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).
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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.
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.