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Who influenced John Locke?

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Eugene posted on Fri, Oct 26 2012 4:19 AM

I think most of the road of political thought to liberty was already achieved by the time of John Locke's theory of natural rights. I am more familiar with the post-Locke progress towards liberty, from Lysander Spooner, to Molinari and to Rothbard. I am not familiar though with the road taken by philosophers and scholars before John Locke. So my question is what were the major influences on John Locke? Who are the people who started to look at individual rights and property rights? To whom should we give the credit?

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John Locke should be given credit for whatever he thought of.  Hobbes and myself are the ones who should not receive credit for our work.  See celebritytypes.com  Hobbes was a sensing type which means he was not logical and not a creator.  He could not think independently on his own but Locke could think independently.

BTW, Good thread Mr. Eugene: )

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stsoc replied on Fri, Oct 26 2012 9:53 AM

I don't take John Locke as proponent of liberty. He inconsistently applys the labor theory of property that he himself espouses, first saying that whatever a man makes is his, and then lates says that it belongs to the man what his horse or servant made. Pretty much like saying "all man are created equal", but "man" refers to us, not to them.

Of four people you mentioned the only one who supported a consistent application of labor theory of property was Spooner, who was a socialist (mutualist).

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He inconsistently applys the labor theory of property that he himself espouses, first saying that whatever a man makes is his, and then lates says that it belongs to the man what his horse or servant made.

You take marks off for not giving property rights to animals?  Nice.

As for the OP's question:

From Westminster school he went to Christ Church, Oxford, in the autumn of 1652 at the age of twenty. As Westminster school was the most important English school, so Christ Church was the most important Oxford college. Education at Oxford was medieval. Reform came, but not in Locke's time there. The three and a half years devoted to getting a B.A. was mainly given to logic and metaphysics and the classical languages. Conversations with tutors, even between undergraduates in the Hall were in Latin. Locke, like Hobbes before him, found the Aristotelian philosophy he was taught at Oxford of little use. There was, however, more at Oxford than Aristotle. The new experimental philosophy had arrived. John Wilkins, Cromwell's brother in law, had become Warden of Wadham College. The group around Wilkins was the nucleus of what was to become the English Royal Society. The Society grew out of informal meetings and discussion groups and moved to London after the Restoration and became a formal institution in the 1660s with charters from Charles II. The Society saw its aims in contrast with the Scholastic/Aristotelian traditions that dominated the universities. The program was to study nature rather than books.  Many of Wilkins associates were people interested in pursuing medicine by observation rather than the reading of classic texts. Bacon's interest in careful experimentation and the systematic collection of facts from which generalizations could be made was characteristic of this group. One of Locke's friends from Westminster school, Richard Lower, introduced Locke to medicine and the experimental philosophy being pursued by the virtuosi at Wadham.

Locke received his B.A. in February 1656. His career at Oxford, however, continued beyond his undergraduate days. In June of 1658 Locke qualified as a Master of Arts and was elected a Senior Student of Christ Church College. The rank was equivalent to a Fellow at any of the other colleges, but was not permanent. Locke had yet to determine what his career was to be. Locke was elected Lecturer in Greek at Christ Church in December of 1660 and he was elected Lecturer in Rhetoric in 1663. At this point, Locke needed to make a decision. The statutes of Christ Church laid it down that fifty five of the senior studentships should be reserved for men in orders or reading for orders. Only five could be held by others, two in medicine, two in law and one in moral philosophy. Thus, there was good reason for Locke to become a clergyman. Locke decided to become a doctor.

John Wilkins had left Oxford with the Restoration of Charles II. The new leader of the Oxford scientific group was Robert Boyle. He was also Locke's scientific mentor. Boyle (with the help of his astonishing assistant Robert Hooke) built an air pump which led to the formulation of Boyle's law and devised a barometer as a weather indicator. Boyle was, however, most influential as a theorist. He was a mechanical philosopher who treated the world as reducible to matter in motion. Locke read Boyle before he read Descartes. When he did read Descartes, he saw the great French philosopher as providing a viable alternative to the sterile Aristotelianism he had been taught at Oxford. In writing An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke adopted Descartes' ‘way of ideas’; though it is transformed so as to become an organic part of Locke's philosophy. Still, while admiring Descartes, Locke's involvement with the Oxford scientists gave him a perspective which made him critical of the rationalist elements in Descartes' philosophy.

In the Epistle to the Reader at the beginning of the Essay Locke remarks:

The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without master-builders, whose mighty designs, in advancing the sciences, will leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity: but every one must not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham; and in an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some others of that strain, it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge … (pp. 9–10. All quotations are from the Nidditch edition of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.)

Locke knew all of these men and their work. Locke, Boyle and Newton were all founding or early members of the English Royal Society. It is from Boyle that Locke learned about atomism (or the corpuscular hypothesis) and it is from Boyle's book The Origin of Forms and Qualities that Locke took the language of primary and secondary qualities. Sydenham was one of the most famous English physicians of the 17th century and Locke did medical research with him. Locke read Newton's Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis while in exile in Holland, and consulted Huygens as to the soundness of its mathematics. Locke and Newton became friends after Locke's return from Holland in 1688. It may be that in referring to himself as an ‘under-labourer’, Locke is not only displaying a certain literary modesty, he is contrasting the positive discoveries of these men, with his own attempt to show the inadequacies of the Aristotelian and Scholastic and to some degree the Cartesian philosophies. There are, however, many aspects of Locke's project to which this image of an under-labourer does not do justice. (See Jolley 1999, pp. 15-17) While the corpuscular philosophy and Newton's discoveries clearly influenced Locke, it is the Baconian program of producing natural histories that Locke makes reference to when he talks about the Essay in the Introduction. He writes:

It shall suffice to my present Purpose, to consider the discerning Faculties of a Man, as they are employ'd about the Objects, which they have to do with: and I shall imagine that I have not wholly misimploy'd my self in the Thoughts I shall have on this Occasion, if in this Historical, Plain Method, I can give any Account of the Ways, whereby our Understanding comes to attain those Notions of Things, and can set down any Measure of the Certainty of our Knowledge… (I. 1. 2., pp. 43–4 — the three numbers, are book, chapter and section numbers respectively, followed by the page number in the Nidditch edition.)

The ‘Historical, Plain Method’ is apparently to give a genetic account of how we come by our ideas. Presumably this will reveal the degree of certainty of the knowledge based on such ideas. Locke's own active involvement with the scientific movement was largely through his informal studies of medicine. Dr. David Thomas was his friend and collaborator. Locke and Thomas had a laboratory in Oxford which was very likely, in effect, a pharmacy. In 1666 Locke had a fateful meeting with Lord Ashley as a result of his friendship with Thomas. Ashley, one of the richest men in England, came to Oxford. He proposed to drink some medicinal waters there. He had asked Dr. Thomas to provide them. Thomas had to be out of town and asked Locke to see that the water was delivered. Locke met Ashley and they liked one another. As a result of this encounter, Ashley invited Locke to come to London as his personal physician. In 1667 Locke did move to London becoming not only Lord Ashley's personal physician, but secretary, researcher, political operative and friend. Living with him Locke found himself at the very heart of English politics in the 1670s and 1680s.

It sounds like, Boyle, Bacon, Newton, Descartes, and Lord Ashley influenced him.  It also seems as thought Lord Ashley may be a sort of John Hancock-minded fellow; or rather, Hancock was a Ashley-minded fellow.

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http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/#HisBacLocLif

Quick answer most people like:

He is from the British Empiricist school which opposed rationalism.

The Roots before Locke: Bacon and Hobbes

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I like the long answer.  It makes sure people read.

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@Aristotophanes:  Most people are actually animals (myself included), and we shouldn't necessarily have property rights, but the person you were replying to meant that all life are of right and ought to be free from aggression.  However, I disagree, because If I (or any member of my own kind) gets killed, then the NAP won't really have been violated... I can't be aggressed against more than once, God said so, and I have experienced it anyway.  "Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you" is true... that is, Natural Individuals (probably not more than 20% of the world's population) don't get fooled more than twice.

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stsoc replied on Sat, Oct 27 2012 5:29 AM

You take marks off for not giving property rights to animals?  Nice.

You consider subordinate people animals? Nice.

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I didn't know you were referring to people, son.  When you say "horse" i think of the four legged creature that "neighs" and eats hay, not "subordinate people."  Maybe you should just refer to people as people instead of referring to subordinate people as animals...

@No2Statism

I don't know what you are saying.

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stsoc replied on Sun, Oct 28 2012 4:38 AM

first saying that whatever a man makes is his, and then lates says that it belongs to the man what his horse or servant made.

You have spot blindness, don't know how to read some words, or you're just trolling.

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first saying that whatever a man makes is his, and then lates says that it belongs to the man what his horse or servant made.

You have spot blindness, don't know how to read some words, or you're just trolling.

You needed to make "or servant" a subordinate clause for the reader to infer that horse, or servant, is the same object of reference.  You are confusing denotation with connotation as well.  So, my "spot blindness" is actually a stunning observational lucidity of punctuation, and it's purposeful use, in a sentence.

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stsoc replied on Sun, Oct 28 2012 5:52 AM

So, my "spot blindness" is actually a stunning observational lucidity of punctuation, and it's purposeful use, in a sentence.

I didn't know that lack of punctuation there would change the meaning. Then my apologies for the mistake, English is my third language.

 

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