My Philosopher: John Locke

Mary Sansone

My Philosopher: John Locke

Media Ethics and Law

February 13, 2015

John Locke has entered the philosophy hall of fame since the early seventeenth century. He strived to understand and analyze the human mind and acquisition of knowledge in his most best and relevant work, Concerning Human Understanding (Connolly, P., 2010). It set out his theory that we gain experience from the world, and we are born without innate ideas. He also given strong arguments in the favor of religious toleration. His presence in the philosophical world is strongly noticed then and now (Connolly, P., 2010).


photo from:

Connolly (2010) states that John Locke was born in 1632 in Wrington, England. It was stated that he was sent to Westminster School in London as a teenager, where he was successful and earned a place at Christ Church, Oxford. He focused his later years at Oxford on the study of medicine and natural philosophy, now better known as science. He also undertook training to become a physician, as well as instructing undergraduates. After he left Oxford, he served as a tutor the son of the Anthony Ashley Cooper (also referred to as Lord Ashely). He also acted as their physician. Lord Ashley was a successful English politician, giving the opportunity for Locke to start his most famous work, the Essay Concerning Human Understanding.

According to The Great Ocean of Knowledge (Talbot, A., 2010), the Essay was split into four books, each discussing and contributing to his desire of understanding the human mind. As stated earlier, Locke believes we are not born with natural knowledge, our ideas come from experience. Even ideas of God and space could have possibly been from our human perceptual access to the world and how we mentally perceive the life around us. In his essay, he referred to sixteen different authors, who might be defined as travel writers, including Martin Baumgarten, Peter Matyr, Isaac Vossius, Jean De Léry, and Thévenot to demonstrate that “whole societies did indeed transgress, what were often though by Christians to be, innate moral rules” (Talbot, A., 2010).

Locke used many sources to support his argument that the idea of God was not innate because there were societies in places such as Africa or the Amazon that were atheistic (Talbot, A., 2010). No one is born with the idea that God exists, it needs to be studied and taught, which is where the belief comes from.

An argument could be made that Locke’s theory relates to the nature versus nurture psychological idea. We are not born with knowing what is right and what is wrong, we learn what is right and wrong from our parents, society, religion, and education systems. How and where we are raised can mold how we think and interpret the issues and moral dilemmas human’s face daily. Locke states in Essay Concerning Human Understanding, “Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters” (Locke, J., 1959). He displays to his readers that the mind is a blank page when born, and experience through life writes on the mind and filling it with ideas and beliefs. What we experience and how we are nurtured will mold us.

Cited Sources

Connolly, P. (2010). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 11, 2015.

Locke, J. (1959). An essay concerning human understanding. New York: Dover Publications.

Talbot, A. (2010). ‘The Great Ocean of Knowledge’ : The Influence of Travel Literature on the Work of John Locke. Leiden: Brill.

This entry was posted in Philosopher by TheSoloOmnivore. Bookmark the permalink.

About TheSoloOmnivore

My shoe is size 8.5. Diet Coke and helpless people will be the death of me. I love film and hope to be a critic. I love books and I hope to be an agent. I love cooking and I hope to be a cook. Money is great to have, hard to get, and easy to lose. I get sunburnt easily. I am an Aquarius, meaning I think too much. I have great friends. I'm pretty lazy. The New England snow will force me out and the beautiful foliage will bring me back. I live by myself. That's important. My car breaks almost every week. I like food. I'm cynical and sarcastic. I'm normally not normal, in a normal way. Procrastination makes me work harder. I hate liars, selfish individuals, and spelling mistakes on professional documents. I love dogs. Cats are cool too. Gremlins scare the shit out of me. I sleep with the door closed. Autumn is a nicer word than fall. A great gift item for me would be a gift card. I grossly dislike small talk. I don't get sick often. When I do, I get cranky. Other than that, life is pretty swell. Yes, I say swell.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s