John Locke was an outstanding English philosopher and physician, extensively known as the “Father of Liberalism”. He was also admired as one of the most prominent Enlightenment thinkers. Locke also devoted equal contribution to the social contract theory. Also, his works showered a great impact on the epistemology and political philosophy development. The writings of John Locke have inspired many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau as well as revolutionaries from United States. Also, in the American Declaration of Independence, Locke’s input to classical republicanism and liberal theory can be clearly seen. His theory of mind is frequently quoted as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self. He was the first to provide a definition of the self, using a continuity of consciousness. Locke figured out that the mind was a blank state and we are born without any inborn ideas, the knowledge is acquired only by the experiences.
John Locke Childhood & Early Life
John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, in a tiny cottage by the church in Wrington, Somerset, near Bristol to John Locke and Agnes Keene. Both the father and son shared the same name, John Locke. His father was country lawyer and clerk to the Justices of the Peace in Chew Magna. Senior John Locke had also worked as a captain of cavalry for the Parliamentarian forces during the initial period of English Civil War. Immediately after the birth of John Locke, he was baptized. The family of Locke shifted to the market town of Pensford and Locke was brought up in a rural Tudor home in Belluton. In 1647, Locke attended the prestigious Westminster School in London. His education there was sponsored by Alexander Popham, a Member of Parliament and former commander of Locke's father. After finishing his studies, Locke got admission in the Christ Church, Oxford. But annoyed by then undergraduate curriculum, he got involved deeply in the works of modern philosophers like René Descartes.
Locke found the philosophy extremely interesting than the classical material available in the course structure. Through his Westminster School’s friend, Richard Lower, he got acquainted to medicine and experimental philosophy. Both of these were available in the other universities and also in the English Royal Society. By the course of time, Locke became a member of the same. In 1656, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree and in 1658, a master’s degree. He also acquired a bachelor of medicine in 1674, as he studied medicine immensely while being at Oxford and also worked with some great scientists and thinkers like Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, Robert Hooke and Richard Lower. In 1666, Locke met Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury at Oxford. He was extremely impressed with John Locke and prompted him to join his entourage.
In 1667, Locke shifted to Shaftesbury's home at Exeter House in London where he was appointed as Lord Ashley's personal physician. During this time, he continued his medical studies under the guidance of Thomas Sydenham. Sydenham had a great impact on Locke’s natural philosophical thinking, which was apparent in Locke’s “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”. All the knowledge gained by the Locke about medicine was challenged when Shaftesbury was stricken with a liver infection which became fatal and life threatening. Locke regulated advices of numerous physicians and was actively involved in persuading Shaftesbury to go through an operation, which was then quite dangerous to life, in order to remove the cyst. The operation was successful and Shaftesbury survived. He then credited Locke for his new flourishing life. In 1671, Locke also served as Secretary of the Board of Trade and Plantations and Secretary to the Lords and Proprietors of the Carolinas. He was trying his best to shape up his thoughts in international trade and economics.
Shaftesbury, founder of the Whig movement, directed immense influence on the political ideas of Locke. As such, in 1672, when Shaftesbury became Lord Chancellor, Locke too got involved in politics. However, after the fall of Shaftesbury in 1675, Locke spent his days traveling across France as a tutor and medical attendant to Caleb Banks during his excursion. In 1679, he came back to London. By this time, the political career of Shaftesbury also took a positive curve. During the same time, Shaftesbury convinced Locke to compose the bulk of the Two Treatises of Government. The work is now looked upon as a more usual argument opposing absolute monarchy and for individual agreement as the basis of political legitimacy. His ideas on the natural rights and government currently viewed as a major revolution for that period in English history.
In 1683, Locke was suspected to be involved in the Rye House Plot and therefore, moved to the Netherlands. There were very less evidence to believe that he was one of the prime suspects. In his days in Netherlands, Locke had lots of time to deeply involve himself in writings and therefore, he start re-working on the “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and designing the Letter on Toleration. John Locke returned back to England only after the Glorious Revolution. In 1688, he accompanied wife of William of Orange to England. Upon his return, the bulk of his works got published including “Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, the “Two Treatises of Civil Government” and “A Letter Concerning Toleration”. He shifted to his close friend’s home, Lady Masham at the Mashams' country house in Essex. During the same time, he became hero of the Whigs and used to discuss matters with eminent personalities like John Dryden and Isaac Newton.
John Locke died onOctober 28, 1704 and was buried in the churchyard of the village of High Laver, east of Harlow in Essex. He remained single all his life.