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How John Milton Depicts Books Coursework

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2022

In this article titled Areopagitica, John Milton rises against a decree by the parliament that required the licensing of everything that is published. According to Milton, this is against the freedom of the press that is espoused in the constitution and it is also dangerous for the potency of life that the books carry. According to Milton, books have life and any move to restrict books is tantamount to the restriction of life. He argues that the destruction of books is the destruction of life and reason (Milton 67). Man is made in the image of God and is the only creature that can reason. Since the materials that are presented in books are made from man’s reasoning, Milton argues that the killing of a good book is killing of reason which is an image of God. He views books as products of master spirits and they contain some elements of life that are beyond life itself. The persecution of books through the legislative bottlenecks is a war against the living labors of men and women who have dedicated their time, resources, and energy to create the truths that are contained in the books. Destruction of books, whether through physical or legislative action is equivalent to the rejection of the truth and Milton argues that, just as it is impossible to restore the lives of people that have died, it is also impossible to restore a rejected truth that has been lost. He sees books as elements that preserve the life of men because the books outlive the authors just as any good art outlives the artist. People like Homer and Virgil who died thousands of years ago are still living through their books which are being read even in the modern-day. That is why Milton argues that the destruction of the book is the destruction of life and reason. This means that the restriction of this freedom to publish is a restriction unto life itself because the author of the work will be outlived by their works which will be a continuation of their lives long after they are dead. The destruction of man may be a destruction of life but the destruction of a book according to Milton is the destruction of immortality since the books are meant to live eternally. This means that the restriction of books through the use of punitive legislation is way of massacring immortality and this is the main reason why Milton was opposing the introduction of that legislative license.

Freedom of the press is essential for maintaining virtue, even when published books are immoral

Freedom of press is important for the maintenance of virtue. There are books that are virtuous and others that are not. Most of the published books are virtuous and they are they are the instruments that offer a lot of support to the moral fabric of the society. The books are carriers of knowledge and wisdom that are built using reason and it is the sharing of the knowledge and wisdom contained in the books that helps in the creation of a moral society. This means that the freedom of the press is very important for the maintenance of morality and virtue in the society. A person may question the role of the books in the maintenance of virtue and morality in the society when some of the books that have been published are immoral. Another one may say that the freedom of the press should be curtailed to protect the people from the immoral book that may wreck the moral fiber of the society. This may be a far fetched notion because curtailing the freedom of the press to protect the people from bad books will also reduce the impact that the good books have on their lives. This is because the restrictions placed on the press affect both bad and good books. The immoral books are also important for the moral development in the society and there should be no restriction placed on them. According to Milton, some immoral books can have more impact on the development of morality than the virtues books because the human beings are wise enough to choose between what is good and what is evil (Hill 50). This means that reading an immoral book can actually shape the morality of a person when the person discovers that a certain thing is immoral. According to Milton, God placed man in a world that is full of virtues and vices and gave him the reasoning power that enables him to make choices. The same applies to books. There should be freedom for writers to write any type of books because the people have the reasoning capacity and can learn vital life lessons from both the good and the bad books. This means that freedom of the press is very essential for the maintenance of virtue regardless of whether the books that have been published are bad or not. The moral fabric of the society depends on the ability of human beings to make choices and not the restrictions that are there in the society.

References

Hill, Christopher. Milton and the English Revolution. New York: Viking Press. 1977.

Milton, John. John Milton Writings: London: J Dant. 1980.

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