“Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided” (Locke)
Locke (1632-1704) was born in Wrington to Puritan parents of modest means. His father was a country lawyer who served in a cavalry company on the Puritan side in the early stages of the English civil war. His father’s commander, Alexander Popham, became the local MP, and it was his patronage which allowed the young John Locke to gain an excellent education. In 1647 Locke went to Westminster School in London. The importance of Westminster school in the intellectual life of the seventeenth century can scarcely be exaggerated. Locke was a King’s Scholar. The King’s Scholars were a small group of special boys who had the privilege of living in the school and who received a stipend for two or three years before standing for election for either Christ Church, Oxford or Trinity College Cambridge. While the “major elections” were probably political, the “minor elections” or “challenges” were among the most genuinely competitive admissions processes in English schools of the period. Locke did not succeed in the challenge until 1650.
From Westminster school he went to Christ Church, Oxford, in the autumn of 1652 at the age of twenty. As Westminster school was the most important English school, so Christ Church was the most important Oxford college. Education at Oxford was medieval. Reform came, but not in Locke’s time there. The three and a half years devoted to getting a B.A. was mainly given to logic and metaphysics and the classical languages. Conversations with tutors, even between undergraduates in the Hall were in Latin.
Locke received his B.A. in February 1656. His career at Oxford, however, continued beyond his undergraduate days. In June of 1658 Locke qualified as a Master of Arts.
While living in London at Exeter House, Locke continued to be involved in philosophical discussions. James Tyrrell, one of Locke’s friends was at a meeting. He recalls the discussion being about the principles of morality and revealed religion. Thus the Oxford scholar and medical researcher came to begin the work which was to occupy him off and on over the next twenty years.
In 1674 after Shaftesbury had left the government, Locke went back to Oxford, where he acquired the degree Bachelor of medicine, and a license to practice medicine.
(By William Uzgalis at plato.stanford.edu)
Thinkers expressed their thoughts in writing and read the thoughts of others, one, foremost among their ranks, was John Locke. Briefly, the core of Locke’s beliefs are to be found in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). It is with this book that there was established the principles of modern Empiricism (the human mind begins as a tabula rasa, and we learn through experience). It is in this book, Human Understanding, that we see Locke attacking the rationalist doctrine of innate ideas. His other work naturally follows: Two Treatises of Government (1690). Locke’s Treatises were written in defense of the Glorious Revolution: that government rests on popular consent and rebellion is permissible when government subverts the ends – the protection of life, liberty, and property – for which it is established.
Locke was an empiricist, viz., all knowledge comes to us through experience. “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.” There is no such thing as innate ideas; there is no such thing as moral precepts; we are born with an empty mind, with a soft tablet (tabula rasa) ready to be writ upon by experimental impressions. Beginning blank, the human mind acquires knowledge through the use of the five senses and a process of reflection. Not only has Locke’s empiricism been a dominant tradition in British philosophy, but it has been a doctrine which with its method, experimental science, has brought on scientific discoveries ever since, scientific discoveries on which our modern world now depends.
Locke’s Second Treatise, by far, is the more influential work. In it, he set forth his theory of natural law and natural right; in it, he shows that there does exist a rational purpose to government and one need not rely on “myth, mysticism, and mystery.” Against anarchy, Locke saw his job as one who must defend government as an institution. Locke’s object was to insist not only that the public welfare was the test of good government and the basis for properly imposing obligations on the citizens of a country; but, also, that the public welfare made government necessary.
In uncivilized times, in times before government, Hobbes asserted there existed continual war with “every man, against every man.” A time of “no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” On this point Locke and Hobbes were not in agreement. Locke, consistent with his philosophy, viewed man as naturally moral. The reason man would willingly contract into civil society is not to shake his brutish state, but rather that he may advance his ends (peace and security) in a more efficient manner. To achieve his ends man gives up, in favour of the state, a certain amount of his personal power and freedom.
(By Peter Landry at blupete.com)
Locke, Second Treatise of Government:
Complete text ( PDF, 395kb)
chapters 1 through 6 ( PDF, 95kb)
chapters 7 through 13 ( PDF, 100kb)
chapters 14 to end ( PDF, 105kb)
Copyright ©2005-2008 Jonathan Bennett
Early Modern Texts Philosophy Topics
By Modern Day Philosophers
Among Locke’s philsophical works, the best known is his Essay concerning human understanding. In the Essay, Locke concentrates his assessment on the origins and nature of human knowledge,which is one of the fundamental questions asked in epistemology. As he gains lots of influences from his scientists friends such as Robert Boyle, he forms his system of knowledge with empiricist idioms. The first is that he establishes an account that there are two kinds of ideas, i.e. simple and complex ideas. The former such as ‘sweet’, ‘blue’,and ‘cold’ have attributes of sensory experiences to objects, whereas the latter is the compounds of the former. However, both simple and complex ideas are regarded as the mere material basis for knowledge. The extended version of Locke’s assessment of this is his distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Locke regards primary qualities as in solidity, extension, figure motion or rest and number all of which are intrinsic properties of material objects. The secondary qualities are characterised as colours, sounds and tastes, and they are the powers to produce various sensations in us by the primary qualities. They also depend on partly the perceptual power of an observer. For instance, a bar of chocolate, its primary quality can be portrayed as a solid brick which resembles most of all chocolate shape, and the secondary quality as ‘sweetness’, ‘bitterness’, ‘darkness’,and ‘hardness’ of the chocolate, depending on each individual’s palatal taste or other kinds. These features do not correspond to the feature of the chocolate.They are merely sensory sources of what makes a chocolate chocolate character.The primary quality corresponds to the resemblance of material objects and are ideas of being things in themselves. In a nutshell,the ideas of primary qualities have no power to produce perceptions on us but resemble the grounds of the powers to produce such ideas, (they can depict what is there in things), whereas of secondary qualities have powers to produce perceptions and can provide corresponding attributes to the material objects. Although Locke’s theory of knowledge is often attacked by many philosophers for its equivocality and inconsistency in his Essay, some other philosophers take it that his theory is only misunderstood by them. Locke’s other thought: possibility of innate moral and religious ideas, human knowledge derived from experiences.
(John Locke: general ideas of his thoughts at nobunaga.demon.co.uk)
Near this place lies JOHN LOCKE. If you are wondering what kind of man he was, he answers that he was contented with his modest lot. Bred a scholar, he made his learning subservient only to the cause of truth. You will learn this from his writings, which will show you everything about him more truthfully than the suspect praises of an epitaph. His virtues, if indeed he had any, were too slight to be lauded by him or to be an example to you. Let his vices be buried with him. Of virtue you have an example in the gospels, 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 1632 and that he died on the 28th of October in the year 1704. This tablet, which itself will soon perish, is a record.
(From From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
More about John Locke:
Born: Wrington, Somersetshire, 29 Aug. 1632
Died: Oates, Essex, 28 Oct. 1704
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Occupation: Lawyer, Government Official
Also John Locke, the father was a lawyer and a clerk to the local Justices of the Peace. It is our impression that the position of clerk was not a governmental one but rather private employment by the JP’s. However, toward the end of his life the father was county clerk for sewers.
It seems clear that he was affluent. He had inherited a good fortune from his own father, although he left his own son less than he had received.
Schooling: Oxford, M.A., M.D.
Westminister School, 1646-52.
Oxford University, Christ Church, 1652-8. B.A., 1656; M.A., 1658; M.B., 1674. Locke never received the M.D., but the followings are medical degrees as though they were M.D.’s.
Personal physician of Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury
His friendships with prominent government officers and scholars made him one of the most influential men of the 17th century.
(©1995 Al Van Helden at galileo.rice.edu)