagitica. Churches too have their right to expression where many religious organizations state their opinions on major issues concerning the society. Press freedom has continued to be advocated for. Milton can be seen as the pioneer of freedom of the press.



Milton John. Areopagitica: A speech for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the parliament of England. Judith Boss and David Widger. 2006. EBook #608



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