Philosophy of Freedom in Areopagitica

John Milton’s Areopagitica was written in 1644, and handed to the English Parliament, as a response to Parliament’s laws on censorship in order to preserve “order and uniformity in church and state” (Norton 1). Anything that was disagreeable to the government was banned, after being reviewed by Parliament. Milton argues that this mass censorship of books, newspaper articles, and other printed items was (find quote about m saying its ridiculous); Milton believes it’s okay to be in the wrong, as that is how people learn.

The motif(s) in Milton’s argument of the “rind of one apple tasted” is the motif of food. The motif of food is used to connect how people use written resources- they are hungry for knowledge, and will eat anything they can read right up. Milton compares knowledge gained to “flowery crop” (Milton 5), and “fruits” (Milton 3), as other examples of this motif. Specifically, the allusion to the forbidden apple that Adam tasted is used to illustrate how, like that apple, people are eager for knowledge.

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But, knowledge can either have evil (be incorrect) or good (be correct) intentions. Yet, people cannot know what is good and what is bad until they try out that knowledge, just as Adam tried the apple.

When Milton writes, “I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race,” (Milton. ) Milton is saying how that he, or anyone for this matter, cannot praise someone who may be right, yet never fights for the truth.

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Milton would much rather see a person with passion for the wrong answer or opinion than a person who is lazy, or almost ambivalent, in their correct opinion. Without passionate people who are correct, then those who firmly believe in lies will run rampant, no one able to contest their views.

Milton means that because G-d had created Man in his image, he had given Man reason. If Man did not have the capacity to reason, Man wouldn’t be able to choose their own perspectives on issues, and thus wouldn’t be in G-d’s image. Man would merely be lifeless and “artificial” (Milton 2). Man also has free choice, and is not bound by a predetermined destiny chosen by G-d. This means that Man is able to choose what they want to believe in, and should use the “reason” (Milton 2) given to him by G-d to sort through the world. Adams himself wasn’t the reason why he sinned, G-d entrusted Adam with the ability to reason and choose. An “artificial Adam” (Milton 2) would have each of his decisions already decided for him by G-d, whereas the true Adam rules himself through virtue and reason.

Updated: Jan 24, 2022
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Philosophy of Freedom in Areopagitica. (2022, Jan 24). Retrieved from

Philosophy of Freedom in Areopagitica essay
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