Truth, free speech, and the legacy of John Milton's areopagitica

Regina M. Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The protection of freedom of speech is not only a question of protecting freedom for its own sake, but also a tacit protection of truth. That is, censorship is not only a weapon in a political struggle; the stakes are higher, the suppression of Truth itself. The supreme value of truth that informs the commitment to free speech helps to explain how what begins as John Milton's tract against prior censorship, Areopagitica: A speech of Mr. John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed printing to the Parliament of England, turns into a tract on liberty and this, in turn, becomes an extended rumination on the process of discovering Truth. Still, it would be wrong to turn Milton into a spokesman for liberalism. His understanding of toleration, of leadership and even freedom of speech falls short of liberal ideals. But rather than castigate him for his shortcomings, in this article I suggest that as an early modern thinker, who predates the Enlightenment, Milton is poised to offer us a unique and I believe salutary blend of classical and liberal thought, one that embraces the good rather than neutrality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-58
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 26 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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