A Blupete Biography Page

The Life & Works of

John Locke

1 A fruitful study might be made of any, or all, of the lives and works of: Bacon (1605-30), Locke (1690), Montesquieu (1748), Hume (1748), Voltaire (1764), Smith (1776): the parenthetical dates are the publication dates of their major works. As a practical matter, it was with the publication of Adam Smith's work, in 1776, that a new age finally arrived -- an age when political economy, as a science, began to be actively studied.

2 The honour was withdrawn by the King in 1684, during his six year exile in Holland.

3 Aristotle's writings were "perplexed with obscure terms and useless questions"; or, as Jean Piaget (1896-1980) expressed it, in more recent times, Aristotle had "a naive and childlike animistic view of the world."

4 As early as 1670, we see Locke exercising influence; the Board of Trade came into being in 1670 as a result of his ideas. Locke was to take a position on the board and continued on as a working member until 1700. Locke, during these years, came up against another untitled board member, William Blathwayt. They were two different men and they but tolerated one another. Blathwayt was of the old style, he took every advantage to treat himself and his friends, and saw nothing wrong with that kind of a modus operandi; Locke was from the new school, inform oneself, and, then, do the right thing. Both Locke and Blathwayt were able to carry on serving on the board by the one taking the winter off, the other (Blathwayt) taking the summer. (See Prof. I. K. Steele's work, Politics of Colonial Policy: The Board of Trade in Colonial Admonistration: 1696-1720; (Oxford University Press, 1968).

5 Locke was in France and in Holland during the years 1684-1689, during which time, it is likely, he would have been exposed to the writings by Descartes (a "dualist") and Spinoza (a "pantheist"). I should say, at this point, that Locke, like Descartes, was a believer in God; he accepted the cosmological argument, viz., God as a first cause. Our mere existence proved to Locke that there existed a God, nothing short of an eternal, all powerful, and all knowing Being could possible have been responsible for the existence of man, and the existence of man was an intuitive fact. (Darwin's shattering work, The Origin of the Species did not come out till 1859.)

6 The Battle of the Boyne was more than just a battle for the Crown of England, a battle: Between James, versus, his daughter and her Dutch protestant husband, William: it was a battle between fundamental beliefs, the old beliefs of "Divine Right of Kings" (Catholic James) and the "Right of the People" (Protestant William). Of course, Locke was the main spokesman for the theories, the adoption of which put William and Mary on the throne. Locke on his return to England could claim any job he wanted; he refused an ambassadorship, but did take on the duties of a "commissioner of appeals" which allowed him to live in an area of England we know as Essex. Apparently, Locke spent his last 14 years of his life, living upon the estate of great admirers of his: Sir Francis and Lady Masham (Lady Masham was the daughter of a famous Cambridge philosophy professor, Cudworth).

7 That in the one year, Locke should come out with these two monumental works, would indicate that the works were a long time in the making and the result of much study and experience (he was, in 1690, age 58). I note, too, that it would appear, at the same time, in 1690, Locke brought out the first of his Letters on Toleration, which Letters continued, it seems in series fashion from 1690 to just shortly after his death in 1704. In 1693, Locke published Thoughts on Education. The year 1695 saw his Reasonableness of Christianity in which he advocated the reunion of the churches, and, in the same work attacked the philosophers, particularly, Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) and his theories about the existing heirarchial forces in the world, "monads."

8 Chambers. High Laver, incidentally, is north, about half way to Cambridge; these days, a nice day trip from London.

9 What is moral is what advances our sense of well being. Our guide posts are the signals of pain on the one side, and pleasure on the other. We experience pain and we learn about that which is evil; we experience pleasure and we learn about that which is good. (See the theories of Moral Sentiment and Self Love as expressed by David Hume.)

10 It was to be the middle of the 19th century before the theories of evolution (theories supported by hard facts) were to be discussed and accepted; Locke's views are consistent with evolution. That which distinguishes man from the animals, is man's capacity to communicate and cooperate with one another, a capacity which evolved slowly over millions of years and which could not possibly evolve in the "solitary and brutish" world which existed in Hobbes' imagination.

11 The most important question for us all is: What is the nature of man? Ones view of this will completely colour his life. Shelley in "Queen Mob" painted two views:

"Man is of soul and body, formed for deeds
Of high resolve; on fancy's boldest wing
To sour unwearied, freelessly to turn
The keenest pangs to peacefulness, and taste
The joys which mingled sense and spirit yield;
Or he is formed for objectiveness and woe,
To gravel on the dunghill of his fears,
To shrink at every sound, ..."

Neither one of Shelley's poetic views are correct. Man in his natural state was, in this writer's opinion, proud and full of "high resolve." He had to be to survive. Life for "primitive man" was objective. He had to be to survive. The masses of "primitive man" could not long be carried away with mysticism, for him there was the reality of chasing down supper and hauling it back to his hard fought for, and defended, shelter. He hardly could afford "to gravel on the dunghill of his fears," or "to shrink at every sound." "Primitive man" was led, by his careful observations, to proper conclusions, or he died. This question, as to the nature of man, I treat elsewhere.

12 Professor W. H. Hutt's introductory and brilliant essay, "Individualism in Politics," as found in Henry Hazlitt's, The Free Man's Library, p. 25.

13 See my essay On Legislation.

14 It was the French philosopher and jurist, Montesquieu (1689-1755) who developed this theory of the separation of powers, this theory of checks and balances found its expression in the American Constitution (1787). Montesquieu, in addition to studying the political writings of Locke, spent two years (1729-31) in England. The theory, all with the view to protecting the people's liberty, calls for the separation of the three governmental functions: executive, legislative, and judicial.


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Peter Landry
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