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The writings of the late 17th-century empiricist John Locke on philosophy, government, and education were especially influential during the Enlightenment. It was to this already famous institution that Locke went inat age Although the school had been taken over by the new republican government, its headmaster, Richard Busby himself a distinguished scholarwas a royalist.
In Januaryjust half a mile away from Westminster School, Charles was beheaded on the order of Cromwell. The boys were not allowed to attend the execution, though they were undoubtedly well aware of the events taking place nearby.
Although Locke was evidently a good student, he did not enjoy his schooling; in later life he attacked boarding schools for their overemphasis on corporal punishment and for the uncivil behaviour of pupils.
In his enormously influential work Some Thoughts Concerning Educationhe would argue for the superiority of private tutoring for the education of young gentlemen see below Other works.
Oxford In the autumn of Locke, at the comparatively late age of 20, entered Christ Churchthe largest of the colleges of the University of Oxford and the seat of the court of Charles I during the Civil Wars. Owen and Cromwell were, however, concerned to restore the university to normality as soon as possible, and this they largely succeeded in doing.
Locke later reported that he found the undergraduate curriculum at Oxford dull and unstimulating.
Although their works were not on the official syllabusLocke was soon reading them. At Oxford Locke made contact with some advocates of the new science, including Bishop John Wilkins, the astronomer and architect Christopher Wrenthe physicians Thomas Willis and Richard Lower, the physicist Robert Hookeand, most important of all, the eminent natural philosopher and theologian Robert Boyle.
Locke attended classes in iatrochemistry the early application of chemistry to medicineand before long he was collaborating with Boyle on important medical research on human blood.
Medicine from now on was to play a central role in his life. The restoration of the English monarchy in was a mixed blessing for Locke. It led many of his scientific collaborators to return to London, where they soon founded the Royal Society, which provided the stimulus for much scientific research.
But in Oxford the new freedom from Puritan control encouraged unruly behaviour and religious enthusiasms among the undergraduates. These excesses led Locke to be wary of rapid social changean attitude that no doubt partly reflected his own childhood during the Civil Wars.
In his first substantial political work, Two Tracts on Government composed in but not published untilLocke defended a very conservative position: This view, a response to the perceived threat of anarchy posed by sectarian differences, was diametrically opposed to the doctrine that he would later expound in Two Treatises of Government In Locke was appointed senior censor in Christ Churcha post that required him to supervise the studies and discipline of undergraduates and to give a series of lectures.
The resulting Essays on the Law of Nature first published in constitutes an early statement of his philosophical views, many of which he retained more or less unchanged for the rest of his life. Of these probably the two most important were, first, his commitment to a law of naturea natural moral law that underpins the rightness or wrongness of all human conduct, and, second, his subscription to the empiricist principle that all knowledgeincluding moral knowledge, is derived from experience and therefore not innate.
These claims were to be central to his mature philosophy, both with regard to political theory and epistemology.
As a member and eventually the leader of a group of opposition politicians known as the WhigsAshley was one of the most powerful figures in England in the first two decades after the Restoration. Ashley was so impressed with Locke at their first meeting that in the following year he asked him to join his London household in Exeter House in the Strand as his aide and personal physician, though Locke did not then have a degree in medicine.
Politically, Ashley stood for constitutional monarchya Protestant successioncivil libertytoleration in religion, the rule of Parliament, and the economic expansion of England. Locke either shared or soon came to share all these objectives with him, and it was not long before a deep—and for each an important—mutual understanding existed between them.
Locke drafted papers on tolerationpossibly for Ashley to use in parliamentary speeches. By Locke had become a fellow of the Royal Society and was conducting medical research with his friend Thomas Sydenhamthe most distinguished physician of the period. Although Locke was undoubtedly the junior partner in their collaboration, they worked together to produce important research based on careful observation and a minimum of speculation.
The method that Locke acquired and helped to develop in this work reinforced his commitment to philosophical empiricism. But it was not only medicine that kept Locke busy, for he was appointed by Ashley as secretary to the lords proprietors of Carolina, whose function was to promote the establishment of the North American colony.
In that role Locke helped to draft The Fundamental Constitutions for the Government of Carolinawhich, among other provisions, guaranteed freedom of religion for all save atheists.
Throughout his time in Exeter House, Locke kept in close contact with his friends. Indeed, the long gestation of his most important philosophical work, An Essay Concerning Human Understandingbegan at a meeting with friends in his rooms, probably in February The group had gathered to consider questions of morality and revealed religion knowledge of God derived through revelation.
Locke pointed out that, before they could make progress, they would need to consider the prior question of what the human mind is and is not capable of comprehending.
It was agreed that Locke should prepare a paper on the topic for their next meeting, and it was this paper that became the first draft of his great work.
Exile in France In Ashley was raised to the peerage as the 1st earl of Shaftesbury, and at the end of that year he was appointed lord chancellor of England.As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75, lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.
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