Jon Locke Essay Research Paper John Locke

Jon Locke Essay, Research Paper

John Locke was born at Wrington on August 29, 1632. He was the son of a country

small landowner who served as a captain of horse in the parliamentary army. But

political unrest does not seem to have seriously disturbed the course of his education.

He entered Westminster school in 1646, and passed to Christ Church, Oxford, as a

junior student, in 1652; and he had a home there for more than thirty years. The

official studies of the university were uncongenial to him; he would have preferred to

have learned philosophy from Descartes instead of from Aristotle; but must have

satisfied the authorities, for he was elected to a senior studentship in 1659, and, in the

three or four years following, he took part in the tutorial work of the college. At one

time he seems to have thought of the clerical profession as a possible career; but he

declined an offer of preferment in 1666, and in the same year obtained a dispensation

which enabled him to hold his studentship without taking orders. About the same time

we hear of his interest in experimental science, and he was elected a fellow of the

Royal Society in 1668. Little is known of his early medical studies. He cannot have

followed the regular course, for he was unable to obtain the degree of doctor of

medicine. It was not till 1674 that he graduated as bachelor of medicine. In the

following January his position in Christ Church was regularized by his appointment to

one of the two medical studentships of the college.

His knowledge of medicine and occasional practice of the art led, in 1666, to an

acquaintance with Lord Ashley. The acquaintance, begun accidentally, had an

immediate effect on Locke’s career. Without serving his connection with Oxford, he

became a member of Shaftesbury’s household, and seems soon to have been looked

upon as indispensable in all matters domestic and political. He saved the statesman’s

life by a skillful operation, arranged a suitable marriage for his heir, attended the lady

in her confinement, and directed the nursing and education of her son. He assisted

Shaftesbury also in public business, commercial and political, and followed him into

the government service. When Shaftesbury was made lord chancellor in 1672, Locke

became his secretary for presentations to benefices, and, in the following year, was

made secretary to the board of trade. In 1675 his official life came to an end for the

time with the fall of his chief.

Locke’s health, always delicate, suffered from the London climate. When released

from the cares of office, he left England in search of health. Ten years earlier he had his

first experience of foreign travel and of public employment, as secretary to Sir Walter

Vane, ambassador to the Elector of Brandenburg during the first Dutch war. On his return

to England, early in 1666, he declined an offer of further service in Spain, and settled

again in Oxford, but was soon induced by Shaftesbury to spend a great part of his time in

London. On his release from office in 1675 he sought milder air in the south of France,

made leisurely journeys, and settled down for many months at Montpellier. The journal

which he kept at this period is full of minute descriptions of places and customs and

institutions. It contains also a record of many of the reflections that afterwards took shape

in the Essay concerning Human Understanding. he returned to England in 1679, when his

patron had again a short spell of office. He does not seem to have been concerned in

Shaftesbury’s later schemes; but suspicion naturally fell upon him, and he found it prudent

to take refuge in Holland. This he did in August 1683, less than a year after the flight and

death of Shaftesbury. Even in Holland for some time he was not safe from danger of arrest

at the instance of the English government; he moved from town to town, lived under an assumed name, and visited

his friends by stealth. His residence in Holland brought political occupations with it,

among the men who were preparing the English revolution. it had at least equal value

in the leisure which it gave him for literary work and in the friendships which it

offered. In particular, he formed a close intimacy with Philip van Limbroch, the leader

of the Remonstrant clergy, and the scholar and liberal theologian to whom Epistola de

Tolerantia was dedicated. This letter was completed in 1685, though not published at

the time; and, before he left for England, in February 1689, the Essay concerning

Human Understanding seems to have attained its final form, and an abstract of it was

published in Leclerc’s Bibliotheque universelle in 1688.

The new government recognized his services to the cause of freedom by the offer

of the post of ambassador either at Berlin or at Vienna. But Locke was no place

hunter; he was solicitous also on account of his health; his earlier experience of

Germany led him to fear the cold air and warm drinking; and the high office was

declined. But he served less important offices at home. He was made commissioner of

appeals in May 1689, and, from 1696 to 1700, he was a commissioner of trade and

plantations at a salary of L1000 a year. Although official duties called him to town for

protracted periods, he was able to fix his residence in the country. In 1691 he was

persuaded to make his permanent home at Oates in Essex, in the house of Francis and

Lady Masham. Lady Masham was a daughter of Cudworth, the Cambridge Platonist;

Lock had manifested a growing sympathy with his type of liberal theology; intellectual

affinity increased his friendship with the family at Oates; and he continued to live with

them till his death on October 28, 1704.


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