John Locke

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John Locke as depicted by Godfrey Kneller

John Locke (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704) was an English philosopher and political figure in the seventeenth century. He founded the British emperisicsm- the idea that the mind learns only through life experiences. Through his studies, he also proved reality; primary qualities such as extension, sound, and solidity, mechanically affect secondary qualities such as color, sound, and smell.

John Locke was also influential in the study of government. He believed that because the mind is born as a blank slate, that all are equal and should be given equal opportunities to pursue "life, health, liberties, and possessions." He believed all have the right to freedom. Going into a slightly more detail, Locke believed that in the perfect state of nature, the state which is given to all by God, all are equal. His reasoning flows that because God has given humankind equality in the state of nature, and because one cannot take away what belongs to Him, it is morally wrong to harm one another. Locke's view on freedom and equality, called the State of Nature, influenced many philosophers such as Berkley, Kant and Hume. John Locke was a shy man of amiable disposition, widely liked and esteemed without enemies. The Essay Concerning Human Understanding exercised undisputed sway over ideas of the entire Eighteenth Century.

He has worked with Sir Isaac Newton but never with Galileo Galilei or Rene Descartes.

>>b. Timeline
II. Influence
III. Major Works
IV. See Also
V. Notes
VI. External Links
VII. Bibliography

I. Life

John Locke was born to John Locke and Agnes Keene on August 29, 1632. His father, a country lawyer, had served in the English Civil War as captain of cavalry. In 1647, when Locke was 15, he was sent to the revered Westminster's School in London. He completed his primary educated there under scholarship and then was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Though Locke was a capable student in many respects, he found himself irritated by the undergraduate curriculum of the time. Locke was more interested in studying philosophers such as Rene Descartes than the classic philosophers that were taught at his school. Then Locke, through a friend he met a university, started exploring modern philosophers and medicine at English Royal Society, a group which he later joined. Locke received his Bachelor's Degree, Masters Degree and later, a Bachelor of Medicine. In 1666 he served as secretary to the diplomatic mission of Sir Walter Vane to the court of Brandenburg at Cleves. (Uzgalis)

Locke used his extensive medical training later in his life when he was appointed Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury's personal doctor. He had met Shaftesbury during his days at Oxford. Shaftesbury had had a liver infection but, at the time, it hadn't been anything extraordinarily dangerous. Soon, the infection became life threating, forcing Locke to operate, saving his life. This gave Locke a strong political connection and the two remained close for the remainder of their lives. (Uzgalis)

It was at this time, with the encouragement of Shaftesbury, that Locke wrote most of his major works, including Two Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration. Locke met and worked with such renown philosophers such as Sir Isaac Newton and John Dryden. He also traveled around Europe expensively as he wrote his works, going to such places as Holland, France and the Netherlands as he and his friends came in and out of public opinion. (Clapp)

Locke died on October 28, 1704 after his health steady decreased. He never married or had children. (Uzgalis)


1632 - Locke is born
1646- Locke enters Westminster School in London
1652- Locke attends Christ Church College, Oxford
1658- Locke graduates M,.A
1664- Locke writes Essays on the Law of Nature
1667- Locke becomes Ashley's personal Physician
1667- First draft of Essays Concerning Humane Understanding is published
1689- The Essay Concerning Human Understanding is published
1689-1704- Locke publishes many more of his works on the human mind
1794- Locke dies

Locke's epitaph

(translated from Latin)

"Stop, Traveller! Near this place lies John Locke. If you ask what kind of a man he was, he answers that he lived content with his own small fortune. Bred a scholar, he made his learning subservient only to the cause of truth. This you will learn from his writings, which will show you everything else concerning him, with greater truth, than the suspect praises of an epitaph. His virtues, indeed, if he had any, were too little for him to propose as matter of praise to himself, or as an example to you. Let his vices be buried with him. Of good life, you have an example in the gospel, should you desire it; of vice, would there were none for you; of mortality, surely you have one here and everywhere, and may you learn from it. That he was born on the 29th of August in the year of our Lord 1632, and that he died on the 28th of October in the year of our Lord 1704, this tablet, which itself will soon perish, is a record."

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II. Influence

On Locke:

The two major philosophers that had a large impact on Locke were Descartes and Pierre Gassendi (Clapp). Descartes had a lot of influence on Locke's Essay's. From Gassendi, Locke founded his ideas that sensation is a key component of knowledge and that intellect is essential to the attainment of truth and knowledge. (Clapp)

Locke on Others:

"Many minds of the seventeenth century contributed to the overthrow of the School philosophies and the development of the new sciences and philosophies. Descartes and Locke between them, however, set the tone and direction for what was to follow. Certainly Locke was the most prominent figure in the early eighteenth century, the indispensable precursor of Berkeley and Hume as well as a fountainhead for the French Encyclopedia. If it is said that the two strains of Cartesian rationalism and Lockian empiricism met in Kant, it can be added that Hume built on Locke's foundation and Kant formalized much that was first a vague groping in Locke. Though Locke was not a wholly satisfactory thinker, his influence on thought in England and America has never completely abated, and even now there appears to he a revived interest in the Essay." (Clapp) Today, Locke is remembered as inspiring the America's catchphrase "Life, liberty and the presuite of happiness" by his own political theory than no man has the right to harm another man's "Life, liberty and property". Locke stated this is his work, Two Treatises of Government. (Laundry)

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III. Major Works

An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding-1690
Two Treatises on Civil Government-1690

Some thoughts Concerning Education - 1692
An Essay Concerning the True, Original Extent and End of Civil Government- 1690
The Reasonableness of Christianity
- 1695

Much of this material has survived, most of it now assembled in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford where Locke attended University. (Uzgalis)

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IV. See Also

Rene Descartes
Isaac Newton
An Overview of the Enlightenment

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V. Notes:

Empiricism – the mind is born as a blank slate-it gains knowledge from life experiences, thus proving that science exists
Epistemology- the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. It revolves around the difference between true knowledge and false knowledge.
John Locke believed one has no idea of the true physical world, only of the impressions the physical world makes on him.
Much of Locke’s work was on the relation between objects and ideas.

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VI. External Links

Primary Sources online - (Halsall)

Some thoughts Concerning Education - 1692
Two Treaties of Government - 1690
An Essay Concerning the true, original extent and end of civil government- 1690

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VII. Bibliography

Anchor, Robert. The Enlightment Tradition. New York: Harper and Row, 1967.

Berlin, Sir Isaiah. The Age of Enlightment. Toronto: The New American Library, 1956.

Clapp, James G. "John Locke." University of Cailforna. 13 Sept. 2007 <>.

"Epistemology, introduction." Principia Cybernetica Web. 11 September 2007.

Halsall, Paul, comp. Internet Modern History Source book. 22 Sept.-Oct. 1997. 12 Sept. 2007 <>.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 13 Sept. 2007 <>.

"John Locke." Columbia State University. 11 Sept. 2007. c)

"John Locke." 11 Sept. 2007.

"John Locke." Oregon State University. 11 Sept. 2007.

Kneller, Godfrey. Adeladaide U. 13 Sept. 2007 <http:";

Landry, Peter. " john="" locke="" biographies="" 2006="" 13="" sept="" 2007="">&lt;;.

"Locke, John." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 13 Sept. 2007 &lt;;.

"Social Contract Theory." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 11 Sept. 2007.

Uzgalis, William, comp. Stanford Encylpedia of Philisophy. 2007. Stanford U. 12 Sept. 2007 &lt;;.

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