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John Locke

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  1. John Locke English Philosopher

  2. Basics • Born August 1632 • Died October 1704 • English Philosopher and Physician • One of the most important Enlightenment thinkers • Metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy, and education

  3. Basics • Father of Liberalism • Not Liberalism as we know it today. Government in the hands of the people. • One of the first Empiricists • Knowledge comes from the senses and experience • This he believes overrides tradition and contrasts with innate ideas • Advocate of Social Contract • Consent to rule comes from the governed • Revolution is justified when obligations by the government have not been met and the people no longer approve • Ideas of Theory of Mind • Contributed to modern ideas of identity and self • Contradicted Pre-Cartesian Philosophy (No innate ideas)

  4. Major Ideas • Tabula Rasa • Literally means “Blank Slate” • Locke Postulated that man is born without innate ideas • Born neither good nor evil • These factors are determined by a person’s environment • Favors the Nurture side of the “Nature vs. Nurture” debate • Proceeds to say that therefore knowledge comes from experience and the senses • Social Contract • Different to many SC views at the time; More liberal • Power to the people • People give the power to the government and can take it away if it is doing more harm than good

  5. Major Ideas • State of Nature • Used in his social contract theories • Hypothetical state of humanity before the creation of the state • Stresses reasoning capability of the Human Mind • Natural Rights • “Life, Liberty, and Property…” • Inalienable, self-evident, universal, etc. • Not contingent to any laws of the state of governments • Life: Everyone is entitled to it once created • Liberty: Anyone can do anything they want as long as it doesn’t directly or indirectly conflict with the first right • Property (Estate): everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn't conflict with the first two rights.


  6. Major Works • A Letter Concerning Toleration1689 • At the time, it was feared that Catholicism would take over England • Proposes religious toleration to solve the problem between religion and government • Interestingly he only asks for toleration of Christian Denominations • Says atheists should not be tolerated because oaths, bonds, etc., have no hold on them • Publishes without Locke’s consent by Phillip Van Limborch • Some Thoughts Concerning Education 1693 • For over a century the most important work on education in England • Three Methods of Education • Development of a healthy body, development of a virtuous character, and the choice of an appropriate academic curriculum.

  7. Major Works • Two Treatise on Government • Published annonymously • 1st Treatise • Attacks Patriarchalism by directly contradicting excerpts from Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha • Disproves Divine Right Theory • 2nd Treatise • Outlines a classic republic • Outlines state of nature: More stable than Hobbes’s view • Basis his quasi-utopia on social contract and Natural Law/Rights • Rights come inalienably through God • Discusses justification of revolution • Government that defies social contract can be theoretically overthrown

  8. Major Works • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding • Describes mind as blank slate • Knowledge acquired through senses and filled in by experience • Simple Ideas vs Complex Ideas • Simple: Sweet, red, big, round • Complex: Numbers, logic, cause and effect, abstract concepts • All of these Complex ideas are dependent on the simple, or primary ones • Personal Identity and psychological criterion • Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina • Aimed for representative government • Elections with land requirements • Secret ballots • Dissenters to Anglican Church were still allowed

  9. Influence • David Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, and Adam Smith • American Revolution (pretty much in general) • Thomas Jefferson – Declaration of Independence • Almost directly quotes Locke on several occasions • Thomas Paine • Rights of Man