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The Empiricists : Critical Essays on Locke, Berkeley, and Hume (Critical Essays on the Classics)

The Empiricists : Critical Essays on Locke, Berkeley, and Hume by Margaret Atherton (Editor)


 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
by John Locke

John Locke  1632-1704

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John Locke (British History in Perspective Series) by W. M. Spellman.

John Locke:  Biography

Biography by Peter Landry at

Table of Contents:

bulletLocke's Life
bulletLocke's Views on Human Nature
bullet(a). Idealists, Materialists, and Dualist
bullet(b). Tabula Rassa & Empiricism
bulletLocke's Views on Government
bullet(a). Hobbesian Pre-Social Man
bullet(b). Lockeian Pre-Social Man
bullet(c). Raison d'etre of Government
bullet(d). The Extent of Government Power
bullet(e). Separation of Powers
bullet(f). The Ends of Government
bullet(g). The Taxing Power of Government
bullet(h). Revolution


John Locke Biography

John Locke was an Oxford scholar, medical researcher and physician, political operative, economist and idealogue for a revolutionary movement, as well as being one of the great philosophers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. His monumental Essay Concerning Human Understanding aims to determine the limits of human understanding. Earlier writers such as Chillingworth had argued that human understanding was limited, Locke tries to determine what those limits are. We can, he thinks, know with certainty that God exists. We can also know about morality with the same precision we know about mathematics, because we are the creators of moral and political ideas. In regard to natural substances we can know only the appearances and not the underlying realities which produce those appearances. Still, the atomic hypothesis with its attendant distinction between primary and secondary qualities is the most plausible available hypothesis...


John Locke

Essay by by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.


It is an undisputed fact of history that the germs of the American Declaration of Independence are contained in the writings of British philosopher John Locke, specifically the second of his Two Treatises on Government. This tract was published in 1690 in order to justify the British Whig Revolution of 1688 and laid some of the main foundations for the American Revolution of 1776. Additionally, the constitutional and cultural life of the United States was also deeply influenced by Locke's Letter on Toleration (1689), which argued for the necessity of separating Church and State.

The key elements in Locke's political theory are natural rights, social contract, government by consent, and right of revolution. Locke was very concerned with the "property right" and derived property right from higher law, although for Locke that higher law remained natural rather than the result of Divine Revelation. He declared that natural law remained operative in civil society as the fundamental measure of men's rights. For Locke natural law essentially begins and ends with the natural right of property. The true end of civil government is protecting property and the right of property is the effective limitation upon the powers of the government. Locke interpreted natural law as a claim to innate, indefeasible rights inherent in each individual. Both government and society exist to preserve the individual's rights, and the indefeasibility of such rights is a limitation on the authority of both...


John Lock Biography

By Peter Landry

Profile on the "Philosopher of Freedom" discusses his principles of modern Empiricism and his radical political treatises. Includes links and biographies of other modern philosophers.


Our story has its being in the beginning of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, a time of our intellectual awakening. The Enlightenment began when the Dark Ages ended, a time when the minds of men were cowed by the great mystery of the universe and their minds, through ignorance, were ruled by fears. The Enlightenment was a time when man, stepping out of his shackles, began to use his rational facilities and pulled himself out of the medieval pits of mysticism and in the process shoved aside the state and church authorities of the day. It was a spontaneous and defused movement which fed upon itself and led to the great scientific discoveries from which we all benefit today. Beliefs in natural law and universal order sprung up, which not only promoted scientific findings and advancements of a material nature, but which also gave a scientific approach to political and social issues. Thinkers expressed their thoughts in writing and read the thoughts of others, these brilliant lights of the Enlightenment included the likes of: Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Montesquieu (1689-1755), Voltaire (1694-1766), Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-88), David Hume (1711-76), and Adam Smith (1723-1790). One, foremost among their ranks, was John Locke (1632-1704) the life and works of whom we now proceed to briefly examine...


John Locke:  "A Letter Concerning Toleration"

Translated by William Popple, 1689


Locke Institute

Organization seeks to promote the classical liberalism of John Locke through publications and discussions. Journals include "The Locke Luminary."


Some Thoughts Concerning Education


A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this world. He that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be but little the better for any thing else. Men's happiness or misery is most part of their own making. He, whose mind directs not wisely, will never take the right way; and he, whose body is crazy and feeble, will never be able to advance in it. I confess, there are some men's constitutions of body and mind so vigorous, and well fram'd by nature, that they need not much assistance from others; but by the strength of their natural genius, they are from their cradles carried towards what is excellent; and by the privilege of their happy constitutions, are able to do wonders. But examples of this kind are but few; and I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education. 'Tis that which makes the great difference in mankind. The little, or almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies, have very important and lasting consequences: and there 'tis, as in the fountains of some rivers, where a gentle application of the hand turns the flexible waters in channels, that make them take quite contrary courses; and by this direction given them at first in the source, they receive different tendencies, and arrive at last at very remote and distant places...


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