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Key Concepts of the Philosophy of John Locke

Two Treatises of Government

❶Argues from a non-Marxist point of view for a deep affinity between Hobbes and Locke. After completing studies there, he was admitted to Christ Church , Oxford , in the autumn of at the age of twenty.

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Early years
John Locke’s Early Life and Education
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When that failed, Shaftesbury began to plot armed resistance and was forced to flee to Holland in Locke would follow his patron into exile a year later, returning only after the Glorious Revolution had placed the Protestant William III on the throne. During his decades of service to Shaftesbury, John Locke had been writing. In the six years following his return to England he published all of his most significant works. To discover truths beyond the realm of basic experience, Locke suggested an approach modeled on the rigorous methods of experimental science.

Rejecting the divine right of kings, Locke said that societies form governments by mutual and, in later generations, tacit agreement. Atheists whose oaths could not be trusted and Catholics who owed allegiance to an external ruler were thus excluded from his scheme.

He died there on October 24, , as Lady Damaris read to him from the Psalms. We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Jay served as the key John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown along with other settlers in , as part of a new charter organized by the Virginia Company.

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As a boy he committed petty theft. The restoration of the English monarchy in was a mixed blessing for Locke. It led many of his scientific collaborators to return to London, where they soon founded the Royal Society, which provided the stimulus for much scientific research. But in Oxford the new freedom from Puritan control encouraged unruly behaviour and religious enthusiasms among the undergraduates. These excesses led Locke to be wary of rapid social change , an attitude that no doubt partly reflected his own childhood during the Civil Wars.

In his first substantial political work, Two Tracts on Government composed in but not published until , Locke defended a very conservative position: This view, a response to the perceived threat of anarchy posed by sectarian differences, was diametrically opposed to the doctrine that he would later expound in Two Treatises of Government In Locke was appointed senior censor in Christ Church , a post that required him to supervise the studies and discipline of undergraduates and to give a series of lectures.

The resulting Essays on the Law of Nature first published in constitutes an early statement of his philosophical views, many of which he retained more or less unchanged for the rest of his life.

Of these probably the two most important were, first, his commitment to a law of nature , a natural moral law that underpins the rightness or wrongness of all human conduct, and, second, his subscription to the empiricist principle that all knowledge , including moral knowledge, is derived from experience and therefore not innate.

These claims were to be central to his mature philosophy, both with regard to political theory and epistemology. As a member and eventually the leader of a group of opposition politicians known as the Whigs , Ashley was one of the most powerful figures in England in the first two decades after the Restoration.

Ashley was so impressed with Locke at their first meeting that in the following year he asked him to join his London household in Exeter House in the Strand as his aide and personal physician, though Locke did not then have a degree in medicine. Politically, Ashley stood for constitutional monarchy , a Protestant succession , civil liberty , toleration in religion, the rule of Parliament, and the economic expansion of England. Locke either shared or soon came to share all these objectives with him, and it was not long before a deep—and for each an important—mutual understanding existed between them.

Locke drafted papers on toleration , possibly for Ashley to use in parliamentary speeches. By Locke had become a fellow of the Royal Society and was conducting medical research with his friend Thomas Sydenham , the most distinguished physician of the period.

Although Locke was undoubtedly the junior partner in their collaboration, they worked together to produce important research based on careful observation and a minimum of speculation. The method that Locke acquired and helped to develop in this work reinforced his commitment to philosophical empiricism. But it was not only medicine that kept Locke busy, for he was appointed by Ashley as secretary to the lords proprietors of Carolina, whose function was to promote the establishment of the North American colony.

In that role Locke helped to draft The Fundamental Constitutions for the Government of Carolina , which, among other provisions, guaranteed freedom of religion for all save atheists. Throughout his time in Exeter House, Locke kept in close contact with his friends. Indeed, the long gestation of his most important philosophical work, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , began at a meeting with friends in his rooms, probably in February The group had gathered to consider questions of morality and revealed religion knowledge of God derived through revelation.

Locke pointed out that, before they could make progress, they would need to consider the prior question of what the human mind is and is not capable of comprehending. It was agreed that Locke should prepare a paper on the topic for their next meeting, and it was this paper that became the first draft of his great work.

In Ashley was raised to the peerage as the 1st earl of Shaftesbury, and at the end of that year he was appointed lord chancellor of England. He was soon dismissed, however, having lost favour with Charles II. For a time Shaftesbury and Locke were in real danger, and it was partly for this reason that Locke traveled to France in By this time he had received his degree of bachelor of medicine from Oxford and been appointed to a medical studentship at Christ Church.

Locke remained in France for nearly four years —79 , spending much time in Paris and Montpelier; the latter possessed a large Protestant minority and the most important medical school in Europe, both of which were strong attractions for Locke.

He made many friends in the Protestant community , including some leading intellectuals. His reading, on the other hand, was dominated by the works of French Catholic philosophers. But it was his medical interests that were the major theme of the journals he kept from this period. He was struck by the poverty of the local population and contrasted this unfavourably with conditions in England and with the vast amounts that the French king Louis XIV was spending on the Palace of Versailles.

From time to time Locke turned to philosophical questions and added notes to his journal, some of which eventually found a place in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Back in England, Shaftesbury had been imprisoned for a year in the Tower of London but was released in February By the time Locke returned to England in , Shaftesbury had been restored to favour as lord president of the Privy Council.

Shaftesbury and Locke strongly supported exclusion. The controversy reached its apex in the hysteria of the so-called Popish Plot , a supposed Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles and replace him with James. The existence of the plot was widely accepted and resulted in the execution of many innocent people before its fabricator, the Anglican priest Titus Oates , was discredited.

When Shaftesbury failed to reconcile the interests of the king and Parliament, he was dismissed; in he was arrested, tried, and finally acquitted of treason by a London jury. A year later he fled to Holland, where in he died. Locke himself, who was being closely watched, crossed to Holland in September Although scholars disagree over the exact date of its composition , it is certain that it was substantially composed before Locke fled to Holland.

In this respect the Two Treatises was a response to the political situation as it existed in England at the time of the exclusion controversy, though its message was of much more lasting significance. In the preface to the work, composed at a later date, Locke makes clear that the arguments of the two treatises are continuous and that the whole constitutes a justification of the Glorious Revolution , which brought the Protestant William III and Mary II to the throne following the flight of James II to France.

Thus, humans, using the capacity of reason , are able to discover that God exists, to identify his laws and the duties they entail, and to acquire sufficient knowledge to perform their duties and thereby to lead a happy and successful life. Other specific moral laws can be discovered or known only through revelation—e. He rejected the claim of papal infallibility how could it ever be proved?

The first treatise was aimed squarely at the work of another 17th-century political theorist, Sir Robert Filmer , whose Patriarcha , though probably written in the s defended the theory of divine right of kings: His refutation was widely accepted as decisive, and in any event the theory of the divine right of kings ceased to be taken seriously in England after He begins by defining political power as a.

But this freedom is not a state of complete license, because it is set within the bounds of the law of nature. It is this duty that gives to humans the right to punish offenders. This can be remedied if humans enter into a contract with each other to recognize by common consent a civil government with the power to enforce the law of nature among the citizens of that state. Although any contract is legitimate as long as it does not infringe upon the law of nature, it often happens that a contract can be enforced only if there is some higher human authority to require compliance with it.

It is a primary function of society to set up the framework in which legitimate contracts, freely entered into, may be enforced, a state of affairs much more difficult to guarantee in the state of nature and outside civil society. Before discussing the creation of political society in greater detail, Locke provides a lengthy account of his notion of property, which is of central importance to his political theory.

Each person, according to Locke, has property in his own person—that is, each person literally owns his own body. Clearly, each person is entitled to as much of the product of his labour as he needs to survive. But, according to Locke, in the state of nature one is not entitled to hoard surplus produce—one must share it with those less fortunate.

For example, it is far from clear how much labour is required to turn any given unowned object into a piece of private property. In the case of a piece of land, for example, is it sufficient merely to put a fence around it?

Or must it be plowed as well? There is, nevertheless, something intuitively powerful in the notion that it is activity, or work, that grants one a property right in something. In the community created by the social contract, the will of the majority should prevail, subject to the law of nature.

The legislative body is central, but it cannot create laws that violate the law of nature, because the enforcement of the natural law regarding life, liberty, and property is the rationale of the whole system. Laws must apply equitably to all citizens and not favour particular sectional interests, and there should be a division of legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

The legislature may, with the agreement of the majority, impose such taxes as are required to fulfill the ends of the state—including, of course, its defense. If the executive power fails to provide the conditions under which the people can enjoy their rights under natural law, then the people are entitled to remove him, by force if necessary. Thus, revolution, in extremis, is permissible—as Locke obviously thought it was in His integration of individualism within the framework of the law of nature and his account of the origins and limits of legitimate government authority inspired the U.

Declaration of Independence and the broad outlines of the system of government adopted in the U. Locke remained in Holland for more than five years — While there he made new and important friends and associated with other exiles from England. A dominant theme of the Essay is the question with which the original discussion in Exeter House began: What is the capacity of the human mind for understanding and knowledge?

In his prefatory chapter, Locke explains that the Essay is not offered as a contribution to knowledge itself but as a means of clearing away some of the intellectual rubbish that stands in the way of knowledge.

He had in mind not only the medieval Scholastics and their followers but also some of his older contemporaries. The Scholastics—those who took Aristotle and his commentators to be the source of all philosophical knowledge and who still dominated teaching in universities throughout Europe—were guilty of introducing technical terms into philosophy such as substantial form , vegetative soul , abhorrence of a vacuum , and intentional species that upon examination had no clear sense—or, more often, no sense at all.

Locke saw the Scholastics as an enemy that had to be defeated before his own account of knowledge could be widely accepted, something about which he was entirely right. Locke begins the Essay by repudiating the view that certain kinds of knowledge—knowledge of the existence of God, of certain moral truths, or of the laws of logic or mathematics —are innate, imprinted on the human mind at its creation.

But human infants have no conception of God or of moral, logical, or mathematical truths, and to suppose that they do, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, is merely an unwarranted assumption to save a position. Furthermore, travelers to distant lands have reported encounters with people who have no conception of God and who think it morally justified to eat their enemies.

Such diversity of religious and moral opinion cannot not be explained by the doctrine of innate ideas but can be explained, Locke held, on his own account of the origins of ideas. In Book II he turns to that positive account. These are not themselves, however, instances of knowledge in the strict sense, but they provide the mind with the materials of knowledge. All ideas are either simple or complex. Whereas complex ideas can be analyzed, or broken down, into the simple or complex ideas of which they are composed, simple ideas cannot be.

The complex idea of a snowball, for example, can be analyzed into the simple ideas of whiteness, roundness, and solidity among possibly others , but none of the latter ideas can be analyzed into anything simpler. The project of analyzing supposedly complex ideas or concepts subsequently became an important theme in philosophy, especially within the analytic tradition, which began at the turn of the 20th century and became dominant at Cambridge , Oxford , and many other universities, especially in the English-speaking world.

In the course of his account, Locke raises a host of related issues, many of which have since been the source of much debate. Primary qualities include size, shape, weight, and solidity, among others, and secondary qualities include colour, taste, and smell. However, ideas of secondary qualities do not resemble any property in the object; they are instead a product of the power that the object has to cause certain kinds of ideas in the mind of the perceiver.

Locke discussed another problem that had not before received sustained attention: Assuming one is the same person as the person who existed last week or the person who was born many years ago, what fact makes this so?

Locke was careful to distinguish the notion of sameness of person from the related notions of sameness of body and sameness of man, or human being. Sameness of body requires identity of matter, and sameness of human being depends on continuity of life as would the sameness of a certain oak tree from acorn to sapling to maturity ; but sameness of person requires something else.

Ideas, Locke observes, can become linked in the mind in such a way that having one idea immediately leads one to form another idea, even though the two ideas are not necessarily connected with each other. Instead, they are linked through their having been experienced together on numerous occasions in the past. The psychological tendency to associate ideas through experience, Locke says, has important implications for the education of children. In order to learn to adopt good habits and to avoid bad ones, children must be made to associate rewards with good behaviour and punishments with bad behaviour.

Investigations into the associations that people make between ideas can reveal much about how human beings think. Through his influence on researchers such as the English physician David Hartley —57 , Locke contributed significantly to the development of the theory of associationism, or associationist psychology, in the 18th century.

Association has remained a central topic of inquiry in psychology ever since. Having shown to his satisfaction that no idea requires for its explanation the hypothesis of innate ideas, Locke proceeds in Book III to examine the role of language in human mental life. His discussion is the first sustained philosophical inquiry in modern times into the notion of linguistic meaning. As elsewhere, he begins with rather simple and obvious claims but quickly proceeds to complex and contentious ones.

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John Locke () was an English philosopher who is considered to be one of the first philosophers of the Enlightenment and the father of classical liberalism. In his major work Two Treatises of Government Locke rejects the idea of the divine right of kings.

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John Locke was born in in Wrighton, Somerset. His father was a lawyer and small landowner who had fought on the Parliamentarian side during the English Civil War of the s.

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Watch video · John Locke, born on August 29, , in Wrington, Somerset, England, went to Westminster school and then Christ Church, University of Oxford. At Born: Aug 29, John Locke was born in Somerset, England, August 29, He was the eldest son of Agnes Keene, daughter of a small-town tanner, and John Locke, an impecunious Puritan lawyer who served as a clerk for justices of the peace. This led him to further explore the issues by writing early drafts of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

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The writings of the late 17th-century empiricist John Locke on philosophy, government, and education were especially influential during the Enlightenment. In the field of education, Locke is significant both for his general theory of knowledge and for his After the first Civil War ended in Commonly referred to as the “Father of Liberalism”, John Locke was born in the August of An English physician and philosopher, he is accredited with being one of the most prominent of all English Enlightenment intellectuals of his time. His main interests lay in the study of economics, metaphysics, philosophy pertaining to the mind, political philosophy and epistemology.