John Locke

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John Locke

John Locke.jpg
Portrait of Locke in 1697 by Godfrey Kneller
Born29 August 1632
Wrington, Somerset, England
Died28 October 1704 (aged 72)
High Laver, Essex, England
Education Christ Church, Oxford
Era 17th-century philosophy
(Early modern philosophy)
Region Western philosophy
Main interests
Metaphysics, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of mind, philosophy of education, economics
Notable ideas
John Locke Signature.svg
John Locke's portrait by Godfrey Kneller, National Portrait Gallery, London John Locke's Kit-cat portrait by Godfrey Kneller, National Portrait Gallery, London.JPG
John Locke's portrait by Godfrey Kneller, National Portrait Gallery, London

John Locke FRS ( /lɒk/ ; 29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". [9] [10] [11] Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence. [12]

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science, and medical science'.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Age of Enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".


Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as David Hume, Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that, at birth, the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa . Contrary to Cartesian philosophy based on pre-existing concepts, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception. [13] This is now known as empiricism. An example of Locke's belief in empiricism can be seen in his quote, "whatever I write, as soon as I discover it not to be true, my hand shall be the forwardest to throw it into the fire." This shows the ideology of science in his observations in that something must be capable of being tested repeatedly and that nothing is exempt from being disproven. Challenging the work of others, Locke is said to have established the method of introspection, or observing the emotions and behaviours of one's self. [14]

Philosophy of mind Branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of the mind

Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology, nature, and relationship of the mind to the body. The mind–body problem is a paradigm issue in philosophy of mind, although other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem of consciousness, and the nature of particular mental states. Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, the ontology of the mind, the nature of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.

In philosophy, identity, from Latin: identitas ("sameness"), is the relation each thing bears only to itself. The notion of identity gives rise to many philosophical problems, including the identity of indiscernibles, and questions about change and personal identity over time.

David Hume Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian

David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, scepticism, and naturalism. Hume's empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, George Berkeley, Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1738), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behaviour. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is founded solely in experience.

Life and work

Locke's father, also called John, was an attorney who served as clerk to the Justices of the Peace in Chew Magna [15] and as a captain of cavalry for the Parliamentarian forces during the early part of the English Civil War. His mother was Agnes Keene. Both parents were Puritans. Locke was born on 29 August 1632, in a small thatched cottage by the church in Wrington, Somerset, about 12 miles from Bristol. He was baptised the same day. Soon after Locke's birth, the family moved to the market town of Pensford, about seven miles south of Bristol, where Locke grew up in a rural Tudor house in Belluton.

Chew Magna village in the United Kingdom

Chew Magna is a village and civil parish within the Chew Valley in the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset, in the ceremonial county of Somerset, England. The parish has a population of 1,149.

Roundhead Name given to the supporters of the Parliament during the English Civil War

Roundheads were supporters of the Parliament of England during the English Civil War (1641–1652). Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against King Charles I of England and his supporters, known as the Cavaliers or Royalists, who claimed rule by absolute monarchy and the principle of the 'divine right of kings'. The goal of the Roundhead party was to give the Parliament supreme control over executive administration of the country/kingdom.

English Civil War Civil war in England (1642–1651)

The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") principally over the manner of England's governance. The first (1642–1646) and second (1648–1649) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–1651) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651.

In 1647, Locke was sent to the prestigious Westminster School in London under the sponsorship of Alexander Popham, a member of Parliament and his father's former commander. After completing studies there, he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford, in the autumn of 1652 at the age of twenty. The dean of the college at the time was John Owen, vice-chancellor of the university. Although a capable student, Locke was irritated by the undergraduate curriculum of the time. He found the works of modern philosophers, such as René Descartes, more interesting than the classical material taught at the university. Through his friend Richard Lower, whom he knew from the Westminster School, Locke was introduced to medicine and the experimental philosophy being pursued at other universities and in the Royal Society, of which he eventually became a member.

Westminster School school in Westminster, London, England

Westminster School is an independent day and boarding school in London, England, located within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. With origins before the 12th century, the educational tradition of Westminster probably dates back as far as 960, in line with the Abbey's history. Boys are admitted to the Under School at age seven and to the senior school at age thirteen; girls are admitted at age sixteen into the Sixth Form. The school has around 750 pupils; around a quarter are boarders, most of whom go home at weekends, after Saturday morning school. The school motto, Dat Deus Incrementum, is taken from the New Testament, specifically 1 Corinthians 3:6.

Alexander Popham English politician, died 1669

Alexander Popham, of Littlecote, Wiltshire (1605–1669) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1669. He was patron of the philosopher John Locke.

Christ Church, Oxford Constituent college of the University of Oxford in England

Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ Church is a joint foundation of the college and the cathedral of the Oxford diocese, which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.

Locke was awarded a bachelor's degree in February 1656 and a master's degree in June 1658. [16] He obtained a bachelor of medicine in February 1675, [17] having studied medicine extensively during his time at Oxford and worked with such noted scientists and thinkers as Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, Robert Hooke and Richard Lower. In 1666, he met Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, who had come to Oxford seeking treatment for a liver infection. Cooper was impressed with Locke and persuaded him to become part of his retinue.

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

Robert Boyle Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor

Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor. Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. He is best known for Boyle's law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry. He was a devout and pious Anglican and is noted for his writings in theology.

Thomas Willis English doctor

Thomas Willis was an English doctor who played an important part in the history of anatomy, neurology and psychiatry. He was a founding member of the Royal Society.

Locke had been looking for a career and in 1667 moved into Shaftesbury's home at Exeter House in London, to serve as Lord Ashley's personal physician. In London, Locke resumed his medical studies under the tutelage of Thomas Sydenham. Sydenham had a major effect on Locke's natural philosophical thinking an effect that would become evident in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

Thomas Sydenham English doctor

Thomas Sydenham was an English physician. He was the author of Observationes Medicae which became a standard textbook of medicine for two centuries so that he became known as 'The English Hippocrates'. Among his many achievements was the discovery of a disease, Sydenham's Chorea, also known as St Vitus Dance.

<i>An Essay Concerning Human Understanding</i> book

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a work by John Locke concerning the foundation of human knowledge and understanding. It first appeared in 1689 with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate filled later through experience. The essay was one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern philosophy, and influenced many enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley.

Locke's medical knowledge was put to the test when Shaftesbury's liver infection became life-threatening. Locke coordinated the advice of several physicians and was probably instrumental in persuading Shaftesbury to undergo surgery (then life-threatening itself) to remove the cyst. Shaftesbury survived and prospered, crediting Locke with saving his life.

During this time, Locke served as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and Secretary to the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, which helped to shape his ideas on international trade and economics.

Shaftesbury, as a founder of the Whig movement, exerted great influence on Locke's political ideas. Locke became involved in politics when Shaftesbury became Lord Chancellor in 1672. Following Shaftesbury's fall from favour in 1675, Locke spent some time travelling across France as tutor and medical attendant to Caleb Banks. [18] He returned to England in 1679 when Shaftesbury's political fortunes took a brief positive turn. Around this time, most likely at Shaftesbury's prompting, Locke composed the bulk of the Two Treatises of Government . While it was once thought that Locke wrote the Treatises to defend the Glorious Revolution of 1688, recent scholarship has shown that the work was composed well before this date. [19] The work is now viewed as a more general argument against absolute monarchy (particularly as espoused by Robert Filmer and Thomas Hobbes) and for individual consent as the basis of political legitimacy. Although Locke was associated with the influential Whigs, his ideas about natural rights and government are today considered quite revolutionary for that period in English history.

Locke fled to the Netherlands in 1683, under strong suspicion of involvement in the Rye House Plot, although there is little evidence to suggest that he was directly involved in the scheme. The philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein argues that during his five years in Holland, Locke chose his friends "from among the same freethinking members of dissenting Protestant groups as Spinoza's small group of loyal confidants. [Baruch Spinoza had died in 1677.] Locke almost certainly met men in Amsterdam who spoke of the ideas of that renegade Jew who... insisted on identifying himself through his religion of reason alone." While she says that "Locke's strong empiricist tendencies" would have "disinclined him to read a grandly metaphysical work such as Spinoza's Ethics , in other ways he was deeply receptive to Spinoza's ideas, most particularly to the rationalist's well thought out argument for political and religious tolerance and the necessity of the separation of church and state." [20]

In the Netherlands, Locke had time to return to his writing, spending a great deal of time re-working the Essay and composing the Letter on Toleration. Locke did not return home until after the Glorious Revolution. Locke accompanied Mary II back to England in 1688. The bulk of Locke's publishing took place upon his return from exile his aforementioned Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Civil Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration all appearing in quick succession.

Locke's close friend Lady Masham invited him to join her at Otes, the Mashams' country house in Essex. Although his time there was marked by variable health from asthma attacks, he nevertheless became an intellectual hero of the Whigs. During this period he discussed matters with such figures as John Dryden and Isaac Newton.

He died on 28 October 1704, and is buried in the churchyard of the village of High Laver, [21] east of Harlow in Essex, where he had lived in the household of Sir Francis Masham since 1691. Locke never married nor had children.

Events that happened during Locke's lifetime include the English Restoration, the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire of London. He did not quite see the Act of Union of 1707, though the thrones of England and Scotland were held in personal union throughout his lifetime. Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy were in their infancy during Locke's time.


In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Locke's Two Treatises were rarely cited. Historian Julian Hoppit said of the book, "except among some Whigs, even as a contribution to the intense debate of the 1690s it made little impression and was generally ignored until 1703 (though in Oxford in 1695 it was reported to have made 'a great noise')". [22] John Kenyon, in his study of British political debate from 1689 to 1720, has remarked that Locke's theories were "mentioned so rarely in the early stages of the [Glorious] Revolution, up to 1692, and even less thereafter, unless it was to heap abuse on them" and that "no one, including most Whigs, [were] ready for the idea of a notional or abstract contract of the kind adumbrated by Locke". [23] In contrast, Kenyon adds that Algernon Sidney's Discourses Concerning Government were "certainly much more influential than Locke's Two Treatises". [24]

John Locke Locke-John-LOC.jpg
John Locke

In the 50 years after Queen Anne's death in 1714, the Two Treatises were reprinted only once (except in the collected works of Locke). However, with the rise of American resistance to British taxation, the Second Treatise gained a new readership; it was frequently cited in the debates in both America and Britain. The first American printing occurred in 1773 in Boston. [25]

Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on modern liberalism. Michael Zuckert has argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him "le sage Locke". His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, one passage from the Second Treatise is reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, the reference to a "long train of abuses". Such was Locke's influence that Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Bacon, Locke and Newton... I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences". [26] [27] [28]

But Locke's influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self. [29] [30]

Locke's theory of association heavily influenced the subject matter of modern psychology. At the time, the empiricist philosopher's recognition of two types of ideas, simple and complex ideas, more importantly their interaction through associationism inspired other philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley, to revise and expand this theory and apply it to explain how humans gain knowledge in the physical world. [31]

Theories of religious tolerance

John Locke by Richard Westmacott, University College, London John Locke by Richard Westmacott.jpg
John Locke by Richard Westmacott, University College, London

Locke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689–1692) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single "true religion" would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity. [32]

With regard to his position on religious tolerance, Locke was influenced by Baptist theologians like John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, who had published tracts demanding freedom of conscience in the early 17th century. [33] [34] [35] Baptist theologian Roger Williams founded the colony Rhode Island in 1636, where he combined a democratic constitution with unlimited religious freedom. His tract The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (1644), which was widely read in the mother country, was a passionate plea for absolute religious freedom and the total separation of church and state. [36] Freedom of conscience had had high priority on the theological, philosophical and political agenda, since Martin Luther refused to recant his beliefs before the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire at Worms in 1521, unless he would be proved false by the Bible. [37]

Constitution of Carolina

Appraisals of Locke have often been tied to appraisals of liberalism in general, and to appraisals of the United States. Detractors note that (in 1671) he was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company. In addition, he participated in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina while Shaftesbury's secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. For example, Martin Cohen notes that Locke, as a secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673–1674) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696–1700), was in fact, "one of just half a dozen men who created and supervised both the colonies and their iniquitous systems of servitude". [38] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having been intended to justify the displacement of the Native Americans. [39] [40] Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy and racism, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists. [41] Locke also drafted implementing instructions for the Carolina colonists designed to ensure that settlement and development was consistent with the Fundamental Constitutions. Collectively, these documents are known as the Grand Model for the Province of Carolina.

Theory of value and property

Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour. In Chapter V of his Second Treatise , Locke argues that the individual ownership of goods and property is justified by the labour exerted to produce those goods - “at least where there is enough [land], and as good, left in common for others” (paragraph 27) - or utilise property to produce goods beneficial to human society. [42]

Locke stated his belief, in his Second Treatise, that nature on its own provides little of value to society, implying that the labour expended in the creation of goods gives them their value. This position can be seen as a labour theory of value. [42] From this premise, Locke developed a labour theory of property, namely that ownership of property is created by the application of labour. In addition, he believed that property precedes government and government cannot "dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily." Karl Marx later critiqued Locke's theory of property in his own social theory.

Political theory

Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterised by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed people to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his "life, health, liberty, or possessions". [43] :198 Most scholars trace the phrase "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," in the American Declaration of Independence, to Locke's theory of rights, [44] though other origins have been suggested. [45]

Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day. [46] Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Limits to accumulation

According to Locke, unused property is wasteful and an offence against nature, [47] but, with the introduction of "durable" goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. In his view, the introduction of money marks the culmination of this process, making possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage. [48] He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be "hoarded up without injury to anyone," [49] since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. In his view, the introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth; he does not identify which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labour theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labour but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth. [50]

On price theory

Locke's general theory of value and price is a supply and demand theory, which was set out in a letter to a Member of Parliament in 1691, titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. [51] He refers to supply as "quantity" and demand as "rent". "The price of any commodity rises or falls by the proportion of the number of buyers and sellers," and "that which regulates the price... [of goods] is nothing else but their quantity in proportion to their rent." The quantity theory of money forms a special case of this general theory. His idea is based on "money answers all things" (Ecclesiastes) or "rent of money is always sufficient, or more than enough," and "varies very little..." Locke concludes that as far as money is concerned, the demand is exclusively regulated by its quantity, regardless of whether the demand for money is unlimited or constant. He also investigates the determinants of demand and supply. For supply, he explains the value of goods as based on their scarcity and ability to be exchanged and consumed. He explains demand for goods as based on their ability to yield a flow of income. Locke develops an early theory of capitalisation, such as land, which has value because "by its constant production of saleable commodities it brings in a certain yearly income." He considers the demand for money as almost the same as demand for goods or land; it depends on whether money is wanted as medium of exchange. As a medium of exchange, he states that "money is capable by exchange to procure us the necessaries or conveniences of life," and for loanable funds, "it comes to be of the same nature with land by yielding a certain yearly income... or interest."

Monetary thoughts

Locke distinguishes two functions of money, as a "counter" to measure value, and as a "pledge" to lay claim to goods. He believes that silver and gold, as opposed to paper money, are the appropriate currency for international transactions. Silver and gold, he says, are treated to have equal value by all of humanity and can thus be treated as a pledge by anyone, while the value of paper money is only valid under the government which issues it.

Locke argues that a country should seek a favourable balance of trade, lest it fall behind other countries and suffer a loss in its trade. Since the world money stock grows constantly, a country must constantly seek to enlarge its own stock. Locke develops his theory of foreign exchanges, in addition to commodity movements, there are also movements in country stock of money, and movements of capital determine exchange rates. He considers the latter less significant and less volatile than commodity movements. As for a country's money stock, if it is large relative to that of other countries, he says it will cause the country's exchange to rise above par, as an export balance would do.

He also prepares estimates of the cash requirements for different economic groups (landholders, labourers and brokers). In each group he posits that the cash requirements are closely related to the length of the pay period. He argues the brokers – middlemen – whose activities enlarge the monetary circuit and whose profits eat into the earnings of labourers and landholders, have a negative influence on both personal and the public economy to which they supposedly contribute.

The self

Locke defines the self as "that conscious thinking thing, (whatever substance, made up of whether spiritual, or material, simple, or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends". [52] He does not, however, ignore "substance", writing that "the body too goes to the making the man." [53]

In his Essay, Locke explains the gradual unfolding of this conscious mind. Arguing against both the Augustinian view of man as originally sinful and the Cartesian position, which holds that man innately knows basic logical propositions, Locke posits an "empty" mind, a tabula rasa, which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas. [54]

Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education is an outline on how to educate this mind: he expresses the belief that education maketh the man, or, more fundamentally, that the mind is an "empty cabinet", with the statement, "I think I may say that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education." [55]

Locke also wrote that "the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences." [55] He argued that the "associations of ideas" that one makes when young are more important than those made later because they are the foundation of the self: they are, put differently, what first mark the tabula rasa. In his Essay, in which both these concepts are introduced, Locke warns against, for example, letting "a foolish maid" convince a child that "goblins and sprites" are associated with the night for "darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other." [56]

This theory came to be called "associationism", and it strongly influenced 18th-century thought, particularly educational theory, as nearly every educational writer warned parents not to allow their children to develop negative associations. It also led to the development of psychology and other new disciplines with David Hartley's attempt to discover a biological mechanism for associationism in his Observations on Man (1749).

Dream argument

Locke was critical of Descartes' version of the dream argument, with Locke making the counterargument that people cannot have physical pain in dreams as they do in waking life. [57]

Religious beliefs

Some scholars have seen Locke's political convictions as being based from his religious beliefs. [58] [59] [60] Locke's religious trajectory began in Calvinist trinitarianism, but by the time of the Reflections (1695) Locke was advocating not just Socinian views on tolerance but also Socinian Christology. [61] However Wainwright (1987) notes that in the posthumously published Paraphrase (1707) Locke's interpretation of one verse, Ephesians 1:10, is markedly different from that of Socinians like Biddle, and may indicate that near the end of his life Locke returned nearer to an Arian position, thereby accepting Christ's pre-existence. [62] [61] Locke was at times not sure about the subject of original sin, so he was accused of Socinianism, Arianism, or Deism. [63] But he did not deny the reality of evil. Man was capable of waging unjust wars and committing crimes. Criminals had to be punished, even with the death penalty. [64] With regard to the Bible Locke was very conservative. He retained the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. [33] The miracles were proof of the divine nature of the biblical message. Locke was convinced that the entire content of the Bible was in agreement with human reason (The reasonableness of Christianity, 1695). [65] [33] Although Locke was an advocate of tolerance, he urged the authorities not to tolerate atheism, because he thought the denial of God's existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos. [66] That excluded all atheistic varieties of philosophy and all attempts to deduce ethics and natural law from purely secular premises. [67] In Locke's opinion the cosmological argument was valid and proved God's existence. His political thought was based on Protestant Christian views. [67] [68] Additionally, Locke advocated a sense of piety out of gratitude to God for giving reason to men. [69]

Philosophy From Religion

Locke's concept of man started with the belief in creation. [70] Like philosophers Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf, Locke equated natural law with the biblical revelation. [71] [72] [73] Locke derived the fundamental concepts of his political theory from biblical texts, in particular from Genesis 1 and 2 (creation), the Decalogue, the Golden Rule, the teachings of Jesus, and the letters of Paul the Apostle. [74] The Decalogue puts a person's life, their reputation, and property under God's protection.

Locke's philosophy on freedom is also derived from the Bible. Locke also derived basic human equality from the Bible, including the equality of the sexes, the starting point of the theological doctrine of Imago Dei. [75] To Locke, one of the consequences of the principle of equality was that all humans were created equally free and therefore governments needed the consent of the governed. [76] Locke compared the English Monarchy's rule over the British people to Adam's rule over Eve in Genesis, which was appointed by God. [77]

Following Locke's philosophy, the American Declaration of Independence founded human rights partially on the biblical belief in creation. Locke's doctrine that governments need the consent of the governed is also central to the Declaration of Independence. [78]

List of major works

Major posthumous manuscripts

See also

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Thomas Hobbes, in some older texts Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, was an English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book Leviathan, which expounded an influential formulation of social contract theory. In addition to political philosophy, Hobbes also contributed to a diverse array of other fields, including history, jurisprudence, geometry, the physics of gases, theology, ethics, and general philosophy.

Social contract concept in political philosophy

In moral and political philosophy, the social contract is a theory or model that originated during the Age of Enlightenment and usually concerns the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. Social contract arguments typically posit that individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order. The relation between natural and legal rights is often a topic of social contract theory. The term takes its name from The Social Contract, a 1762 book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau that discussed this concept. Although the antecedents of social contract theory are found in antiquity, in Greek and Stoic philosophy and Roman and Canon Law, the heyday of the social contract was the mid-17th to early 19th centuries, when it emerged as the leading doctrine of political legitimacy.

Francis Hutcheson (philosopher)

Francis Hutcheson was an Ulster Scottish philosopher born in Ulster to a family of Scottish Presbyterians who became known as one of the founding fathers of the Scottish Enlightenment. He is remembered for his book "A System of Moral Philosophy".

Natural and legal rights are two types of rights. Natural rights are those that are not dependent on the laws or customs of any particular culture or government, and so are universal and inalienable Legal rights are those bestowed onto a person by a given legal system.

<i>Two Treatises of Government</i> work of political philosophy by John Locke

Two Treatises of Government is a work of political philosophy published anonymously in 1689 by John Locke. The First Treatise attacks patriarchalism in the form of sentence-by-sentence refutation of Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, while the Second Treatise outlines Locke's ideas for a more civilized society based on natural rights and contract theory.

<i>A Letter Concerning Toleration</i> book by John Locke

A Letter Concerning Toleration by John Locke was originally published in 1689. Its initial publication was in Latin, though it was immediately translated into other languages. Locke's work appeared amidst a fear that Catholicism might be taking over England, and responds to the problem of religion and government by proposing religious toleration as the answer. This "letter" is addressed to an anonymous "Honored Sir": this was actually Locke's close friend Philipp van Limborch, who published it without Locke's knowledge.

<i>Some Thoughts Concerning Education</i> book by John Locke

Some Thoughts Concerning Education is a 1693 treatise on the education of gentlemen written by the English philosopher John Locke. For over a century, it was the most important philosophical work on education in England. It was translated into almost all of the major written European languages during the eighteenth century, and nearly every European writer on education after Locke, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, acknowledged its influence.

Jonas Proast (c.1640−1710) was an English High Church Anglican clergyman and academic. He was an opponent of latitudinarianism, associated with Henry Dodwell, George Hickes, Thomas Hearne and Jonathan Edwards. He is now known for his controversy with John Locke, over Locke's Letter concerning Toleration.

Professor Glen Francis Newey was a political philosopher, last acting as a Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Leiden. He previously worked in Brussels and until 2011 was Professor in the School of Politics, International Relations & Philosophy at Keele University, Staffordshire, England. He was a prominent member of the "Realist" school of political philosophers which also includes such figures as Bernard Williams, John N. Gray, and Raymond Geuss. Newey also wrote extensively about toleration, casting doubt on whether it remains a coherent political ideal in modern liberal-democratic societies.

Atheism during the Age of Enlightenment

Atheism, as defined by the entry in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie is "the opinion of those who deny the existence of a God in the world. The simple ignorance of God doesn't constitute atheism. To be charged with the odious title of atheism one must have the notion of God and reject it." In the period of the Enlightenment, avowed and open atheism was made possible by the advance of religious toleration, but was also far from encouraged.

British philosophy

British philosophy refers to the philosophical tradition of the British people. "The native characteristics of British philosophy are these: common sense, dislike of complication, a strong preference for the concrete over the abstract and a certain awkward honesty of method in which an occasional pearl of poetry is embedded".

The philosophy of human rights attempts to examine the underlying basis of the concept of human rights and critically looks at its content and justification. Several theoretical approaches have been advanced to explain how and why the concept of human rights developed.

Richard Ashcraft was an American political theorist and Professor of Political Science at UCLA.

Mark Goldie, FRHS is an English historian and Professor of Intellectual History at Churchill College, Cambridge. He has written on the English political theorist John Locke and is a member of the Early Modern History and Political Thought and Intellectual History subject groups at the Faculty of History in Cambridge.

Two Tracts on Government is a work of political philosophy written in 1660 by John Locke but remained unpublished until 1961. It bears a similar name to a later, more famous, political philosophy work by Locke, namely Two Treatises of Government. The two works, however, have very different positions.



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  • Ashcraft, Richard, 1986. Revolutionary Politics & Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Discusses the relationship between Locke's philosophy and his political activities.
  • Ayers, Michael, 1991. Locke. Epistemology & Ontology Routledge (the standard work on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding.)
  • Bailyn, Bernard, 1992 (1967). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution . Harvard Uni. Press. Discusses the influence of Locke and other thinkers upon the American Revolution and on subsequent American political thought.
  • Cohen, Gerald, 1995. 'Marx and Locke on Land and Labour', in his Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality, Oxford University Press.
  • Cox, Richard, Locke on War and Peace, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960. A discussion of Locke's theory of international relations.
  • Chappell, Vere, ed., 1994. The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Cambridge U.P. excerpt and text search
  • Dunn, John, 1984. Locke. Oxford Uni. Press. A succinct introduction.
  • ———, 1969. The Political Thought of John Locke: An Historical Account of the Argument of the "Two Treatises of Government". Cambridge Uni. Press. Introduced the interpretation which emphasises the theological element in Locke's political thought.
  • Hudson, Nicholas, "John Locke and the Tradition of Nominalism," in: Nominalism and Literary Discourse, ed. Hugo Keiper, Christoph Bode, and Richard Utz (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), pp. 283–99.
  • Mack, Eric (2008). "Locke, John (1632–1704)". In Hamowy, Ronald (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage; Cato Institute. pp. 305–07. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n184. ISBN   978-1412965804. LCCN   2008009151. OCLC   750831024.
  • Macpherson, C.B. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962). Establishes the deep affinity from Hobbes to Harrington, the Levellers, and Locke through to nineteenth-century utilitarianism.
  • Moseley, Alexander (2007), John Locke: Continuum Library of Educational Thought, Continuum, ISBN   978-0-8264-8405-5
  • Pangle, Thomas, The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988; paperback ed., 1990), 334 pp.. Challenges Dunn's, Tully's, Yolton's, and other conventional readings.
  • Robinson, Dave; Groves, Judy (2003), Introducing Political Philosophy, Icon Books, ISBN   978-1-84046-450-4
  • Rousseau, George S. (2004), Nervous Acts: Essays on Literature, Culture and Sensibility, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN   978-1-4039-3453-6
  • Strauss, Leo. Natural Right and History, chap. 5B (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953). Argues from a non-Marxist point of view for a deep affinity between Hobbes and Locke.
  • Strauss, Leo (1958), "Critical Note: Locke's Doctrine of Natural Law", The American Political Science Review, 52 (2): 490–501, doi:10.2307/1952329, JSTOR   1952329 A critique of W. von Leyden's edition of Locke's unpublished writings on natural law.
  • Tully, James, 1980. A Discourse on Property : John Locke and his Adversaries. Cambridge Uni. Press
  • Waldron, Jeremy, 2002. God, Locke and Equality. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • Yolton, John W., ed., 1969. John Locke: Problems and Perspectives. Cambridge Uni. Press
  • Yolton, John W., ed., 1993. A Locke Dictionary. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Zuckert, Michael, Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas
  • Locke Studies, appearing annually from 2001, formerly The Locke Newsletter (1970–2000), publishes scholarly work on John Locke.