John Locke was an english philosopher and physician who is regarded as one of the most influential enlightenment thinkers. He followed Francis Bacon's tradition and became one of the first empiricists of Britain. His contributions to the social contact theory, epistemology and political philosophy are substantial. The works and writings of this great enlightenment thinker influenced other thinkers like Rousseau, Voltaire and many Scottish American thinkers. Locke's contributions played an important role in shaping many modern world concept and ideologies. His 'theory of mind' is believed to have laid the foundation of the modern concepts of self and identity. His natural flair of philosophy developed further under the influence of eminent personalities like Shaftesbury. His major contributions include theory of religious tolerance, constitution of Carolina, theory of value and property, political theory, limits of accumulation and many more. Read this biography and learn about the childhood, life, career and timeline of this great philosopher.
Childhood And early Life
John Locke was born to John, a country lawyer, and Agnes Keene, on 29th August 1632 near Bristol. His family shifted to Pensford soon after his birth and Locke spent his growing yeas here. He attended Westminster School in London under his mentor Alexander Popham, an english politician and his father's former commander. He completed studies and joined Christ Church, Oxford where, though being talented, he didn't enjoy or appreciate the curriculum followed and devoted most of his time in exploring the works of modern philosophers like Rene Descartes. After graduation in 1656 and post graduation in 1658, Locke pursued medicine and obtained a Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1674 and went on to work with famous scientists like Thomas Willis, Robert Hooke, Richard Lower, Robert Boyle etc.
After completing his studies, Locke moved to Shaftesbury's home in London in search of a career in medicine. He then served Lord Ashley as his personal physician and continued his medical studies alongside, under the famous english physician, Thomas Sydenham. This association had a major influence on Locke and his natural philosophical thinking. It was by this time that Shaftesbury had a major liver infection that worsened with time and became life-threatening. It was Locke who convinced him to undergo a surgery which turned out to be a good decision as Shaftesbury survived and prospered with good health. Shaftesbury and his ideologies also influenced Locke's political ideas. Around 1679, Locke drafted two treaties of government and became associated with influential Whigs around that time. However, in modern times, his views are considered quite revolutionary. Locke was strongly suspected of being involved in Rye House Plot, a plan to assassinate King Charles II of england and had to flee to the Netherlands. Although there was not enough proof to substantiate his involvement, he remained in Netherlands for long and returned only after the Glorious Revolution. Locke had erratic health and suffered from recurring asthma attacks however, his poor health did not prevent him from going ahead with his work. During the course of his life, Locke met and interacted with many great people like John Dryden, Isaac Newton etc.
John Locke never married and died in 1704, on 28th of October. His funeral was conducted in the churchyard of the village of High Laver.
Locke was a great influence for many in the realms of political philosophy and modern liberalism. According to Michael Zuckert, it was Locke who launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian and separating the realms of church and state; even the great Voltaire was greatly influenced by Locke and called him 'le sage Locke'. Locke's views and arguments on social contract and liberty influenced Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison etc. and this is evident in their works.
In his 'Letters Concerning Toleration' regarding the aftermath of european war on the religion, Locke formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. He believed that enforcing a single true religion will not cause any desired effect because, religious beliefs cannot be brought about by compulsion or violence.
Constitution Of Carolina
Locke played a substantial role in drafting the "Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas" while he was Shaftesbury's secretary. He wholeheartedly opposed aristocracy and slavery and was accused of hierocracy and racism for his beliefs.
Locke had a very clear view about what 'self' is. According to him, 'self' was "that conscious thinking thing, (whatever substance, made up of whether spiritual, or material, simple, or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends". Such clear thinking about 'self' later inspired many a-thinkers to pursue and expand the same line of thought.
John Locke was a great philosopher who had revolutionary views about society and social problems. A person like him is worth remembering on this Teachers day.