ABSTRACT

Locke’s philosophy, like that of Hobbes, is both a result of and a contribution to the political and intellectual revolutions of the seventeenth century. Locke lived later than Hobbes, so his philosophy is part of the later phases of those revolutions. His political theory is a justification of the Whig and Protestant protest against the Catholic and anti-parliamentarian tendencies of the Stuart kings Charles II and James II, which culminated in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. His philosophy is an empiricist epistemology. Newton’s natural philosophy made redundant the quest for a holistic quasigeometrical depiction of reality as a whole, but generated a new question: What could be known? Anticipating by a century two of the central themes of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Locke tried to define the limits of human knowledge and to describe the place of the knowing, rational, self-conscious individual in the Newtonian universe. In politics, Locke is arguably the inventor of liberalism; his writings had an enormous impact on eighteenth-century intellectuals and contributed to the intellectual origins of the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. In philosophy, he developed the anti-metaphysical empiricism of Hobbes, but (with dubious consistency) rejected materialism for a mind-body dualism 1

before the outbreak of the English Civil War, and died in 1704, the year of Blenheim. He was thus a teenager during the later years of the Civil War, in his twenties during the Interregnum of 1649-1660, and twenty-eight at the Restoration of the monarchy. He was in his thirties and forties during the golden years of Charles II, and fiftythree in 1685, the year of the latter’s death, the accession of James II, and the abortive Monmouth Rebellion. As a writer, Locke matured late. He was in his mid-fifties when An Essay Concerning Human Understanding was published in 1689 and Two Treatises of Government in 1690. Locke’s twilight years were passed under the Protestant rule of William and Mary and he died at the age of seventy in the second year of the reign of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch and a Protestant.2