Who Is John Locke?

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.

- John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

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John Locke was an important advocate of religious toleration. John Dunn gives an overview of his writing on this topic for this episode of Philosophy Bites.

Listen to John Dunn on Locke on Toleration

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John Locke — one of the main philosophers to set out a theory of property entitlement — agrees that the finders-keepers rule is too loose. However, he claims that if a person finds an unowned resource, mixes his labor with that resource, and leaves enough and “as good” (“as good” meaning enough of the same quality) of the resource for others, then the person is entitled to that resource. Locke’s theory informs much of the property law here in the United States. Take, for instance, water rights in the western part of the country. The laws currently allocate water rights to people according to historical first-use. If a rancher pumped a certain amount of water out of the river back in 1875, made good use of it, and left enough water in the river for downstream users at the time, then he gained a right to that same amount of water year after year...

Continue reading Justin P. McBrayers' article: This Land is Your Land. Or is it?

Further Reading

John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704) was a British philosopher, Oxford academic and medical researcher. Locke’s monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is one of the first great defenses of modern empiricism and concerns itself with determining the limits of human understanding in respect to a wide spectrum of topics. It thus tells us in some detail what one can legitimately claim to know and what one cannot. Locke’s association with Anthony Ashley Cooper (later the First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become successively a government official charged with collecting information about trade and colonies, economic writer, opposition political activist, and finally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Among Locke’s political works he is most famous for The Second Treatise of Government in which he argues that sovereignty resides in the people and explains the nature of legitimate government in terms of natural rights and the social contract. He is also famous for calling for the separation of Church and State in his Letter Concerning Toleration. Much of Locke’s work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This is apparent both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church... - Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on John Locke by William Uzgalis

Want to learn more? Check out: The Seven Best Books By or About John Locke

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