John Locke

by Ierotheos from San Diego

Portrait of John Locke in his later years (Stanford ())
Portrait of John Locke
Gottfried Kneller / Public domain via Wikimedia

Governments have been influenced by entire civilizations or by a single person who can benefit or destroy future generations. One such person who influenced governments for the better is John Locke. He was born August 29, 1632, Wrington, England, and died October 28, 1704 in Oates, England. A hero must be able to benefit future generations, be intelligent and leave a mark on the world, much like John Locke.

John Locke influenced governments in a positive way through a focus on human rights and in addition making a study on the human mechanics of understanding. "In developing his theory of our duty to benefiting future generations means you must do something important or positive. Rather than obey the state, he attacked the idea that might makes right: Starting from an initial state of nature with no government, police or private property, we humans could discover by careful reasoning that there are natural laws which suggest that we have natural rights to our own persons and to our own labor. Eventually we could discover that we should create a social contract with others, and out of this contract emerges our political obligations and the institution of private property. This is how reasoning places limits on the proper use of power by government authorities." ("John Locke." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford, 2 Sept. 2001. Web. 09 May 2012. .) The rights he is writing about are the rights to "Life, Liberty, and Property" which as he says every human should have and is what the very essence of the American Revolution was based off of. When England was denying Americans these rights, it helped start the revolution. "These views were most fully developed in Locke's famous Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government, and they were so radical that he never dared sign his name to it. He acknowledged authorship only in his will. Locke's writings did much to inspire the libertarian ideals of the American Revolution. This, in turn, set an example which inspired people throughout Europe, Latin America, and Asia." Not only did the rights influence America but entire continents from the Orient to North America. Without him, places like the Americas and Asia would still be enslaving people.

Intelligence, while not held by all heroes, helps a great deal in their exploits. John Locke held a great deal of knowledge helping him learn the laws of human understanding. "In the four books of the Essay Locke considers the sources and nature of human knowledge. Book I argues that we have no innate knowledge. (In this he resembles Berkeley and Hume, and differs from Descartes and Leibniz.) So, at birth, the human mind is a sort of blank slate on which experience writes. In Book II Locke claims that ideas are the materials of knowledge and all ideas come from experience. The term 'idea,' Locke tells us "...stands for whatsoever is the Object of the Understanding, when a man thinks." (Essay I, 1, 8, p. 47) Experience is of two kinds, sensation and reflection. One of these -- sensation -- tells us about things and processes in the external world. The other -- reflection -- tells us about the operations of our own minds. Reflection is a sort of internal sense that makes us conscious of the mental processes we are engaged in. Some ideas we get only from sensation, some only from reflection and some from both." (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Locke, John. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 10 May 2012. .) He helps us understand the very way we ascertain and retain knowledge through experience, writing "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding". He helped us see new ways to learn things and dissect how the mind is built. "The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without master-builders, whose mighty designs, in advancing the sciences, will leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity: but everyone must not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham; and in an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some others of that strain, it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge ..." (William. "John Locke." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford, 2 Sept. 2001. Web. 09 May 2012.) In gaining knowledge, one needs to be open-minded and persistent, or according to John Locke at least. You have to move and get rid of the obstacles in your way.

A portrait of John Locke (From wikipedia)
A portrait of John Locke
Michael Dahl / Public domain via Wikimedia

John Locke certainly left his marks on history, influencing a revolution and whatnot. The way he did this was writing human rights for his own rules for government. "John Locke is one of the founders of "liberal" political philosophy, the philosophy of individual rights and limited government. This is the philosophy on which the American Constitution and all Western political systems today are based. In the Second Treatise of Government, Locke's most important political work, he uses natural law to ground his philosophy. But there are many different interpretations of the natural law, from the Ciceronian to the Thomistic to the Grotian." ("John Locke | Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism." John Locke | Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism. Witherspoon Institute, 2012. Web. 15 May 2012. .) Certainly leaving his mark with human rights, which are used prominently in the American government, also in modern Asia and South America. "This is the basic recipe for the political philosophy of liberalism--Locke's philosophy. Locke speaks of a state of nature where men are free, equal, and independent. He champions the social contract and government by consent. He goes even farther than Hobbes in arguing that government must respect the rights of individuals. It was Locke's formula for limited government, more than Hobbes', that inspired the American Founding Fathers. But what is the basis of Locke's theory? Is it natural law or Hobbesian natural right? The Founding Fathers, in the Declaration of Independence, speak of both natural rights and natural laws. Locke does likewise. Natural law and natural right may be combined, but if they are, one must take precedence over the other. Either the individual's right, or his duty to moral law, must come first." ("John Locke | Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism." John Locke | Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism. Witherspoon Institute, 2012. Web. 15 May 2012. .) Agreement to this is spread worldwide; when people look at the greatest countries in the world, they usually see people being equal and free and there are no slaves anymore because of this philosophy.

The mind is a complex thing, and takes an intelligent man who can benefit future generations and leave his mark on the world. John Locke inspires me by showing what equality truly means and not to misjudge others. John Locke is truly a hero for those who have suffered under racism and inequality.

Page created on 7/16/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 8/31/2020 9:53:35 PM

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Related Links

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Biography of John Locke
John Locke Foundation - "Who is John Locke?"
John Locke - A short film about John Locke and his legacy.

Extra Info

Works consulted 

("John Locke." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford, 2 Sept. 2001. Web. 09 May 2012. .)

 (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." Locke, John‚ []. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 10 May 2012. .)

 (William. "John Locke." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Stanford, 2 Sept. 2001. Web. 09 May 2012. .)