Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Journey of John Locke (1632-1704)

John Locke believed in the principle of private property.

Aside from politics and philosophy, Locke also had contributions in the fields of education and medicine. He grew up in an Anglican-Puritan family who instilled early grains of thought about a sense of responsibility towards other people; this, however, did not inspire him to turn into a devout follower of his family’s religion. Locke’s lawyer father likewise emphasized the value of education that somehow motivated him to earn college and postgraduate degrees in mid-1650s (Encyclopaedia Britannica 12).  

Locke - The Inquisitive

As a student, Locke expressed dismay over traditional methods of teaching. Such observation, however, did not discourage him from learning more about life, the nature of human beings, and society. 

Locke further delved into experimental science and medicine, as well as in moral and socio-political subjects. He attended gatherings of the Royal Society that nurtured his inquisitive mind. It was during one of these meetings when Locke shared his thoughts about human knowledge, a topic that was prominent in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding

His encounters with members of the Cambridge Platonism taught Locke about tolerance, pragmatism in the context of religious life, and the fundamentals of Materialism which the Platonists rejected. One thing that he shared with this group was their belief on Latitudinarianism that promoted affiliation to the Christian Church by simply confessing to Christ (Encyclopaedia Britannica 13).

When Locke stayed in France around 1675-79, he met Francois Bernier who headed a school that promoted the epistemological and metaphysical teachings of Pierre Gassendi. Locke admired Gassendi’s ideas on empirical or sense experience, hedonism (which Thomas Hobbes also espoused along with Materialism), and corpuscular physics that highlighted the atomic nature of reality (Encyclopaedia Britannica 13).

Locke got mired in political trouble in England when a politician friend named Shaftesbury was unable to forge an agreement between the monarchy and the parliament. He and Shaftesbury supported the idea of a bloodless revolution. They also went into exile in Holland after the latter’s acquittal in 1683. 

Holland nurtured Locke's philosophical side. During this period, Charles II (Hobbes’s student in mathematics) declared him as one of England’s 84 traitors. It was only in 1689 when he returned to his home country as a result of Queen Mary II’s rule (Encyclopaedia Britannica 13).

Locke’s last 15 years became more significant when he served as adviser or mentor of John Somers who would later become England’s Lord Chancellor. Unlike Hobbes who was an absolutist or monarch defender, Locke supported a constitutional monarchy controlled by the Parliament. Religious tolerance in the courts likewise improved during this time. Legal sanction on freedom of expression and thought was also adopted. Press freedom was also promoted and gained legal support (Encyclopaedia Britannica 13-14).

Among Locke’s works was the Epistola de Tolerantia (A Letter Concerning Toleration) in 1689. Said letter talked about a human being’s capacity to influence other people’s decision regarding religion. Locke noted that no one had full and perfect wisdom and knowledge. He also believed that every person is a moral being who is accountable to God and that this fact is greater than freedom (Encyclopaedia Britannica 14).

Based on what he experienced as a citizen of England, Locke attributed all political and social issues to human nature. He asserted the importance of not only observing human actions in understanding an individual, but as well as probing into her/his capacity to learn or gain knowledge (Encyclopaedia Britannica 14).

Work Cited

Encyclopaedia Brittanica. John Locke. USA: Enclopaedia Brittanica Inc. 1978. Print.

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