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John Locke and his Philosophy

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Locke defines knowledge as “ The perception of the connection and agreement, or disagreement … of any of our ideas” (qt. in Woolhouse 80). From this definition, it is clear that he believes the acquisition of knowledge depends primarily on perception or on the ability to make pertinent connections between related ideas. This point of view brings out the limitations of acquiring knowledge. “ Locke’ s general conclusion concerning the extent of our knowledge is then, that… God… has also put within the grasp of our rationality ‘ the way that leads to a better life’ and given us the means to acquire knowledge of ‘ whatever is necessary for the information of virtue’ ” (Woolhouse 83).

Locke’ s doctrines influenced epistemology and served as the foundation on which later philosophers based their work. Locke’ s Two Treatises of Government emerged from the Exclusion Crisis. During this period, the Earl of Shaftesbury was waging a struggle to prevent the ascension of the Catholic James, Duke of York, the brother of the reigning monarch, Charles II, to the throne of England. According to Dunn, “ It was a struggle to win control of men’ s minds, an exercise in persuasion, and in consequence, it was a struggle waged by necessity in books and pamphlets as much as it was waged within the normal institutions of English political life” (55).

And thus it came about that Locke began his work on the Two Treatises of Government. Locke was an exceedingly devout man, and his philosophical and political doctrines stem from his unwavering faith in the relationship between Man and God. In the words of Hampshire- Monk, “ Political authority, like all moral claims for Locke, must rest ultimately on our religious obligations, which are for him, the source of all morality” (82).

Locke’ s First Treatise is a scathing attack on Robert Filmer’ s Patriarcha. Filmer was an advocate of absolute monarchy and the divine right of Kings. He believed that absolute power was granted to Kings by God, starting with Adam. Any attempt to usurp or question this authority was considered as a defiance of the divine will.

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