John Locke: Empiricism And Influencing Government

1400 words - 6 pages

The English philosopher and physician John Locke was an immensely important and influential figure during the enlightenment period. Perhaps his most important and revolutionary work was An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; written in 4 separate books; each pertaining to a section of his explanation. Its purpose was to “to enquire into the original, certainty and extant of human knowledge, together with the grounds and degrees of belief, opinion and assent.” However, John Locke influenced more than just the philosophy of human understanding; he also greatly influenced the way we think of government and religious toleration. He influenced others during the enlightenment with his other works like: the Two Treatises of Government, the Letters Concerning Toleration, The Reasonableness of Christianity and Some Thoughts Concerning Education. His works contained a variety of ideas, many of which have influenced us today.
John Locke was considered as the first British empiricist. Empiricism is defined by Google Dictionary as, “The theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience.” You see; in John Locke’s 2nd book of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding he explains how we as humans acquire the materials of our knowledge. Locke believed that we are born with a tabula rasa or “blank slate.” This means that we are born with no ideas or thoughts until they are created through experience and sensation. Those thoughts are to be the foundation for the complex ideas and knowledge to be later constructed. Although Locke believes we are all born with “blank slates” he states that we are all born with different ways to bring simple ideas together. One way was to combine the ideas into a complex idea. As in combine an idea of substances (God, humans, animals, plants) with an idea of modes (religion, politics, culture). The second way was to bring two different ideas together and “view” them at once; however, without uniting them, this gives us our idea of relation. The third way our mind could bring into ourselves complex ideas is through abstraction of particulars; meaning, to take away the specific circumstances like time and place that would normally have limited the application of an idea to one person or thing, and using them as an “example” to develop a complex idea. This philosophy was to change the way we teach children. He said that learning should be pleasant and more dependent on the growth of character and not as much information. Locke thought that if a society is exposed to the right influences then a new, better society would be made.
In one of John Locke’s other works he influenced government. This work or works is known as the Two Treaties of Government. In The First Treatise of Government John Locke refutes and attacks the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings set forth by Sir Robert Filmer in his, Patriarchia. The Divine Right of Kings is the doctrine that kings derive their authority of right to rule from God and are...

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