[Milton-L] Recommendations for a course on censorship

Kim Maxwell kmaxwell at stanford.edu
Thu Nov 15 15:00:54 EST 2007


To be fair I think you should include texts that defend censorship.  Some suggestions.

1.  Socrates argues for free speech in the Apology.  Plato famously argues for censorship in Republic 10.  But Socrates also raises serious doubts about written texts in (I think) the Phaedo, that they are immune to immediate dispute, hence dangerous to the workings of a free mind.

2.  Christian theological history of course is riddled with justifications for censorship, some echoes of which can be found in Paradise Lost (Adam was deceived, saith God, and what Adam learns is to obey without question).  However, an interesting discussion of right reason and the pernicious consequences of misreading can be found in Philo, in the first three books of his collected works, which are entertaining as well as illuminating.

3.  Relative to the Patriot Act, it may be justified under Section 9 of Article 1 of the Constitution, which should always be read after reading the first amendment, as it says that Habeas Corpus may be suspended in the event of rebellion or invasion (with obvious implications for suppression of seditious speech).  The Milton of Areopagitica of course would agree, as he feels quite free to grant the power of censorship relative to popery, not so much on theological grounds, but on political grounds, that the enemy of England is the catholic church as represented by Spain and France, whose Jesuit spies and missionaries prepare the ground for military takeover (at least Milton can be read this way).

Kim Maxwell

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