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John Locke

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John Locke was born on August 29, 1632 to Puritan parents, John Locke Sr. and Agnes Keene, in Wrington, a small village in Somerset, England. Locke's father was a country lawyer and served as a captain of Calvary for the Parliamentarian forces during the early part of the English Civil War. Locke grew up and lived through one of the most extraordinary centuries of English political and intellectual history. It was a century in which conflicts between monarchy and democracy along with conflicts between Protestants, Anglicans and Catholics which turned into a civil war in the 1640s. With the defeat and death of Charles I, Monarchy was abolished in England along with the House of Lords and the Anglican Church in the 1650s. However it was not long before monarchy was restored as well as the House of Lords and the Anglican Church. This period lasted from 1660 to 1688.

In 1647, Locke was sent to Westminster School in London under the sponsorship of Alexander Popham, a Member of Parliament and his father's former commander. After completing his studies there, in 1652 he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford. Locke however did not like the undergrad curriculum and often complained on how he would rather study Rene Descartes than Aristotle. In 1674 Locke finally graduated with a bachelor's degree in medicine, and in 1675 he became a medical student at the college. Locke studied with one of the most noted English physicians of the 17th century, Thomas Sydenham. Locke contributed a lot to Christ Church in Oxford and was offered a position of staff.

Locke's mentor was Robert Boyle, the leader of the Oxford scientific group. Locke learned about atomism and took the terms "primary and secondary qualities" from Boyle. Locke's ideas of religious freedom and the rights of citizens were seen as a threat and challenged King Charles II's authority and he was sent to exile in Holland in 1682. It was Locke's work with the Oxford scientists that gave him a critical perspective when reading Descartes. Locke admired Descartes, and did not like the dominance of Aristotle's philosophy at Oxford. Descartes' ideas were a major influence on Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which he wrote while exiled in Holland. The English government tried to have Locke, along with a group of English revolutionaries with whom he was associated, brought back to England to be tried and convicted. They could not do it though and stripped Locke of his position in Oxford in 1684.

Locke had written Two Treatises of Civil Government in the early 1680s but Charles II wanted him in prison, he wasn't able to publish many of his works until 1690. In Two Treatises of Civil Government, Locke wrote a theory of natural laws and rights that each man should have, and civil government and their just and unjust laws. He also argues that unjust governments and tyranny should be abolished.

Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding which he began in 1671 was not published until 1690 also. In this book Locke wrote about the principle of Empiricism, the theory that

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