Jul 6, 2007

The Quote Shelf

Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

We must admit, however, with the deepest regret at the fate of human thought, that a great idea has sometimes brought forth folly. Printing gave birth to the censorship; philosophic reason in the eighteenth century produced the Illuminati.
-- Aleksander Nikolayevich Radishchev


Stephanie said...

Hmm. I think censorship, in some form, pre-dated the printing press. The concept of controlling the spread of ideas is older still. Human frailty and weakness, cruelty and greed, lust for power and control, are all age-old forces in our lives. In some ways, I see technology as being a way to counter-act those forces, because we can spread our knowledge farther and it can last longer -- even after we ourselves are destroyed. Those inherent evils adapt to the new mediums, but the evils pre-dated the mediums themselves and were, at least for a time, mitigated by the advancements.

Of course, some advancements are designed with the evil in mind.

historymike said...

Agreed, Steph, that censorship has likely existed in some form as long as humans have been organized in hierarchical societies.

I think the point that Radischev was getting at was that the invention of the printing press meant that books were no longer the province of the wealthy and the aristocrats. They became affordable, and they also started showing up in vernacular languages.

The Catholic Church set up formal censorship bodies in the late fifteenth century to combat the rapid dissemination of books.

As far as the Internet goes, it remains a vital tool to combat censorship, although the prospect of the defeat of net neutrality is an ominous portent for the future.