Locke was born in the village of Wrington, Somerset, on August 29, 1632. He was educated at the University of Oxford and lectured on Greek, rhetoric, and moral philosophy at Oxford from 1661 to 1664. In 1667 Locke began his association with the English statesman Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st earl of Shaftesbury, to whom Locke was friend, adviser, and physician. Shaftesbury secured for Locke a series of minor government appointments. In 1669, in one of his official capacities, In 1675, after the liberal Shaftesbury lost is power, Locke went to France.
In 1679 he returned to England, but in view of his opposition to the Roman Catholicism favored by the English monarchy at that time, he soon found it expedient to return to France. From 1683 to 1688 he lived in Holland, and following the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the restoration of Protestantism to favor, Locke returned once more to England. The new king, William III, appointed Locke to the Board of Trade in 1696, a position from which he resigned because of ill health in 1700. He died in Oates on October 28, 1704. Empiricism
Locke’s empiricism emphasizes the importance of the experience of the senses in pursuit of knowledge rather than speculation or reasoning. The empiricist doctrine was first developed by the English philosopher sir Francis Bacon early in the 17th century, but Locke organized his ideas in an article in 1690 called Essay Concerning Human Understanding. He regarded the mind of a person at birth as a tabula rasa, a blank slate upon which experience brings knowledge, and did not believe in intuition or theories of instinct. Locke also held that all persons are born good, independent, and equal.
Political Theories In his work Two Treatises of Government, written in 1690, John Locke attacked the theory of divine right of kings and the nature of the state. He also believed in religious freedom and in the separation of church and state. In Two Treatises of Government he argued that the power did and should not exist within the state but within the people. He continued to say that the state is “supreme,” but only if it is bound by what he called “natural” law. NATURAL LAW: Locke was not the first theorist to come up with natural law, in fact the idea was originated by ancient Greeks’.
Similar to Greeks, Locke argued that humans (in the state of nature) are free and equal. He stated that when humans enter society they surrender only the rights that are necessary for their security and for the common good. He believed that each individual has fundamental rights drawn from what is called the “natural law. ” Many of Locke’s political ideas, such as natural rights, property rights, the duty of the government to protect those rights, and the rule of the majority, were later incorporated in the U. S. Constitution. Also, his natural-rights theory provided a philosophical basis for both the American and French revolutions.
Locke further preached that revolution was not only a right but often an obligation. Locke also advocated a system of checks and balances in government. This idea meant to comprise three branches, of which the legislative is more powerful than the executive or the judicial. Locke’s influence in modern philosophy has been profound and, with his application of empirical analysis to ethics, politics, and religion, he remains one of the most important and controversial philosophers of all time. Among his other works are Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695).