John Locke

John Locke

Born: 1632. Died: 1704.


- There are no innate ideas.

- Human knowledge is derived either from sense experience or from introspection (reflection).

- Ideas are signs that represent physical and mental things.

- Things ahave primary qualities (solidity, extension, figure, motion or rest, and number) and secondary qualities (all others, including color, sounds, smells, flavors, and so forth).

- Bodies actually possess the primary qualities, but the secondary qualities are merely the effects observed by those qho perceieve them.

- Good is whatever produces pleasure, and evil whatever produces pain.

- Liberty is for the sake of pursuing happiness.

- The state of nature, prior to the existence of human government, is subject to the rule of natural or divine laws, which are revealed through the exercise of reason.

- The chief reason for establishing governments is the preservation of private property.

- Civil government comes about as a result of a social contract.


Prominent empiricist philosopher, natural law social thinker and Whig political theorist, John Locke was nonetheless a rather traditional Mercantilist in his economics. It was Child's promotion of low interest that prompted Locke to turn his attention to money and developing a theory of money in his 1692 Considerations. Locke introduced concept of 'money as convention' as well as, following Jean Bodin, the main elements of the quantity theory of money, notably the concept of 'velocity'.

Locke saw that the lowering of interest by legal means might very well lead to a collapse in trade because it would not reflect the 'natural scarcity' of money. If money collapsed, then there would be, alternatively, a collapse in output or prices. The collapse in prices would lead to relatively cheap English goods and relatively expensive foreign ones 'both which will keep us poor' (Locke, 1692). Unlike Mun, Locke did not see this as a promoter of exports.

Locke's ideas on value are a bit obtuse and inconsistent. In his 1690 Treatises, he proposes a quite explicit labor theory of value. In his 1692 Consequences, Locke adheres to a demand-based theory of value. John Law (1705) did much to clarify the confusion between them.

Finally, Locke also proposed a theory of property in his 1690 Treatises. The right to property, Locke claims, is derived from the labor of those who work it. More specifically, he perceives that as 'labor' is naturally 'owned' by the person in whom it is embodied, then consequently anything that labor is applied to, is similarly 'owned' by the laborer - a rather proto-Marxian notion.

Locke's 'natural labor theory of property' stands in stark contrast to that of Thomas Hobbes, who conceived of property merely as a state guarantee, and of Hugo Grotius, who contended that property emerges from social consent.

Major Works of John Locke

- A Letter Concerning Toleration, 1689
- An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690
- Concerning Civil Government: Second Essay, 1690
- The Conduct of the Understanding, 1706 - Fundamental Constitution for the Government of Carolina, 1669
- Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money, 1695
- Questions Concerning The Law Of Nature, 1664
- Reasonableness of Christianity As Delivered In The Scriptures, 1695
- Second and Third Letters on Toleration, 1690-1692
- Second Treatise of Government?, 1690
- Short Observations on a Printed Paper, 1695
- Some Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and Raising the Value of Money, 1692
- Some Thoughts Concerning Education, 1693
- Two Treatises of Government, 1689
- Treatise Concerning Civil Government, 1690

Quotes from John Locke

- "A great part of mankind are ... unavoidably given over to invincible ignorace." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "All men are liable to error; and most men are in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "Consciousness is the perception of what passes in a man's own mind." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "God, when he makes the prophet, does not unmake man." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "It is not reasonable to deny the power of an infinite being because we cannot comprehend its operations." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "It is one thing to show a man that he is in an error, and another to put him in possession of truth." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "Moral knowledge is as capable of real certainty as mathematics." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "The actions of men [are] the best interpreters of their thoughts." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "New opinoins are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason, but because they are not already common." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "No man's knowledge here can go beyond his experience." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "Nature never makes excellent things for mean or no uses." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "Reason must be our last judge and guide in everything." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "The first capacity of human intellect is that the mind is fitted to receive the impressions made on it either through the senses by outward objects, or by its own operations when it reflects n them." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "The great princible of morality, "To do as one would be done to," is more commended than practiced." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "The visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear so plainly in all the works of the creation that a rational creature, who will but seriously reflect on them, cannot miss the discovery of Deity." (from "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding", 1690)

- "'Tis not without reasn that [Man] seeks out and is willing to join in Society with others who are already united or have a mind to unite for the mutual Preservation of their Lives, Liberties and Estates, which I cal the general Name, Property.
The great and chief end, therefore, of Men's uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property." (from "Two Treatises of Government", 1689)

- "Tyranny is the exercise of Power beyond Right." (from "Two Treatises of Government", 1689)

- "Wherever Law ends Tyranny begins." (from "Two Treatises of Government", 1689)

- "[A pupil] will better comprehend the Foundations and Measures of Decency and Justice, and have livelier, and more lasting Impressions of what he ought to do, by giving his Opinoin on Cases propos'd, and reasoning with his Tutor on fit Instances than by giving a silent negligent, sleepy Audience to his Tutor's Lectures." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Curiosity ... is but an Appetite after Knowledge." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Fortitude is the Guard and Support of the other Virtues; and without Courage a Man will scarce keep steady to his Duty, and fill up the Character of a truly worthy Man." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Good and Evil, Reward and Punishment, are the only Motives to a rational Creature: These are the Spur and Reins whereby all Mankind are set on Work and guided." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "He that knows how to make those he converses with easy, without debasing himself to low and servile Flattery, has found the true Art of living in the world, and being both welcome and valued everywhere." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "I impute a great Part of our Diseases in England to our eating too much Flesh and too little Bread." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "If he [has] a poetic Vein, 'tis to me the strangest thing in the world that the Father should desire or suffer it to be cherished or improved. Methinks the Parents should labor to have it stifled and suppresed as much as may be; and I know not what Reason a Father can have wish his Son a Poet, who does not desire to have him bid Defiance to all other Callings and Business." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "If those about him will talk to him often about the Stories he has read and hear him tell them, it will, besides other Advantages, add Encouragement and Delight to his Reading, when he finds there is some Use and Pleasure in it." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "[Learning] must never be imposed as a Task, nor made a Trouble to them. There may be Dice and Playthings with the Letters on them to teach Children and Alphabet by playing; and twenty other Ways may be found, suitable to their particular Tempers, to make this kind of Learning a Sport to them." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Nine Parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their Education." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "One great Reason why many Children abondon themselves wholly to silly sports and trifle away their time insipidly is because they have found their Curiosity baulk'd and their Enquiries neglected. But had they been treated with more Kindness and Respect and their Questions answered, as they should, their Satisfaction, I doubt not but they would have taken more Pleasure in Learning and improving their Knowledge, wherein there would be still Newness and Variety, which is what they are delighted with, than in returning over and over to the same Play and Playthings." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Since nothing appears to me to give Children so much becoming Confidence and Behavior, and so raise them to the Conversation of those above their Age, as Dancing, I think they should be taught to dance as soon as they are capable if learning it." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "The only Fence against the World is a thorough Knowledge of it." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "The Princible of all Virtue and Excellency lies in a Power od denying ourselves the Satisfaction of our own Desires, where Reason does not authorize them. This Power is to be got and improv'd by Custom, made easy and familiar by an early Practice." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Virtue... is the hard and valuable Part to be aim'd at in Education." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "Where there is n Desire, there will be no Industry." (from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education", 1693)

- "The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were, drop into mind, are commonly the most valuable of any we have." (from "Letter to Samuel Bold", 1699)

- "Reading furnishes our mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking [that] makes wat we read ours." (from "The Conduct of the Understanding", 1706)

- "It is a duty we owe to God as the foundation and author of all truth, who is truth itself: and it is duty also we owe our own souls, to have our minds constantly disposed to entertain and receive truth wheresoever we meet with it, or under whatsoever appearence of plain or ordinary, strange, new, or perhaps displeasing, it may come in our way." (from "The Life of John Locke" by Lord King, 1830)

- "It is a man's proper business to seek hapiness and avoid misery." (from "The Life of John Locke" by Lord King, 1830)

- "This great machine of world." (from "The Life of John Locke" by Lord King, 1830)


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