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Biography of John Locke and His Works

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John Locke was born on August 29, 1632 in Wrington, Somerset, England. His father, John Locke was a lawyer and small landowner who had served for the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War and also served as a clerk to the Justices of the Peace in Chew Magna; His mother was Agnes Keene a tanner’s daughter who’s said to have been beautiful. Both his parents were Puritans and middle class, Agnes being 10 years John’s senior, after a year of their marriage they had John then their second, Peter, died in infancy; and their third, Thomas, was born in August 1637. Soon after John’s birth, the family moved to Pensford, about seven miles south of Bristol, and lived in a rural Tudor house in Belluton. It is believed that Agnes died soon after her third child’s birth.

For his education he attended Westminster school at 14 years old. At Westminster, Locke studies Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Mathematics, and Geography and in 1960 he was elected as King’s Scholar which was an academic honor and financial benefit as it allowed him to buy himself other books to further his education. Although Locke’s education was a privileged one, the enforcement and disciplinary methods were one he did not approve; of as birching was practiced very often at his school. Later on in his life Locke outed the school system in his book Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1963) due to his friend Edward Clarke’s interest in a proper education for his son, where he argued about how inhumane corporal punishments towards students was, described the physical cruelsome abuse many students received and favored private tutoring as a better form of education and the importance of physical education. After Westminster Locke attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he found himself being “unstimulated” as the curriculum mainly focused on Aristotle and his philosophy and left out new philosophers and their ideas unteachable. However, that did not stop Locke from reading and learning about Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, and many other philosophers who were not in his curriculum; he proceeded to obtain his bachelor’s degree and stayed for his masters. Locke then stayed at Christ Church and for 3-4 years taught Greek, rhetoric, and moral philosophy but that wasn’t fulfilling or pleasant for him but after some readings on Descartes, his “relish of philosophical things”, and the Royal Society at Oxford he began experimenting and studying about chemistry, medicine and meteorology. In 1674 he then received a degree in medicine and although not qualified to practice as a doctor, he often did informally.

As Locke was growing up he made many prominent and important at-the-time friends, one of them being Lord Shaftesbury who had liver issues and Locke once operated on him at a medical emergency. Shaftesbury then thought of Locke as his life savior and invited him to his household where Locke joined as an advisor, medic, and helped in government jobs. However Shaftesbury then fell in trouble and had to flee the country and Locke did too as he thought that his former friendship with Shaftesbury and his anti-royalist beliefs were too compromising for his own life. Therefore Locked fled to France for nearly four years (1675–79), spending much time in Paris and Montpellier; and later returned to England but the The Earl was killed and Shaftesbury and Locke fled again but to Holland in 1683. The reason why they both were fleeing was because Shaftsbury was the founder of the Whig Party, “which pushed for constitutional monarchism and stood in opposition to the dominant Tories,” which Locke supported and believed in. Locke then return to England in 1688 during the reign of William and Mary, with the Whigs in power and the balance of power being moved from the throne to Parliament which made him be welcomed as a hero. As a prominent member of the Whig Party, Locke worked in governmental affairs, helped steer the resurrection of the Board of Trade with North America and served as a key member of the party until October 28, 1704 when he died in Essex never having been married or had any children of his own with the company of his friend Lady Damaris reading him from Psalms.

Going back, while Locke studied medicine he associated himself with Robert Hooke with who he worked on Before Memex: Robert Hooke, John Locke, and Vannevar Bush on External Memory; where they studied the limits of individual memory. He later formed the “Experimental Philosophy Club,” along with John Wilkins, Christopher Wren, and Robert Boyle. Additionally, some of John Locke’s works include: Essays on the Law of Nature (1676), Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina (1669), A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), Two Treatises of Government (1689), An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695.)

For Locke on Essays on the Law of Nature (1676), in the state of nature all men are free ‘to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature… the state of nature has a law of nature to govern it”, and said law is what’s considered reason. I believe this to be true because it doesn’t set a limit to man’s action but enforces consequences. Fundamental Constitution of Carolina (1669) was a plan for organizing the colony of Carolina, drafted in 1669 by Anthony Ashley Cooper and John Locke. Its provisions included a scheme for creating a hierarchy of nobles who would own vast amounts of land and wield political power; below them would be a class of freedmen and slaves. The provisions were never implemented by the Carolina colonists. I like the formation of his idea but cannot agree with it as it still implemented the ownership of slaves. A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) was concerning Locke’s establishment of the separation of church and magistrate. If the two disagree, the question can be raised as to which has the final word. The magistrate should tolerate the Church fully, except for certain doctrines, treatises, etc. Further, the magistrate should tolerate any religion, except for one which tries to deny people their civil rights. In other words, the State may regulate religion if the religion is outwardly prejudice to another man or his property. This work was written during his stay in Holland due to his association with other exiles and the issues his native country was going through in regards to religion. I think this letter is very through and although I want to say I approve of it I don’t because Locke also said Atheists can’t be tolerated, in a way limiting beliefs and the lack of them. Two Treatises of Government (1689) are works in which The First Treatise attacks monarchy for having absolute power absolute power and on the Second Treatise Locke summarizes his idea on a differently ordered society, in which there’s freedom for all but also political order. This work was done before he fled to Holland and based on England’s political situation at the time and the Glorious Revolution. This one is the one work I can genuinely say I like because even though it criticizes the government it also offers ideas on how to fix it, and how the monarchy wasn’t exactly a good idea which I also don’t stand for. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) consists of four volumes and its central idea is that all knowledge we obtain is derived from experience, I think that this is something I can agree with because of personal experiences of how I have learned from previous experiences life lessons. These works of him were also written in Holland in regards to Scholastics, the existence of God, moral truths, and Plato’s philosophy. The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) is where Locke shares his belief that we all have the ability to understand our purpose and we can obtain salvation from reading and learning about the Scriptures, for this one all I can say is that even though I’m not a religious person, I do believe we have the capability of understanding and finding our true purpose without having to pay someone else to tell us it.

Essentially all of Locke’s works have impacted politics from the Western World, England and France. For example it inspired The Glorious Revolution, The American Revolution, the writings of Voltaire, The writings of Rousseau, The French Revolution, Alexander Hamilton and other founding fathers as to what a new nations should be, with no monarchy and separation of power from the government and church with the “freedom of life, liberty and property”. With the idea that people are not subject of a monarchy or the government but that the government works for the people and protects their rights, with people having the right to rebel (and moral obligation) against a government if it failed to protect and honor their rights. Of course at his time his philosophies got him in trouble when the monarchy was still very much in power and Locke challenge the idea of a King’s appointment and right to reign, or with people who supported a monarchy or those with different religious beliefs, it got to a point when he had to flee his native country twice but those philosophies are the ones that make the very nation where I live and seem to be common sense for the society I live in.

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