On August 29, 1632, in Wrington, England, the man widely known as the Father of Liberalism was born. John Locke was an English philosopher and physician who has made a large impact on the United States Declaration of Independence with his contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory. His work had made a great difference upon the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. He was also considered one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers.
Locke was born into an influential family, with his father being a country lawyer and military man who had served as a captain during the English civil war. And through his father’s ties to the government, Locke was able to receive outstanding education. He was also a distinct student who earned the honorary title “King’s Scholar”. To sum up his life, John Locke was a rich and smart individual who had a smooth sailing life until he hit a political speed bump in 1679 and declining health problems thereafter.
Locke’s philosophical interests divide roughly into three parts: political, epistemological, and scientific. On the scientific side, his major influence was by his friend, the Irish scientist Robert Boyle, whom he helped with Locke’s experiments. Lord Ashley’s contributions to John’s political thoughts and career can not be understated, as he was one of the founders of the Whig party. Ashley imparted an outlook on rule and government that never left Locke. However, Locke owes his success in Episemology to a 17th century Latin translation Philosophus Autodidactus (published by Edward Pococke) of the Arabic philosophical novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan by the 12th century Andalusian-Islamic philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail. This also led to the creation of one of his most famous works – An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
Locke’s theory of the mind is often regarded as the origin of modern conceptions of identity and the self. His main thesis in one of his major works An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, was to explain that humans are not born with innate ideas but with an “empty” mind, a tabula rasa, “which is shaped by experience; sensations and reflections being the two sources of all our ideas”. [Wikipedia]
John Locke’s theory affects all of us, the very being of our human nature. How we turn out and what we think is a result of our experiences, sensations, and reflections. However, as understood by Locke, each individual was free to define the content of his or her character – but his or her basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be so altered. And through his theory, I came to reflect on the role that idea plays in perception, how we become who we are through these three qualities. I agree on this idea of humans being born with a “blank-slate mind”. As a result, we are shaped as we gain more knowledge because we are nothing to begin with, so humans will be what our experiences shape us to be. But even so, we cannot completely alter who we were originally.