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John Locke (1632-1704). Portrait by Herman Verelst (1641-1690). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Locke
Born 29 August 1632
Wrington, Somerset, England
Died 28 October 1704 (aged 72)
Essex, England
Nationality English
Era 17th-century philosophy
(Modern Philosophy)
Region Western Philosophers
School British Empiricism, Social Contract, Natural Law
Main interests Metaphysics, Epistemology, Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Education, Economics
Notable ideas Tabula rasa, "government with the consent of the governed"; state of nature; rights of life, liberty and property
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Signature File:John Locke Signature.svg

John Locke FRS (Template:IPAc-en; 29 August 1632 - 28 October 1704), widely known as the Father of Classical Liberalism,[2][3][4] was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social contract theory. His work had a great impact upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the United States Declaration of Independence.[5]

Locke's theory of mind is often cited as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self, figuring prominently in the work of later philosophers such as Hume, Rousseau and Kant. Locke was the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness. He postulated that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Contrary to pre-existing Cartesian philosophy, he maintained that we are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge is instead determined only by experience derived from sense perception.[6]


by Leslie Stephen [7]


Locke was born 29 August 1632, at Wrington, Somerset, about 10 miles from Bristol, in the house of his mother's brother. He had one brother, Thomas, born 9 August 1637. His mother, Agnes Keene (born 1597), was niece of Elizabeth Keene, second wife of his grandfather, Nicholas Locke. Nicholas, who died in 1648, is described as 'of Sutton Wick, in the parish of Chew Magna, clothier.' He had previously lived at Pensford, 6 miles from Bristol, on the Shepton Mallet road. He had a house called Beluton, close to Pensford, but in Publow parish, which before his death was occupied by his son John. He left his house and a good fortune to John, who became an attorney, was clerk to the justices of the peace for the county, and agent to Alexander Popham, one of the justices, whose estates were in the neighbourhood. On the outbreak of the civil war Popham became colonel of a parliamentary regiment of horse, and Locke one of his captains. The regiment, after doing some service at Bristol and Exeter, was apparently broken up at Waller's defeat at Roundway Down (13 July 1643). Locke lost money by the troubles, and ultimately left to his son less than he had inherited. After leaving the army he again settled down as a lawyer. His wife, of whom the younger Locke speaks as 'a very pious woman and affectionate mother,' is not mentioned after the birth of her second child.

The elder Locke was rather stern during his son's infancy, but relaxed as the lad grew, 'lived perfectly with him as a friend,' and solemnly 'begged his pardon for having once struck him in his boyhood'.


The younger Locke was sent to Westminster, probably in 1646, 'and placed on the foundation in 1647,through the interest of his father's friend, Popham, who had been elected to the Long parliament for Bath, in October 1645. The school was then managed by a parliamentary committee, Busby was head-master, and Dryden and South were among Locke's schoolfellows.

At Whitsuntide 1652 Locke was elected to a junior studentship at Christ Church, and was matriculated 27 Nov. following. John Owen was then dean of Christ Church and vice-chancellor. Locke's tutor was Thomas Cole (1627?-1697) [q. v.] In 1654 Locke contributed a Latin and an English poem to the 'Musæ Oxonienses,' 'Ἐλαιοφορία,' a collection of complimentary verses, edited by Owen, in honour of the peace with the Dutch. He became B.A. on 14 Feb. 1655-6, and M.A. on 29 June 1658.

Locke, like his predecessor Hobbes and all the rising thinkers of his own day, was repelled by the Aristotelian philosophy then dominant at Oxford. He is reported as saying (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 107) that his aversion to the scholastic disputation led him to spend much of his early years in reading romances. Lady Masham also heard that he was not a 'very hard student,' and preferred cultivating the acquaintance of 'pleasant and witty men.' She also states that his first relish for philosophy was due to his study of Descartes (Fox Bourne, i. 62), then becoming the leader of European thought.

He had to attend the lectures of Wallis on geometry, and of Seth Ward upon astronomy. He long afterwards spoke with enthusiasm of the orientalist Pococke, who, though a staunch royalist, was allowed to retain the professorships of Hebrew and of Arabic (letter of 28 July 1703, first published in 'Collection' of 1720). Locke never became a mathematician or an orientalist, but he made acquaintance with the group of scientific men who met at Oxford before the Restoration and afterwards formed the Royal Society. With Boyle, who settled at Oxford in 1654 and became, with Wilkins, a centre of the scientific circles, he formed a lifelong friendship. Most of Locke's friends had royalist sympathies, and in spite of his early training he had become alienated from the puritan dogmatism. He heartily welcomed the Restoration in the belief that a return to constitutional government would be favourable to political and religious freedom.

Early career[]

Locke's father died 13 Feb. 1660-1, leaving his property between his sons John and Thomas. Upon Thomas's death from consumption soon afterwards John probably inherited the whole. Seven years later it seems that he was receiving 73l. 6s. 10d. a year from his tenants at Pensford (ib. i. 82). He continued to reside at Oxford, where he had some pupils in 1661-3. He was appointed Greek lecturer at Christmas 1660, lecturer on rhetoric at Christmas 1662, and censor of moral philosophy at Christmas 1663, each appointment being for the following year. A testimonial to his good character from the dean and canons is dated 4 Oct. 1663. Fifty-five of the senior studentships out of sixty were tenable only by men in holy orders or preparing to take orders. Locke appears to have had some intentions of becoming a clergyman, but a letter written in 1666 (King, i. 52) declares that he had refused some very advantageous offers of preferment on the grounds that he doubted his fitness for the position, that he would not be contented with 'being undermost, possibly middlemost, of his profession,' and would not commit himself to an irrevocable step, for which, moreover, his previous studies had not prepared him. He had (Wood, Life and Times, Oxford Hist. Soc., i. 472) attended in 1663 the lectures of Peter Stahl, a chemist who had been brought to Oxford by Boyle in 1659. He must also have studied medicine, to which he soon devoted himself.

Locke's determination to remain a layman was probably due in part to the development of his opinions. His views may be inferred from some essays written between 1660 and 1667, preserved in the Shaftesbury papers. The most remarkable are an 'Essay on the Roman Commonwealth,' written about the time of the Restoration, and an 'Essay concerning Toleration,' written in 1667. (The 'Essay upon Toleration' is given at length by Mr. Fox Bourne, with full accounts of the other fragments, i. 147-94.) Locke, like all his ablest contemporaries, had been deeply impressed by the many calamities due to the religious discords of the time. Like Hobbes, he traced the evil to the authority of an independent priesthood, and sought for a remedy in the supremacy of the state. His ideal was the Roman constitution established (as he imagined) by Numa, in which the priests were absolutely dependent upon the state, and 'only two articles of faith'—belief in the goodness of the gods, and the merit of a moral life, made obligatory. Unlike Hobbes, however, he would limit the power of the magistrate to functions clearly necessary for the preservation of peace. All religions should be tolerated except atheism, which struck at all morality, and Catholicism, which was in principle intolerant, and claimed powers for the spiritual authority inconsistent with the supremacy of the state. To these opinions Locke adhered through life. He was thus in favour of an established church, but with the widest practicable comprehension. He therefore welcomed the restoration of the establishment so long as comprehension seemed probable, but was alienated by the speedy development of the policy of enforced conformity. Before finally deciding upon his career Locke had a chance of entering the public service. Sir William Godolphin (1634?—1696) [q. v.] had been his contemporary at Westminster and Christ Church, and was now secretary to Arlington. It was probably through Godolphin's interest that Locke was appointed secretary to Sir Walter Vane, who was sent on a mission to the elector of Brandenburg at the end of 1665. The elector was disposed to ally himself with Holland, then at war with England, in order to establish his claims to the duchy of Cleve. The mission was intended to secure his neutrality or alliance. Locke was with Vane at Cleve during December 1665 and January 1665-6, returning to England in February. He wrote some humorous letters describing the convivialities and the scholastic disputations of the natives, but the mission came to little result. Upon his return he was invited to join a mission to Spain, in which Godolphin acted as secretary to Sandwich. After some hesitation he declined the offer, though he might, he said, be giving up his one chance of 'making himself.' He decided to settle at Oxford and devote himself to medical and scientific studies. Letters to Boyle from Cleve, and during a visit to Somerset in the spring of 1666, contain various references to scientific investigations. On 23 Nov. 1668 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and though he never took a very active part in its proceedings, he occasionally served on committees and on the council (Birch, Royal Society, ii. 323, iii. 59, 61, 64, 69, 112). He began to practise as a physician in co-operation with David Thomas, an old college friend (Fox Bourne, i. 60, 133, 249). For some unexplained reason he did not take the medical degrees, and a letter from Clarendon, then chancellor of the university, of 3 Nov. 1666, requesting that he might be allowed to accumulate the M.B. and M.D. degrees, was not obeyed. On 14 Nov. following he obtained a dispensation, signed by the secretary of state, William Morris, enabling him to hold his studentship without taking orders. It is probable that some prejudice of the Oxford high churchmen prevented his obtaining the degree, although he must still have had some influence at court. In 1670 his patron, Ashley, obtained a request from the Duke of Ormonde, then chancellor, for the M.D. degree; but Locke, finding that it would be opposed, withdrew the application (ib. i. 210). In 1674 Locke took the M.B. degree; and in January 1674-5 was transferred to one of the two medical studentships, but he never graduated as doctor (i. 330). Ashley, afterwards the first earl of Shaftesbury, had made Locke's acquaintance at Oxford in July 1666. Locke, at the request of his partner, Thomas, had procured some medicinal water from Astrop for Ashley, who was on a visit to his son at Oxford. A congeniality of opinions favoured the development of a rapid and lasting friendship between two of the ablest men of the time. Locke accompanied Ashley to Sunninghill, where there were other fashionable waters, and soon afterwards accepted an invitation to become a member of Ashley's family. He was accordingly settled at Exeter House in the Strand, Ashley's town residence, by the summer of 1667.

Locke's first services to Ashley were medical. In 1668 he performed an operation for an internal abscess, from which Ashley suffered, and kept the wound open by a silver tube, frequently mentioned by the satirists of the day. Ashley, according to the statement of his grandson, prevented Locke from practising as a physician outside of his own family; but the notes of a few cases which he attended are preserved in the British Museum. He had formed a close friendship with Thomas Sydenham [q.v.], whom he consulted in Ashley's case. He accompanied Sydenham on visits to some of his patients; he wrote a Latin poem, prefixed to the second edition (1668) of Sydenham's work on fevers; and composed a preface and dedication (never used, but preserved in the Shaftesbury papers) for an intended work of Sydenham upon smallpox. Sydenham, in the preface to the third edition of his work upon fever (1676), refers to the approval of his method by Locke, to whom, he declares, no man of the time is superior in judgment and manners. Sydenham also took an interest in a medical work projected by Locke, of which a fragment, dated 1669, is preserved in the Shaftesbury papers (printed by Mr. Fox Bourne, i. 222-7). Locke's philosophical tendencies appear in his denunciation of the futility of scholastic discussions in medicine, and his advocacy of the scientific appeal to experience, which Sydenham's methods had illustrated. Locke occasionally acted as a physician in later years, but his time was now chiefly occupied by Ashley's affairs. In 1669 he negotiated the marriage between Ashley's son and Lady Dorothy Manners, and attended Lady Dorothy in her confinement when the third Lord Shaftesbury was born (26 Feb. 1670-1). He was treated as a valued and confidential friend by the whole family.

Ashley was one of the 'lords' proprietors of Carolina, under a patent granted in 1663. Some colonists were sent out in 1669, and a constitution drawn up for the government. The original draft, dated 21 June 1669, is in Locke's handwriting in the Shaftesbury papers, and has been printed in the 'Thirty-third Report of the Deputy-keeper of Public Records.' It is printed as adopted by the proprietors in Locke's works. The general scheme is aristocratic, and negro slavery permitted. There is, however, a remarkable provision, allowing any seven persons to form a church upon professing belief in God and in the duty of public worship. This provision expresses Locke's opinions; but it does not appear how far he was responsible for the other provisions in a piece of constitution-mongering which never came into operation. Locke acted as secretary to the proprietors, and was much occupied by the business until the autumn of 1672.

In April 1672 Ashley was created Earl of Shaftesbury, and in November he became lord chancellor. He made Locke secretary of presentations, with a salary of 500l. a year. Locke had to attend to the church business coming under the chancellor's control, and to appear with the chancellor on state occasions. When Shaftesbury delivered his famous 'delenda est Carthago' speech against Holland, Locke, as the third Lord Shaftesbury states, had to stand at his elbow with the written copy as prompter.

The council of trade was reconstructed, with Shaftesbury as president, in September 1672. Locke was at once employed in connection with it, and on 15 Oct. 1673 became secretary, on the death of Benjamin Worsley, with a salary of 500l., raised afterwards to 600l. a year, but never paid, as appears from a petition made by him in 1689. His duties in regard to all manner of colonial questions occupied him for the next two years. He seems to have had some thoughts of visiting America (Fox Bourne, i. 288), and he was a shareholder for some time in a company formed to settle the Bahamas. The council of trade was dissolved on 12 March 1674—5. Shaftesbury had been dismissed from office at the end of 1673, and Locke had no further prospects of official employment. Shaftesbury granted him an annuity of 100l. at seven years' purchase (Christie, ii. 64) at the end of 1674, which, with his own property, enabled him to live in tolerable comfort. He was able to invest various sums by 1675, which proves that he must have had an income superior to his wants (ib. i. 431-2).

Besides his duties in office and as a confidential servant of Shaftesbury, Locke had various interests during these years. In September 1672 he paid a first visit to France, and after his return translated three of Nicole's 'Essais de Morale,' which he presented to Lady Shnftesbury (edited by Thomas Hancock in 1828). A correspondence with an old college friend, William Allestree, who sent, him stories of witchcraft from Sweden, and other friends, showed his interest, in travel, or what would now be called anthropological studies (ib. i. 24, for his list of books upon the West Indies). At some date, probably about 1671 (as Lady Masham says), occurred the meeting of friends at his chamber, when a discussion suggested the first thought of his great book. His health was already weak. A friendly letter from Sydenham, probably at the end of 1674, advises him 'to go to bed early and be very temperate and cautious. He resolved to go to Montpellier, then frequently visited by invalids, and in November 1675 asked leave of absence from the dean and canons of Christ Church.

Locke left London on 15 Nov. 1675, and travelled by Paris, Lyons, and Avignon to Montpellier, which he reached on Christmas day. He stayed at Montpellier, seldom leaving it except for a trip to Marseilles, Toulon, and Avignon in the spring of 1676, until March 1677. He then travelled by Bordeaux to Paris, which he reached 23 May 1677 (King, i. 131), after a delay on the road caused by a severe attack of ague. He had come to Paris in order to take charge, at the request of Shaftesbury, of a son of Sir John Hanks, one of Shaftesbury's city friends. Locke stayed with his pupil in Paris for a year, and in June 1678 started for an intended visit to Rome. On reaching Montpellier in October he was alarmed by accounts of the state of the Alpine passes, and returned to Paris in November. He stayed there till April 1679, when he returned to England, where Shaftesbury again required his presence.

Locke's letters (printed by Lord King) give some account of his occupations in France. He took a keen interest in a wide range of subjects. He wrote to Shaftesbury upon gardening, sending him choice plants, and writing an account of vine and olive growing (first published in 1766). He wrote to Boyle upon scientific instruments. He visited antiquities, and investigated the political mid other institutions of the country, attending a meeting of the states of Languedoc at Montpellier. He inquired into the rate of wages and condition of the labouring classes. At Montpellier he made the acquaintance of Thomas Herbert, afterwards eighth earl of Pembroke [q. v.], to whom he dedicated the 'Essay.' He was known to the ambassador at Paris, Ralph Montague, and his wife, the Countess of Northumberland. He attended the ambassadress in a severe attack, the French physicians having lost her confidence, and obtained an opinion on her case from Sydenham. He formed a warm friendship with Nicolas Thoynard, a man of scientific and linguistic attainments, author of a 'Harmonic de l'Écriture sainte' (not published till 1707), with whom he kept up an affectionate correspondence, now in the British Museum.

Shaftesbury, who had been in the Tower for a year from February 1677, had been made president of the privy council just before Locke's return. He was dismissed in the following October, and threw himself into the violent courses which finally ended with his flight to Holland at the end of 1682. Locke was on his old terms of intimacy during this period. He was occasionally at Christ Church or visiting his old home in Somerset. During 1679 and 1680 he spent much of his time at Thanet House, now Shaftesbury's London residence. He was employed to take lodgings for Shaftesbury at Oxford during the parliament which met there in March 1681, and it seems that he afterwards resided chiefly at Oxford, Shaftesbury having been again arrested, 2 July 1681. Locke during this period superintended the education of Shaftesbury's grandson, afterwards the third earl, who was under the immediate charge of Miss Birch, and was much occupied in Shaftesbury's business. It seems, however, to be clear that he was not privy to the plots in which Shaftesbury engaged. Although Locke was treated as a friend, and sympathised with Shaftesbury's political opinions as opposed to popery and arbitrary government, it does not appear that he was at any time in a position to share the political intrigues of his patron. The letter in which Shaftesbury explained to Locke the history of the stop of the exchequer, implies, for example, that Locke knew nothing of the affair at the time (Christie, ii. 61-4). Locke solemnly declared that he was not the author of any of the pamphlets on behalf of Shaftesbury which had been attributed to him (ib. i. 261). Locke by residence at Christ Church chose the most unfavourable of all places for a plotter against church and king. It was, however, natural that he should be exposed to suspicion, and that anonymous pamphlets should be attributed to so able and attached a friend of an 'Achitophel.' He was, in fact, closely watched and accused at Christ Church of association with one of the agents in the Rye House plot (Prideaux, Letters, p. 139).

Locke had been continuing his philosophical speculations, as appears from his notebooks. He had attended some of his friends as a physician. He made transcriptions of some of Sydenham's notes (published as 'Anecdota Sydenhamiana,' by Dr. Greenhill, in 1845; see Fox Bourne, i. 454), and had been preparing his 'Treatise on Government' in 1681 or 1682. The growing suspicions, however, determined him to make his escape, and he left England in the autumn of 1683. He was soon in Holland, if he did not go thither directly, and was supposed, according to Lady Masham, to be the author of some pamphlets sent thence to England. On 6 Nov. 1684 Sunderland desired John Fell (1625-1686) [q. v.], the dean of Christ Church, to expel Locke from his studentship. Fell replied that although Locke had been closely watched 'for divers years,' no one in the college had heard him speak a word for or against the government. There was not, he said, in the world 'such a master of taciturnity and passion.' As Locke was absent on account of health, and, 'as holding a physician's place,' not subject to the ordinary regulations, he could only summon him to return, and on refusal expel him for contumacy. The letter only produced a peremptory order (11 Nov. 1684) for Locke's expulsion, and Fell reported on the 16th that it had been obeyed.


Locke by January 1684 was at Amsterdam, where he renewed an acquaintance made in Paris with Peter Guenellon, a physician of eminence. After a visit to Leyden and elsewhere in the autumn he returned to Amsterdam to find Fell's summons. He soon gave up a first intention of obeying the summons, and passed some months at Utrecht. The move was due to his anxiety to avoid any appearance of complicity in Monmouth's insurrection. (The Locke mentioned in the confession of Forde Grey of Werk as contributing to Monmouth's expenses was an anabaptist, Nicholas Lock or Locke; see Macaulay, History, i. 546.)

The English envoy to Holland on 17 May 1685 demanded the extradition of 84 plotters, including Locke. Locke returned from Utrecht to live in concealment at Amsterdam, in the house of Guenellon's father-in-law, Dr. Keen. Meanwhile William Penn and Lord Pembroke applied to James II, who declared his disbelief in the reports against Locke, and offered to receive him. Locke, however, declined to be pardoned, as he had committed no crime (Le Clerc),and after a short visit to Cleve, where an offered asylum proved unsatisfactory, returned to Amsterdam, and lived in Keen's house as 'Dr. Van der Linden.'

A fresh demand in May 1686 for the surrender of Monmouth's accomplices did not include Locke's name. Locke was now able to give up his disguise, but stayed at Keen's house, making another visit to Utrecht in the last part of 1686, till in February 1687 he settled at Rotterdam. Here he was near the Hague, and was intimate with Mordaunt, afterwards Earl of Peterborough, William's chief adviser upon English affairs, He became known to William and Mary, who learnt to value him as he deserved. At Rottterdam he lived with the quaker merchant, Benjamin Furly.

Locke was welcomed by a distinguished literary circle in Holland, and actively employed himself in writing. He was president of a little club, called 'The Lantern,' which met at Furly's house to drink 'mum' and discuss philosophy. His chief friends were at, Amsterdam. He was especially intimate with Limborch, remonstrant professor at Amsterdam, and the author of 'Theologia Christiana' and 'History of the Inquisition.' They sympathised upon religious questions, and kept up an affectionate correspondence during Locke's life.

He also became known to Le Clerc, to whom Limborch introduced him in the winter of 1685-1686. Locke had been interested in Le Clerc's answer to the Père Simon upon Old Testament criticism. Locke contributed some brief papers, including his well-known plan of a commonplace book, to Le Clerc's new journal, the 'Bibliothèque Universelle.'

The Essay, which he had apparently begun about 1671 (King, Life of Locke, i. 10); had been taken up at intervals. He had worked upon it in France, and in 1679 spoke of it to Thoynard as 'completed' (Fox Bourne, ii. 97). This was probably a premature statement. Now, however, he brought it into order, and prepared an epitome which appeared in the 'Bibliothèque Universelle' for January 1687-8 as 'Extrait d'un libre Anglais, qui n'est pas encore publié, intitulé, Essai Philosophique concernant l'entendement, où l'on montre quelle est l'étendue de nos connoissances certaines et la manière dont nous y parvenons; communiqué par M. Locke.' Some copies, according to Le Clerc, were separately printed.

Return to England[]

Upon the revolution Locke returned to England in company with Mary and Lady Mordaunt, sending a most affectionate farewell to Limborch. He landed at Greenwich 12 Feb. 1688-9. On 20 Feb. William III offered, through Mordaunt, to send Locke on a mission to the elector of Brandenburg. Locke declined this and other offers without hesitation on the ground of insufficient health. He consented, however, to become commissioner of appeals, with 200l. a year, abandoning his claims for his salary as secretary to the council of trade on account of the emptiness of the exchequer. He also abandoned a petition for his restoration to the Christ Church studentship, finding that it would disturb the society and displace his successor (ib. ii. 199). He held the commissionership of appeals till his death, when he was succeeded by John Addison. The place was almost a sinecure, though it occasionally gave him some occupation (ib. ii. 345).

He settled in Dorset Court, Channel Row, Westminster, soon after his return, and afterwards took some chambers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which he only occupied occasionally. He found the smoke of London unfavorable to his health, and from the spring of 1691 became domiciled at Oates, in the parish of High Laver, Essex. The owner was Sir Francis Masham, whose second wife was Damaris, daughter of Ralph Cudworth. Edward Clarke of Chipley in Somerset was a common friend of Locke and the Cudworths. A correspondence between Locke and Clarke from 1681 onwards, in which the Cudworths are frequently mentioned, is now in possession of Mr. Sanford of Nynehead, Taunton (see Fraser, pp. 61-2).

Locke had been acquainted with Lady Masham, then unmarried, before his stay in Holland. The family now included her mother, her stepdaughter Esther, and her son Francis (b. 1686); and Locke was on the most affectionate terms with them all. He carried on a playful correspondence with Esther, whom he called his Laudabridis, from the romances which she occasionally read to him, and for the rest of his life lived among an attached domestic circle. Locke paid 20s. a week as board for himself and his servant, whose wages were 20s. a quarter. He kept his accounts most systematically (see ib. pp. 219-226, with some interesting extracts from the 'Lovelace Papers').

He now for the first time became a public author. The Essay (of which the dedication is dated May 1689) appeared early in 1690. Locke received 30l. for the copyright of the first edition. The bookseller afterwards agreed to give him 6 bound copies of every subsequent edition, and ten shillings for every additional sheet (King, ii. 50). The bargain must have been remunerative to the publisher. A 2nd edition was called for in August 1692; Locke's alterations and the slowness of the press delayed its appearance till the autumn of 1694, when the additions were also printed separately. A 3rd edition, almost a reprint of the second, appeared in June 1695; and a 4th, again carefully revised (with new chapters on the 'Association of Ideas' and 'Enthusiasm'), in the autumn of 1699 (dated 1700). A 5th edition, with a few corrections by Locke, appeared posthumously in 1706. A French edition by Pierre Coste appeared at Amsterdam in 1700. A Latin translation by Richard Burridge, an Irish clergyman, begun in 1696, appeared in 1701.

The 'Essay' had already been recommended for students at Trinity College, Dublin, by the provost, St. George Ashe, in 1692; and an abridgment for the use of students was prepared by John Wynne, afterwards bishop of St. Asaph, with Locke's approval, and published in 1696. The heads of colleges at Oxford agreed in 1703 that tutors should not read it with their pupils (ib. i. 357-9). The prohibition seems to have acted only as an additional advertisement.

These dates are sufficient to show that few of the works which have made epochs in philosophy have made their way so rapidly. Locke became at once the leading philosopher of the time. Other works of more immediate application confirmed his authority.

In the autumn of 1685 Locke had addressed to Limborch a letter upon 'Toleration,' an expansion of his early 'Essay' (see above). His friend Tyrrell had urged him to publish in a letter dated 6 May 1687 (ib. i. 312), as appropriate to the political situation. It was, however, first published in Latin as 'Epistola de Tolerantia' in Holland, probably by Limborch, in the spring of 1689. An English translation by William Popple appeared in the same autumn, French and Dutch translations having been already issued.

Locke was curiously anxious to preserve his anonymity upon this occasion, and his only angry letter to Limborch was caused by hearing that his friend had revealed the secret to 2 of his intimates (ib. ii. 206). 2 further letters, in answer to attacks by Jonas Proast, followed in 1690 and 1692; and a 4th, begun in 1704, was interrupted by his death.

His Two Treatises of Government were published early in 1690. Locke says that they were the beginning and end of a discourse, of which the middle had been lost. The first is an attack upon Sir Robert Filmer, whose 'Patriarcha' was published in 1680, and one or both of Locke's treatises were probably written about that time. His own principles, he says, were fully vindicated bv William III.

Locke's theories, as expressed in these treatises and in the letters upon 'Toleration,' supplied the whigs with their political philosophy for the next century; and although both he and his followers were content with a partial application, they in fact laid the foundation of the more thoroughgoing doctrines of Bentham and the later radicals.

In the spring of 1695 his friend Edward Clarke, M.P. for Taunton, read some notes upon the licensing acts at a conference between the houses of parliament, which are attributed to Locke. They led to the abandonment of the measure (King, i. 375-87; Fox Bourne, ii. 315-16. Macaulay, 1860, vii. 168 n., is unwilling to admit Locke's authorship, except, as putting into shape the opinions of others. It is ascribed to Locke in the Craftsman of 20 Nov. 1731). Locke's treatise upon the 'Reasonableness of Christianity,' published in 1695, was vehemently attacked, especially by John Edwards (1637–1716) [q. v.], to whom Locke replied in two Vindications' (1695 and 1697). In this work he struck the keynote of the most popular theology of the eighteenth century as represented both by the deists and the latitudinarian divines. In theology, as in philosophy and politics, he was the teacher of many disciples who drew from his works conclusions from which he shrank, and his influence was the greater because he did not perceive the natural tendencies of his own theories.

Between these works appeared (1693) his excellent little treatise 'On Education.' It was the substance of some letters written from Holland in 1684 to his friend Edward Clarke. He had spoken of them to Thomas Molyneux, then studying medicine at Leyden and now a physician at Dublin. William Molyneux [q. v.], brother of Thomas, had sent to Locke a copy of his 'Dioptrica Nova' (1692), in which there was a warm encomium upon Locke's 'Essay.' A correspondence began, and it was at the instance of Molyneux, who had heard from his brother of the letters to Clarke, and who had an only son now motherless, that the 'Education' was published. Molyneux during the rest of his life was Locke's most enthusiastic disciple. He sent him many suggestions for improvements in the 'Essay,' and his affection was fully returned by his master.

The depreciation of the currency was now causing serious anxiety. At the end of 1691 Locke had written a letter to a member of parliament (no doubt Somers), in which he embodied some remarks written twenty years earlier upon lowering the rate of interest, and discussed also the currency question. In the first part he anticipated much that was long afterwards put with unanswerable force by Bentham. The currency question became more pressing. Locke and Newton were consulted by Somers and Montague (afterwards Lord Halifax). Locke wrote two pamphlets in 1695, the last of which, written at Somers's request in answer to a pamphlet by William Lowndes [q. v.], secretary to the treasury, appeared in December. Locke showed conclusively the fallacy of the schemes proposed by Lowndes and others for an alteration of the standard, and the bill passed in April 1696 for the restoration of the coinage was in substantial accordance with his principles (see full account in Macaulay's History). The soundness of his reasoning upon these questions gives Locke a permanent place among the founders of political economy, and he rendered at the time a great practical service.

A new council of trade was founded in the same spring, and Locke was appointed member with a salary of 1,000l a year by a patent dated 15 May 1696. Somers, who had been his friend since 1689 (at latest), and frequently consulted him since, probably recommended him for a post, to which his services fully entitled him. He hesitated to accept it on account of his now failing health, but when appointed discharged its duties energetically. It met thrice, and afterwards five times a week. From 1696 to 1700 Locke attended nearly all the meetings in the summer and autumn, and when confined to Oates during the other months was in constant communication with his colleagues. He was the most energetic member of the body. His health forced him to propose to resign in the winter of 1696-7, but he withdrew the request on Somers's earnest remonstrance. Besides many investigations into questions of colonial trade Locke was especially interested in two proposed measures, for which he prepared elaborate plans. It was generally understood that the Irish were not to be allowed to compete with the English woollen trade, and Locke adopted this doctrine without question. He drew up, however, in 1696, a very careful plan for encouraging the manufacture of linen in Ireland (given in Fox Bourne, ii. 363-72). Nothing came of this scheme, which was superseded in 1698 by that of Louis Crommelin [q. v.] Locke consulted Molyneux on the plan, and when in 1698 Molyneux wrote his famous pamphlet against the English treatment of Ireland, he counted upon Locke's sympathy. In 1697 Locke prepared another elaborate and curious scheme, also destined to be abortive, for a complete reform of the poor laws (ib. pp. 377-91). Vagabonds were to be more strictly restrained, and workhouses and schools for the employment of adults and children established in every parish. These schemes, which savour rather of state socialism than modern political economy, harmonised with the contemporary plans of two of Locke's friends, Thomas Firmin [q. v.] and John Cary (d. 1720?) [q. v.]

Locke's health, already weakened, seems to have been permanently injured by his obedience to a request of William III. He was suddenly summoned to town on a winter day, 23 Jan. 1697-8, to see the king. The king proposed to him some important employment, which his health forced him to decline. Mr. Fox Bourne suggests that he may have been requested to accompany the Duke of Portland's embassy to France after the peace of Ryswick. This must be uncertain. Locke continued to serve on the commission till June 1700, when he resigned, refusing to retain an office of so much profit without being able to attend more frequently, although assured by the king that he might attend as little as he pleased. Locke's official labours left little leisure for philosophy. He had, however, a sharp controversy with Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester, in 1697. The deist Toland had published in 1696 his 'Christianity not Mysterious.' The book, which gave great offence, professed (with some reason) to be an application to theology of Locke's philosophy. Stillingfleet, in a 'Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity,' attacked Locke and Toland as common adversaries. Locke, who was not a little irritated by Toland's claim to philosophical affinity, replied to Stillingfleet with considerable asperity, and in answer to Stillingfleet's rejoinders wrote two other replies in 1697 and 1699. They are of interest as illustrating points in Locke's teaching.

After resigning his post Locke lived at Gates, in gradually failing health. He wrote his 'Paraphrases' of St. Paul's Epistles and 1 or 2 fragments, published after his death; but he had done his life's work. His friend Molyneux saw him for the first time in 1698, and spent five weeks with him in London and at Oates, but died on 11 Oct. in the same year, to the profound sorrow of the survivor. Other friends were not wanting. Peter King, afterwards lord chancellor, grandson of Locke's uncle, Peter Locke, became almost an adopted child, and was in constant communication with him in the last years. Anthony Collins, afterwards known by his deistical writings, made Locke's acquaintance by 1703, and was on most affectionate terms with him till the end. A common friend of Locke and Collins was Samuel Bolde, who had defended some of Locke's work.

In 1701 Locke was still able to give medical advice to some of his poor neighbours. In September 1704 he gives a most appetising order for dainties intended for a feast on occasion of King's marriage. He was becoming very weak, though no failing of intellect or affections could be observed. Having long been unable to go to church, he received the sacrament at his house from the clergyman.

Soon afterwards, on 27 October 1704, he was unable to rise; but on the 28th he asked to be dressed. Lady Masham meanwhile read the psalms at his request. While she was reading he became restless, raised his hands to his eyes and died quietly.

He was buried, as he had directed, with the least possible show, in the churchyard at High Laver. A Latin epitaph written by himself is placed on the church wall. The tomb was restored and enclosed in a railing by Christ Church in 1866. Locke left 4,555l. of personal property, besides books and some other objects. He left 3,000l. to Francis Masham; 100l. to the poor of High Laver, and 100l. to the poor of Publow and Pensford; besides legacies to Lady Masham and Collins. His books were divided between Francis Masham and Peter King. The books left to King and the manuscripts are now at Ockham, in possession of Lord Lovelace. His Somerset property was divided between King and Peter Stratton.

Kneller painted Locke's portrait in 1697 for Molyneux and again in 1704 for Collins. Two early portraits are at Nynehead. A portrait by Kneller is at Christ Church, and one by Thomas Gibson (1680?-1751) [q. v.] in the Bodleian. Portraits by Kneller are also said to be at Hampton Court and Knole Park (see Thorne, Environs of London, pp. 311, 409).

Locke (see above) implicitly denied the authorship of the ‘Letter from a Person of Quality … giving an account, of the Debates … in the House of Lords in April and May 1675;’ first given as his in the collection of 1720; ‘The History of Navigation,’ prefixed to the ‘Collection of Voyages’ published by Awnsham Churchill [q. v.] in 1704, was not by him. Both, however, are published in his ‘Works.’

The following have been ascribed to him, but are doubtful: 1. ‘Five Letters concerning the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures’ (translated from Le Clerc), 1690. 2. ‘The History of our Saviour Jesus Christ related in the Words of Scripture,’ 1705 (arguments for his authorship in Gent. Mag. 1798, p. 1016). 3. ‘Select Moral Books of the Old Testament and Apocrypha Paraphrased,’ 1706. 4. ‘Discourse on the Love of God,’ in answer to Norris (also ascribed to Whitby). 5. ‘Right Method of Searching after Truth.’ 6. ‘Occasional Thoughts in reference to a Virtuous and Christian Life.’ 7. ‘A Commonplace Book in reference to the Holy Scriptures,’ 1697. 8. A version of ‘Æsop's Fables,’ 1703.

In 1770 William Dodd [q. v.] published a ‘Commentary’ on the Bible, professedly founded upon papers of Locke. It seems that the bookseller had bought some papers from the Masham library, but they are said to have been written not by Locke but by Cudworth, and it is doubtful if Dodd even used these (Gent. Mag. 1788, pt. ii. p. 1186, and Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ix. 276).


Locke's authority as a philosopher was unrivalled in England during the first half of the 18th century, and retained great weight until the spread of Kantian doctrines. His masculine common sense, his modesty and love of truth have been universally acknowledged; and even his want of thoroughness and of logical consistency enabled him to reflect more fully the spirit of a period of compromise. His spiritual descendant, John Stuart Mill, indicates his main achievement by calling him the 'unquestioned founder of the analytic philosophy of mind' (Mill, Logic, book i. chap, vi.) By fixing attention upon the problem of the necessary limits of thought and investigating the origin of ideas, his writings led to the characteristic method of his English successors, who substituted a scientific psychology for a transcendental metaphysic. His own position, however, was not consistent, and very different systems have been affiliated upon his teaching. His famous attack upon 'innate ideas' expressed his most characteristic tendency, and was generally regarded as victorious; but critics have not agreed as to what is precisely meant by 'innate ideas,' and Hamilton, for example, maintains that if Locke and Descartes, at whom he chiefly aimed, had both expressed themselves clearly, they would have been consistent with each other and with the truth (Reid, Works, p. 782). Hume's scepticism was the most famous application of Locke's method; but Reid and his follower Dugald Stewart, while holding that the theory of 'ideas' accepted by Locke would logically lead to Hume, still hold that a sound philosophy can be constructed upon Locke's method, and regard him as one of the great teachers (see e.g. Reid, Intellectual Powers, ch. ix., and Stewart, Philosophical Essays, Essay iii.) In France, Locke's name is said to have been first made popular by Fontenelle. He was enthusiastically admired by Voltaire and by d'Alembert, Diderot, Helvetius, and their contemporaries. Condillac, his most conspicuous disciple in philosophy, gave to his teaching the exclusively sensational turn which Locke would have apparently disavowed. Condorcet and the 'idéologues,' Cabanis, Destutt de Tracy, and others, owed much to Locke during the revolutionary period (for many references to his influence with them see Les Idéologues, by Fr. Picavet, 1891). He was attacked as a source of the revolutionary views by De Maistre in the 'Soirées de St. Pétersbourg,' and by other reactionary writers: and criticised with great severity and probably much unfairness by Cousin as leader of the 'eclectics.' The English empirical school have continued to regard Locke as their founder, though they seem to have been more immediately influenced by his followers, Berkeley and Hume, and especially by David Hartley, as also in some respects by his predecessor Hobbes. Leibniz's 'Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain,' the most remarkable contemporary criticism, written in 1704, was first published in 1765. Some short 'Reflexions' upon the 'Essay' written by Leibnitz were submitted to Locke in 1708, but are mentioned rather slightingly by him in his letters to Molyneux (22 Feb. and 10 April 1697). 'Locke's Writings and Philosophy Historically Considered and Vindicated from the Charge of Contributing to Hume's Scepticism,' by Edward Tagart (1855), is loose and discursive, but may suggest some comparisons. See also 'The Intellectualism of Locke,' by Thomas E. Webb (1857). For recent expositions see Dr. Thomas Fowler's 'Locke' in Mr. John Morley's 'Men of Letters' series; Professor Fraser's 'Locke' in Blackwood's 'Philosophical Classics,' and T. H. Green's 'Introduction' to Hume's 'Philosophical Works.'[7]

The first collective edition of Locke's works appeared in 1714. A ‘Life’ by Bishop Edmund Law was prefixed to the 8th edition in 1777. Later editions appeared in 1791, 1801, 1822.[7]

Locke's works are: 1. ‘Methode nouvelle de dresser des Recueils,’ in the ‘Bibliothèque Choisie,’ July 1686. English translations in 1697 and later as ‘A New Method of making Commonplace Books.’ 2. ‘Epistola de Tolerantia,’ 1689; English translation (by W. Popple) also in 1689. A ‘Second Letter concerning Toleration’ appeared in 1690, and a third in 1690, both signed ‘Philanthropus,’ and replying to attacks by Jonas Proast. The fragment of a fourth was first published in the ‘Posthumous Works,’ 1706. 3. ‘An Essay concerning Humane Understanding,’ 1690 (for early editions see above; twenty editions appeared by the end of the eighteenth century; the French translation appeared in 1700; the Latin in 1701; German translations in 1757, and edited by Tennemann, 1795-7). 4. ‘Two Treatises of Government. In the former the False Principles and Foundation of Sir R. Filmer and his followers are detected and overthrown: the latter is a Treatise concerning the true original extent and end of Civil Government,’ 1690. 5. ‘Some Considerations of the consequences of lowering the Interest and Raising the Value of Money in a Letter sent to a Member of Parliament in the Year 1691,’ 1692. 6. ‘Some Thoughts concerning Education,’ 1693; 14th edition in 1772; translated into French, German, and Italian. 7. ‘The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures,’ 1695. A ‘Vindication’ of this ‘from Mr. Edwards's Reflections’ appeared in 1695, and a ‘Second Vindication’ in 1697. The ‘Exceptions of Mr. Edwards … examined’ (1695) has been erroneously attributed to Locke. 8. Short observations on a printed paper, entitled ‘For Encouraging the Coining Silver Money in England and Keeping it there.’ 9. ‘Further Considerations concerning Raising the Value of Money; wherein Mr. Lowndes's arguments for it in his last “Report concerning the Amendment of the Silver Coin” are particularly examined,’ 1695. 10. ‘Letter to the Right Reverend Edward[Stillingfleet], Lord Bishop of Worcester, concerning some Passages relating to Mr. Locke's “Essay of Human Understanding” in a late Discourse of his Lordship in Vindication of the Trinity,’ 1697. ‘Mr. Locke's Reply to the Bishop of Worcester's Answer to his Letter’ (with a postscript) appeared in 1697, and ‘Mr. Locke's Reply to the Bishop's Answer to his Second Letter’ in 1697. 11. ‘A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, the first and second Epistles to the Corinthians, and the Epistles to the Romans and Ephesians,’ with an ‘Essay for the understanding of St. Paul's Epistles by consulting St. Paul himself,’ appeared in six parts in 1705, 1706, and 1707. 12. ‘Posthumous Works,’ 1706, containing (1) ‘An Examination of Père Malebranche's opinion of seeing all things in God’ (written about 1694-5); (2) ‘Of the Conduct of the Understanding’ (written about 1697 for a new chapter in the ‘Essay,’ separately published in 1762 and later); (3) ‘A Discourse of Miracles’ (written 1702-3); (4) ‘Fragment of Fourth Letter on Toleration;’ (5) ‘Memoirs relating to Shaftesbury;’ (6) ‘Plan of a Commonplace Book.’ 13. ‘Some Familiar Letters between Mr. Locke and several of his Friends,’ 1708. 14. ‘Remains’ (1714); one of Curll's piratical collections of trifles, including a letter upon Pococke. 15. ‘A Collection of several pieces of Mr. John Locke, published by M. Des Maiseaux under the direction of Mr. Anthony Collins,’ 1720, containing (1) ‘The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina’ (see above); (2) ‘Remarks upon some of Mr. Morris's Books wherein he asserts Père Malebranche's opinion,’ &c.; (3) ‘Elements of Natural Philosophy’ (published separately in 1750); (4) ‘Some Thoughts concerning Reading and Study for a Gentleman;’ (5) ‘Rules of a Society which met once a week for their Improvement in Useful Knowledge.’ Another set of rules for a society of ‘Pacific Christians’ is in King, ii. 63-7. 16. ‘Observations upon the Growth … of Vines and Olives … ,’ 1766 (edited by ‘G. S.’) 17. Discourses translated from Nicole's ‘Essays,’ edited by Thomas Hancock, M.D., 1828 (see above). 18. ‘Original Letters of Locke, Algernon Sidney, and Lord Shaftesbury,’ by T. Forster, 1830. 19. ‘Anecdota Sydenhamiana,’ edited by Dr. Greenhill, from a manuscript in the Bodleian, 1844 and 1847. For Locke's share see Fox Bourne, i. 454.[7]


Locke exercised a profound influence on political philosophy, in particular on modern liberalism. Michael Zuckert has argued that Locke launched liberalism by tempering Hobbesian absolutism and clearly separating the realms of Church and State. He had a strong influence on Voltaire who called him "le sage Locke". His arguments concerning liberty and the social contract later influenced the written works of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers of the United States. In fact, one passage from the Second Treatise is reproduced verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, the reference to a "long train of abuses." Such was Locke's influence that Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Bacon, Locke and Newton ... I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral sciences".[8][9][10] Today, most contemporary libertarians claim Locke as an influence.

But Locke's influence may have been even more profound in the realm of epistemology. Locke redefined subjectivity, or self, and intellectual historians such as Charles Taylor and Jerrold Seigel argue that Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) marks the beginning of the modern Western conception of the self.[11]

Theories of religious tolerance[]

Locke, writing his Letters Concerning Toleration (1689–92) in the aftermath of the European wars of religion, formulated a classic reasoning for religious tolerance. Three arguments are central: (1) Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints; (2) Even if they could, enforcing a single "true religion" would not have the desired effect, because belief cannot be compelled by violence; (3) Coercing religious uniformity would lead to more social disorder than allowing diversity.[12]

Constitution of Carolina[]

Appraisals of Locke have often been tied to appraisals of liberalism in general, and also to appraisals of the United States. Detractors note that (in 1671) he was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company, as well as through his participation in drafting the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas while Shaftesbury's secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. For example, Martin Cohen notes that as a secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673–4) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696–1700) Locke was, in fact, "one of just half a dozen men who created and supervised both the colonies and their iniquitous systems of servitude".[13] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having been intended to justify the displacement of the Native Americans.[14][15] Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy and racism, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists.[16]

Theory of value and property[]

Locke uses the word property in both broad and narrow senses. In a broad sense, it covers a wide range of human interests and aspirations; more narrowly, it refers to material goods. He argues that property is a natural right and it is derived from labour.

In Chapter V of his Second Treatise, Locke argues that the individual ownership of goods and property is justified by the labour exerted to produce those goods or utilise property to produce goods beneficial to human society.[17]

Locke stated his belief, in his Second Treatise, that nature on its own provides little of value to society; he provides the implication that the labour expended in the creation of goods gives them their value. This is used as supporting evidence for the interpretation of Locke's labour theory of property as a labour theory of value, in his implication that goods produced by nature are of little value, unless combined with labour in their production and that labour is what gives goods their value.[17]

Locke believed that ownership of property is created by the application of labour. In addition, he believed property precedes government and government cannot "dispose of the estates of the subjects arbitrarily." Karl Marx later critiqued Locke's theory of property in his own social theory.

Political theory[]

Template:See also Locke's political theory was founded on social contract theory. Unlike Thomas Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature is characterised by reason and tolerance. Like Hobbes, Locke believed that human nature allowed men to be selfish. This is apparent with the introduction of currency. In a natural state all people were equal and independent, and everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, health, Liberty, or Possessions".[18] Most scholars trace the phrase, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," in the American Declaration of Independence to Locke's theory of rights,[19] though other origins have been suggested.[20]

Like Hobbes, Locke assumed that the sole right to defend in the state of nature was not enough, so people established a civil society to resolve conflicts in a civil way with help from government in a state of society. However, Locke never refers to Hobbes by name and may instead have been responding to other writers of the day.[21] Locke also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right but an obligation in some circumstances. These ideas would come to have profound influence on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

Limits to accumulation[]

Labour creates property, but it also does contain limits to its accumulation: man’s capacity to produce and man’s capacity to consume. According to Locke, unused property is waste and an offence against nature.[22] However, with the introduction of “durable” goods, men could exchange their excessive perishable goods for goods that would last longer and thus not offend the natural law. The introduction of money marks the culmination of this process. Money makes possible the unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage.[23] He also includes gold or silver as money because they may be “hoarded up without injury to anyone,”[24] since they do not spoil or decay in the hands of the possessor. The introduction of money eliminates the limits of accumulation. Locke stresses that inequality has come about by tacit agreement on the use of money, not by the social contract establishing civil society or the law of land regulating property. Locke is aware of a problem posed by unlimited accumulation but does not consider it his task. He just implies that government would function to moderate the conflict between the unlimited accumulation of property and a more nearly equal distribution of wealth and does not say which principles that government should apply to solve this problem. However, not all elements of his thought form a consistent whole. For example, labour theory of value of the Two Treatises of Government stands side by side with the demand-and-supply theory developed in a letter he wrote titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money. Moreover, Locke anchors property in labour but in the end upholds the unlimited accumulation of wealth.[25]

On price theory[]

Locke’s general theory of value and price is a supply and demand theory, which was set out in a letter to a Member of Parliament in 1691, titled Some Considerations on the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising of the Value of Money.[26] Supply is quantity and demand is rent. “The price of any commodity rises or falls by the proportion of the number of buyer and sellers.” and “that which regulates the price... [of goods] is nothing else but their quantity in proportion to their rent.” The quantity theory of money forms a special case of this general theory. His idea is based on “money answers all things” (Ecclesiastes) or “rent of money is always sufficient, or more than enough,” and “varies very little...” Regardless of whether the demand for money is unlimited or constant, Locke concludes that as far as money is concerned, the demand is exclusively regulated by its quantity. He also investigates the determinants of demand and supply. For supply, goods in general are considered valuable because they can be exchanged, consumed and they must be scarce. For demand, goods are in demand because they yield a flow of income. Locke develops an early theory of capitalisation, such as land, which has value because “by its constant production of saleable commodities it brings in a certain yearly income.” Demand for money is almost the same as demand for goods or land; it depends on whether money is wanted as medium of exchange or as loanable funds. For medium of exchange “money is capable by exchange to procure us the necessaries or conveniences of life.” For loanable funds, “it comes to be of the same nature with land by yielding a certain yearly income ... or interest.”

Monetary thoughts[]

Locke distinguishes two functions of money, as a "counter" to measure value, and as a "pledge" to lay claim to goods. He believes that silver and gold, as opposed to paper money, are the appropriate currency for international transactions. Silver and gold, he says, are treated to have equal value by all of humanity and can thus be treated as a pledge by anyone, while the value of paper money is only valid under the government which issues it.

Locke argues that a country should seek a favourable balance of trade, lest it fall behind other countries and suffer a loss in its trade. Since the world money stock grows constantly, a country must constantly seek to enlarge its own stock. Locke develops his theory of foreign exchanges, in addition to commodity movements, there are also movements in country stock of money, and movements of capital determine exchange rates. The latter is less significant and less volatile than commodity movements. As for a country’s money stock, if it is large relative to that of other countries, it will cause the country’s exchange to rise above par, as an export balance would do.

He also prepares estimates of the cash requirements for different economic groups (landholders, labourers and brokers). In each group the cash requirements are closely related to the length of the pay period. He argues the brokers – middlemen – whose activities enlarge the monetary circuit and whose profits eat into the earnings of labourers and landholders, had a negative influence on both one's personal and the public economy that they supposedly contributed to.

The self[]

Locke defines the self as "that conscious thinking thing, (whatever substance, made up of whether spiritual, or material, simple, or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends".[27] He does not, however, ignore "substance", writing that "the body too goes to the making the man."[28] The Lockean self is therefore a self-aware and self-reflective consciousness that is fixed in a body.

In his Essay, Locke explains the gradual unfolding of this conscious mind. Arguing against both the Augustinian view of man as originally sinful and the Cartesian position, which holds that man innately knows basic logical propositions, Locke posits an "empty" mind, a tabula rasa, which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas.[29]

Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education is an outline on how to educate this mind: he expresses the belief that education maketh the man, or, more fundamentally, that the mind is an "empty cabinet", with the statement, "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."[30]

Locke also wrote that "the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences."[31] He argued that the "associations of ideas" that one makes when young are more important than those made later because they are the foundation of the self: they are, put differently, what first mark the tabula rasa. In his Essay, in which is introduced both of these concepts, Locke warns against, for example, letting "a foolish maid" convince a child that "goblins and sprites" are associated with the night for "darkness shall ever afterwards bring with it those frightful ideas, and they shall be so joined, that he can no more bear the one than the other."[32]

"Associationism", as this theory would come to be called, exerted a powerful influence over eighteenth-century thought, particularly educational theory, as nearly every educational writer warned parents not to allow their children to develop negative associations. It also led to the development of psychology and other new disciplines with David Hartley's attempt to discover a biological mechanism for associationism in his Observations on Man (1749).

Religious beliefs[]

Some scholars have seen Locke's political convictions as deriving from his religious beliefs.[33][34][35] Locke's religious trajectory began in Calvinist trinitarianism, but by the time of the Reflections (1695) Locke was advocating not just Socinian views on tolerance but also Socinian Christology; with veiled denial of the pre-existence of Christ.[36] However Wainwright (Oxford, 1987) notes that in the posthumously published Paraphrase (1707) Locke's interpretation of one verse, Ephesians 1:10, is markedly different from that of Socinians like Biddle, and may indicate that near the end of his life Locke returned nearer to an Arian position.[37]


Published in Locke's lifetime[]

  • (1689) A Letter Concerning Toleration
    • (1690) A Second Letter Concerning Toleration
    • (1692) A Third Letter for Toleration
  • (1689) Two Treatises of Government
  • (1690) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  • (1693) Some Thoughts Concerning Education
  • (1695) The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures
    • (1695) A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity

Major unpublished or posthumous manuscripts[]

  • (1660) First Tract of Government (or the English Tract)
  • (c.1662) Second Tract of Government (or the Latin Tract)
  • (1664) Questions Concerning the Law of Nature (definitive Latin text, with facing accurate English trans. in Robert Horwitz et al., eds., John Locke, Questions Concerning the Law of Nature, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990).
  • (1667) Essay Concerning Toleration
  • (1706) Of the Conduct of the Understanding
  • (1707) A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians

See also[]


  • Ashcraft, Richard, 1986. Revolutionary Politics & Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Discusses the relationship between Locke's philosophy and his political activities.)
  • Ayers, Michael., 1991. Locke. Epistemology & Ontology Routledge (The standard work on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding.)
  • Bailyn, Bernard, 1992 (1967). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Harvard Uni. Press. (Discusses the influence of Locke and other thinkers upon the American Revolution and on subsequent American political thought.)
  • Cohen, Gerald, 1995. 'Marx and Locke on Land and Labour', in his Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality, Oxford University Press.
  • Cox, Richard, Locke on War and Peace, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960. (A discussion of Locke's theory of international relations.)
  • Chappell, Vere, ed., 19nn. The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • Dunn, John, 1984. Locke. Oxford Uni. Press. (A succinct introduction.)
  • —, 1969. The Political Thought of John Locke: An Historical Account of the Argument of the "Two Treatises of Government". Cambridge Uni. Press. (Introduced the interpretation which emphasises the theological element in Locke's political thought.)
  • Hudson, Nicholas, "John Locke and the Tradition of Nominalism," in: Nominalism and Literary Discourse, ed. Hugo Keiper, Christoph Bode, and Richard Utz (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997), pp. 283–99.
  • Macpherson. C. B. The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962). (Establishes the deep affinity from Hobbes to Harrington, the Levellers, and Locke through to nineteenth-century utilitarianism).
  • Moseley, Alexander (2007). John Locke: Continuum Library of Educational Thought. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-8405-0.
  • Pangle, Thomas, The Spirit of Modern Republicanism: The Moral Vision of the American Founders and the Philosophy of Locke (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988; paperback ed., 1990), 334 pages. (Challenges Dunn's, Tully's, Yolton's, and other conventional readings.)
  • Robinson, Dave; Judy Groves (2003). Introducing Political Philosophy. Icon Books. ISBN 1-84046-450-X.
  • Rousseau, George S. (2004). Nervous Acts: Essays on Literature, Culture and Sensibility. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-3453-3.
  • Strauss, Leo. Natural Right and History, chap. 5B (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953). (Argues from a non-Marxist point of view for a deep affinity between Hobbes and Locke.)
  • Strauss, Leo (1958). "Critical Note: Locke's Doctrine of Natural Law". The American Political Science Review 52 (2): 490–501. Template:Citation error. JSTOR 1952329. (A critique of W. von Leyden's edition of Locke's unpublished writings on natural law.)
  • Tully, James, 1980. A Discourse on Property : John Locke and his Adversaries. Cambridge Uni. Press
  • Waldron, Jeremy, 2002. God, Locke and Equality. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • Yolton, J. W., ed., 1969. John Locke: Problems and Perspectives. Cambridge Uni. Press.
  • Zuckert, Michael, Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
  • Locke Studies, appearing annually, publishes scholarly work on John Locke.


  1. Peter Laslett (1988). "Introduction: Locke and Hobbes". Two Treatises on Government. Cambridge University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-521-35730-2.
  2. Locke, John. A Letter Concerning Toleration Routledge, New York, 1991. p. 5 (Introduction)
  3. Delaney, Tim. The march of unreason: science, democracy, and the new fundamentalism Oxford University Press, New York, 2005. p. 18
  4. Godwin, Kenneth et al. School choice tradeoffs: liberty, equity, and diversity University of Texas Press, Austin, 2002. p. 12
  5. Becker, Carl Lotus. The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas Harcourt, Brace, 1922. p. 27
  6. Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 527–529. ISBN 0-13-158591-6.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Leslie Stephen, "John Locke (1632-1704), Dictionary of National Biography 34. Wikisource, Web, June 30, 2017.
  8. "The Three Greatest Men". Retrieved 13 June 2009. "Jefferson identified Bacon, Locke, and Newton as "the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception". Their works in the physical and moral sciences were instrumental in Jefferson's education and world view."
  9. "The Letters of Thomas Jefferson: 1743–1826 Bacon, Locke, and Newton". Retrieved 13 June 2009. "Bacon, Locke and Newton, whose pictures I will trouble you to have copied for me: and as I consider them as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical & Moral sciences."
  10. "Jefferson called Bacon, Newton, and Locke, who had so indelibly shaped his ideas, "my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced"". Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  11. Seigel, Jerrold. The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe since the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2005) and Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1989).
  12. McGrath, Alistair. 1998. Historical Theology, An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. p.214-5.
  13. Martin Cohen, Philosophical Tales (Blackwell, 2008), 101.
  14. James Tully, An Approach to Political Philosophy: Locke in Contexts (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).Template:Pn
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  20. Wills, Garry (2002). Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  21. Skinner, Quentin Visions of Politics. Cambridge.
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  28. Locke, Essay, p. 306.
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  32. Locke, Essay, 357.
  33. Greg Forster John Locke's politics of moral consensus 2005
  34. Kim Ian Parker The biblical politics of John Locke 2004 Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion
  35. John Locke: writings on religion ed. Victor Nuovo, Oxford 2002
  36. John Marshall John Locke: resistance, religion and responsibility Cambridge 1994. extensive discussion p.426
  37. John Locke, ed. Arthur William Wainwright A paraphrase and notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Oxford 1987 p806

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