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Areopagitica reveals Milton to be a man with a great deal of faith in the individual, and in particular in the power of learning to combat error. Milton attacks the licensing laws, which enabled Parliament to censor certain publications, by claiming that people can improve themselves and become more virtuous through exposure to different ideas. While books can contain evil and harmful ideas, the individual can fortify himself against them through study. Arguing that one can not know virtue without knowing its opposite, Milton had faith that the individual, once exposed to error, could also find through reading the reason and the knowledge with which to combat it. Claiming that he could not "praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue," Milton urged Parliament to show faith in the wisdom of the English people:
Lords and Commons of England, consider what Nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governours: a Nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, and piercing spirit, acute to invent, suttle and sinewy to discours, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to.
Milton also revealed himself as a man of formidable learning. The title of Areopagitica is itself a reference to a speech delivered by Isocrates in Athens, and the pamphlet is replete with other examples from Athens, Rome, and the Bible that support his argument. His love for learning and for books is summed up in the following emotional passage, perhaps the best known in the work:
...as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the Earth; but a good Booke is the pretious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on purpose to a life beyond life.
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