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John Locke

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John Locke

In this essay there will be an in-depth look at the ideologies of English philosopher John Locke, as well as an explanation of the political and social climate of the period and how this affected his thoughts and ideas. His transition from the medical world into the world of politics and philosophy will be explained, while at the same time a look at what events caused these changes in his life will be shown.

John Locke's upbringing played an important part in not only his career choices, but also in his opinions. In addition to his parent's influence on his ideas, the political conflict he witnessed in his early life played an important role in many of Locke's philosophies. [Yolton, Page 9]. John Locke lived in Bristol, England and was brought up in a loving, well-off family. [Woolhouse, Pages 6-7]. Locke's father was originally a solicitor and small landowner, but was later a captain of a horse in the parliamentary army. [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/]. His father studied medicine in his free time, which had an influence on Locke's future. He would often read his father's notebooks, which talked about "cures against the plague" and had many prescriptions. [Woolhouse, Pages 6-7]. Before Locke turned 10, a civil war broke out in England between the Parliamentary army and King, Charles I's army. The reason for the war was a number of religious and political disagreements between the two sides. [Pangle, Page 19]. King Charles issued tax that was unpopular, and Locke's father was involved in the imposition of this taxation. Locke's father was sent to fight for the king, and the king eventually beat Parliament. [Woolhouse, Pages 8-9]. His father and mother believed in a good education, so they did not allow the war to keep him from attending school. [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/]. Locke received a good education, which gave him a good foundation for his future. As a boy, Locke attended Westminster, one of the finest schools in England. He was successful here, earning a scholarship.

After graduating, he traveled to Oxford to attend college at Christ Church. During college, Locke studied philosophy along with many other subjects, which included language and metaphysics. He came to disagree with a lot of philosophers' ideas, such as those of Aristotle. He graduated from Christ Church at the age of 26, and was one of the most successful students. [Woolhouse, Pages 12-15]. After college, Locke was interested in medicine, but then switched his career path to politics and philosophy. Locke began to take medicine very seriously after college. He studied the books of over 2,000 medical authors. He went on to become a physician in Lord Ashley of Shaftesbury's household. Also, he held a post as Treasurer while working for Lord Ashley, which was his first taste of political life. While in Lord Ashley's household, he performed a risky operation on Lord Ashley that saved his life. Locke's health suffered from the climate in London, so he left Lord Ashley's house. He started doing chemical experiments with Lister Bluont and David Thomas, although his medical career would not last his entire life. [Woolhouse, Pages 30-31].

Locke began to lose an interest in medicine as time went on. After some time, Locke's interests moved towards philosophy and politics. After leaving medicine, he moved to Holland. He took political office in Holland, holding a small position in government. In addition to his involvement in politics, Locke began writing books, letters, and essays about human understanding and other topics. The government recognized his services and offered him important posts throughout the country. Locke decided to serve less important offices at home and continue writing more books on philosophy. [Woolhouse, Pages 28-32].

Locke's two most significant works were his Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government. Essays is perhaps John Locke's most well known philosophical work. Essays is a philosophical book split into four sections, each with a different idea. [http://www.iep.utm.edu/locke/]. In Book I, Locke dealed with ideas in general. He didn't focus on whether the mind is matter or not, but rather tried to explain how the mind works. In this book, he said that although the mind has functions that we are born with, such as reaction and memory, all ideas come through experience. Locke claimed that ideas are the materials from which knowledge is constructed. He said that all knowledge must be learned, and nothing is innate, because if it were, it would be known by both infants and idiots alike. Locke argued that there were no innate ideas of God, identity, or impossibility. One of Locke's key points for his argument was that there is no way to distinguish between innate ideas and those that are learned. Locke said that the ideas which are believed to be innate, such as identity and impossibility, are actually derived through reason. He asked what difference there was between the way theses ideas are derived and the way theorems in mathematics are derived, claiming that both involve reason. [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/]. Locke then went on to talk about whether or not we could be born with innate moral principles. On this topic, Locke argued that morals cannot be innate because all people differ on their views of what is right and what is wrong. Also, ideas of morality are even less likely to be innate because all people ask themselves why they should hold a certain principle as being true, meaning that it takes reason to come to a conclusion about whether or not the principle is true. Locke stated that the belief in innate principles was the easy way for lazy people who did not want to search for answers to why ideas are true. This was one of Locke's many criticisms towards the followers of Aristotelian thought. [http://www.iep.utm.edu/locke/].

Book II of Essays deals with simple and complex ideas, in addition to talking about physical objects. Locke said that people can only gain ideas through sensations. Sensations enter through the senses as simple ideas, and our minds associate and relate these simple ideas to form complex ideas. Complex ideas are derived and based on simple ideas. For example, solidity is a simple idea, while "hard" is a complex idea, because it is based on our original idea of solidity. [http://www.iep.utm.edu/locke/]. Locke argued that the mind is a blank sheet until we experience these simple ideas, which in actuality are a form of sensation and reflection. He also said that the mind can perform three types of actions that will put simple ideas together. The first is to take these simple ideas and combine them into complex ideas. Complex ideas can include substances, such as humans,



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