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Lockes insight was that before we can analyze the world and our access to it we have to know something about ourselves. We need to know how we acquire knowledge. We also need to know which areas of inquiry we are well suited to and which are epistemically closed to us, that is, which areas are such that we could not know them even in principle. We further need to know what knowledge consists.  In keeping with these questions, at the very outset of the Essay locke writes that it is his purpose enquire into the Original, certainty, and Extent of humane Knowledge; together, with the Grounds and Degrees of Belief, Opinion, and Assent. Locke thinks that it is only once we understand our cognitive capabilities that we can suitably direct our researches into the world. This may have been what Locke had in mind when he claimed that part of his ambition in the Essay was to be an Under-Laborer who cleared the ground and laid the foundations for the work of famous scientists like robert boyle and Isaac Newton. The Essay is divided into four books with each book contributing to lockes overall goal of examining the human mind with respect to its contents and operations.

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A short work on miracles also dates from this time and was published posthumously. Locke suffered from health problems for most of his adult life. In particular, he had respiratory ailments which were exacerbated by his visits to london where the air quality was very poor. His health took a turn for the worse in 1704 and he became increasingly debilitated. He died on while damaris Masham was reading him the Psalms. He was buried at High laver, near Oates. He wrote his own epitaph which was both humble manager and forthright. The main Project of the Essay according to lockes own account the motivation for writing the Essay came to him while debating an unrelated topic with friends. He reports that they were able to make little headway on this topic and that they very quickly met with a number of confusions and difficulties. Locke realized that to make progress on this topic it was first necessary to examine something more fundamental: the human understanding. It write was necessary to examine our own Abilities, and see, what Objects our Understandings were, or were not fitted to deal with.

The two men debated a number of the positions in the Essay in a series of published letters. In his later years Locke devoted much of his attention to salon theology. His major work in this field was The reasonableness of Christianity, published (again anonymously) in 1695. This work was controversial because locke argued that many beliefs traditionally believed to be mandatory for Christians were unnecessary. Locke argued for a highly ecumenical form of Christianity. Closer to the time of his death Locke wrote a work on the pauline Epistles. The work was unfinished, but published posthumously.

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He initially stayed in London but soon moved to the home of Francis and Damaris Masham in the small village of Oates, Essex. Damaris Masham, who was the daughter of a notable philosopher named Ralph Cudworth, had become acquainted with Locke several years before. The two formed a very close friendship which lasted until Lockes death. During this period Locke kept busy working on politics, toleration, philosophy, economics, and educational theory. Locke engaged in a number of controversies during his life, including a notable one with Jonas Proast over toleration. But Lockes most famous and philosophically important controversy was with Edward Stillingfleet, the bishop of Worcester. Stillingfleet, in addition to being a powerful political and theological figure, was an astute and forceful critic.

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It was around this time that Locke composed his most famous political work, the, two Treatises Concerning government. Although the, two Treatises would not be published until 1689 they show that he had already solidified his views on the nature and proper form of government. Following Shaftesburys death Locke fled to the netherlands to escape political persecution. While there locke travelled a great deal professional (sometimes for his own safety) and worked on two projects. First, he continued work on the. Second, he wrote a work entitled.

Epistola de tolerantia, which was published anonymously in 1689. Lockes experiences in England, France, and the netherlands convinced him that governments should be much more tolerant of religious diversity than was common at the time. Following the Glorious revolution of Locke was able to return to England. He published both the. Essay and the Two Treatises (the second anonymously) shortly after his return.

He formed a close working relationship with Thomas Sydenham, who later became one the most famous physicians of the age. He made a number of contacts within the newly formed royal Society and became a member in 1668. He also acted as the personal physician to lord Ashley. Indeed, on one occasion Locke participated in a very delicate surgical operation which Ashley credited with saving his life. Ashley was one of the most prominent English politicians at the time. Through his patronage locke was able to hold a series of governmental posts.


Most of his work related to policies in Englands American and Caribbean colonies. Most importantly, this was the period in Lockes life when he began the project which would culminate in his most famous work, the. Essay concerning Human Understanding. The two earliest drafts of that work date from 1671. He was to continue work on this project intermittentlyfor nearly twenty years. Locke travelled in France for several years starting in 1675. When he returned to England it was only to be for a few years. The political scene had changed greatly while locke was away. Shaftesbury (as Ashley was now known) was out of favor and Lockes association with him had become a liability.

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One of his thesis earliest substantive works, the. Essays on the law of Nature, was reviews developed in the course of his teaching duties. Much of Lockes intellectual effort and energy during his time at Oxford, especially during his later years there, was devoted to the study of medicine and natural philosophy (what we would now call science). Locke read widely in these fields, participated in various experiments, and became acquainted with Robert boyle and many other notable natural philosophers. He also undertook the normal course of education and training to become a physician. Locke left Oxford for London in 1667 where he became attached to the family of Anthony Ashley cooper (then Lord Ashley, later the earl of Shaftesbury). Locke may have played a number of roles in the household, mostly likely serving as tutor to Ashleys son. In London, locke continued to pursue his interests in medicine and natural philosophy.

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Religious Epistemology, political Philosophy, the, two Treatises, property. Toleration, theology, education, lockes Influence, references and Further reading, lockes Works. Life and Works, john Locke was born in 1632 in Wrington, a small village in southwestern England. His father, also named John, was a legal clerk and served with the parliamentary forces in the English civil War. His family was well-to-do, but not of particularly high social or economic standing. Locke spent winn his childhood in the west country and as a teenager was sent to westminster School in London. Locke was successful at Westminster and earned a place at Christ Church, Oxford. He was to remain in Oxford from 16Although he had little appreciation for the traditional scholastic philosophy he learned there, locke was successful as a student and after completing his undergraduate degree he held a series of administrative and academic posts in the college. Some of Lockes duties included instruction of undergraduates.

to their citizens, have only limited powers over their citizens, and can ultimately be overthrown by citizens under certain circumstances. He also provided powerful arguments in favor of religious toleration. This article attempts to give a broad overview of all key areas of Lockes thought. Table of Contents, life and Works, the main Project of the. Essay, ideas, the Critique of Nativism, idea acquisition. Language, the Account of Knowledge, special Topics in the Essay, primary and Secondary qualities. Mechanism, volition and Agency, personhood and Personal Identity, real and Nominal Essences.

He was also influential in the areas of theology, religious toleration, and educational theory. In his most important work, the. Essay concerning Human Understanding, locke set out to offer an analysis of the human reviews mind and its acquisition of knowledge. He offered an empiricist theory according to which we acquire ideas through our experience of the world. The mind is then able to examine, compare, and combine these ideas in numerous different ways. Knowledge consists of a special kind of relationship between different ideas. Lockes emphasis on the philosophical examination of the human mind as a preliminary to the philosophical investigation of the world and its contents represented a new approach to philosophy, one which quickly gained a number of converts, especially in Great Britain. In addition to this broader project, the.

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By clicking Agree, you consent to Slates. Terms of Service and, privacy policy and the use of technologies such as cookies by Slate and our partners to deliver relevant advertising on our site, in emails and across the Internet, to personalize content and perform site analytics. Privacy policy for more information about our use of data, your rights, and how to withdraw consent. Featured Article, thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 6,213,508 supermarket times. Did this article help you? John Locke was among the most famous philosophers and political theorists of the 17th century. . he is often regarded as the founder of a school of thought known as British Empiricism, and he made foundational contributions to modern theories of limited, liberal government.


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