“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (“Declaration”). These words, spoken by a wise and prominent man by the name of Thomas Jefferson, were greatly influenced by the Enlightenment’s most profound philosopher, John Locke. Since the beginning of Enlightenment to the 21st century, Locke’s ideas have been behind countless innovators, philosophers, and politicians; including our very own Founding Fathers. From being an enlightened philosopher to creating bold, new ideas, John Locke is the single most influential person in history because he helped establish the basis of modern philosophical empiricism, he contributed in the social shift into Enlightenment, and he was a staunch defender of the power of the people. In due to his superlative philosophies, John Locke successfully illuminated the corrupted 16th century and made way to a world revolved around the radical ideas of Enlightenment.
John Locke was born on August 29, 1632 in Wrington, England as a son of a lawyer and a small landowner. Although he was born into a time of political turbulence, he received a great deal of education while growing up (“John Locke”). At the age of 14, he entered into one of Britain’s most prominent independent school, known as The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster. Consequently, in 1652 he was accepted into Christ Church, Oxford which led to him being elected to a senior studentship in 1659 (“John Locke”). As Locke tutored at the college for several years, he sparked an interest in experimental science. Evidently, he was nominated as a member of the Royal Society, which included scientific innovators such as Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton. The great deal of knowledge that Locke acquired from Boyle and Newton proved to be critical in understanding the well-known works of Descartes, which he has admired since his days at Christ Church, Oxford. Descartes’ ideas became a key inspiration when Locke wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (“John Locke – Biography”).
As Locke studied medicine with 17th century’s leading English physician, Sydenham, he came across a man by the name of Earl Shaftesbury, who ultimately influenced his change of career. Alongside Shaftesbury, Locke aided in “business, political, and domestic matters” (“John Locke – Biography”). Due to the fact that he was a member of the Shaftesbury household, he was enriched by the ideas of government and politics, which lead him to develop his ideas on freedom and the power of the people (Uzgalis). Locke portrayed these ideas when writing Two Treatises of Civil Government and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in the early 1680s; however, it was not published until 1690 due to the political unrest that England was facing at the time. During his final years, he worked as the chief of...