Locke's Life, Part 2 to the Life & Works of
John Locke was elected to a life of studentship at Christ Church, Oxford.2 As a young man Locke cast about for a position in life. He might have become a cleric except for the fact that the authorities did not appreciate his anti-Aristotelian views, that matter and life were static - views, to which Locke could not subscribe.3
Having studied medicine (he did not receive a degree) Locke was willing to help out those who saw him with a medical problem, indeed, he become known as "Dr Locke." In 1666, Anthony "Ashley" Cooper was referred to Locke with a medical complaint. (Ashley was Locke's senior by eleven years.) "Dr Locke" successfully operated, much to Ashley's relief, and cleaned out "an abscess in the chest." This was to be a most fortunate turn of events for Locke, for Ashley was no ordinary man, he was the first Earl of Shaftesbury, a Lord of the realm. Thus, Locke was swept into the halls of power, perched confidently on the tails of Lord Shaftesbury (1621-83). In 1672, Shaftesbury became the lord chancellor and Locke, his friend, was appointed to be the secretary of a very powerful Board.4
These were interesting historic times; political fortunes would shift in and out (more than once was Shaftesbury sent to the Tower). Locke -- he did not subscribe to the "Divine Right Theory" -- found it, at times, best to put some distance between himself and the political foes of Lord Shaftesbury; indeed, Locke, during the years 1684-1689, was out of the country, in France and in Holland.5
Upon his return to England, in 1689, Locke adopted a life style that allowed him to compile his works and make them ready for the press.6 Thus, we see, in 1690, the publication of Locke's two principal works: Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Two Treatises of Government7.
On October 28th, 1704, Locke died; he was buried in the church yard of High Laver.8
I now pass on to Locke's works ; for -- as much as the life of Locke may be of interest to us -- it is to the study of his books we should turn. Briefly, the core of Locke's beliefs are to be found in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). It is with this book that there was established the principles of modern Empiricism (the human mind begins as a tabula rasa, and we learn through experience). It is in this book, Human Understanding, that we see Locke attacking the rationalist doctrine of innate ideas. His other work naturally followed, Two Treatises of Government (1690). It was written in defense of the Glorious Revolution: that government rests on popular consent and rebellion is permissible when government subverts the ends for which it is established -- the protection of life, liberty, and property.
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