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Category Archives: John Locke

  • Scenic landscape view of lush rolling green hills in the English countryside with sunlight breaking through morning mist and cloud

    The British Empiricists: Locke, Berkeley, and Hume

    John Locke (1632-1704)

    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    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 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.
  • Thinking in Terms of Principles: Principles vs. Convention

    There is a seemingly fine line between principles and convention.

    When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence (with the editing assistance of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin), he penned the list of grievances against the British throne and parliament that provided the foundation and principle the Colonies used for separation. Many have argued that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized much of John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government (e.g. the Declaration’s use of the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”), yet Jefferson spoke conventionally when he said in a letter to James Madison, August 30, 1823, that the Declaration of Independence

  • David Hume: On Property

    Hume wrote that “it is well known that men’s happiness consists not so much in an abundance of [the commodities and enjoyments of life], as in the peace and security with which they possess them” (Essays 54-5). This, for Hume, was the purpose of government, and may well be one of the foundational thoughts concerning his notions of property. Property, to Hume, was not the metaphysical extension of self that Locke had argued, but was a conventional idea that arose out of society. When only a few people associate with each other in a simple relationship, then the concept of property – as a self-realizing concept – has no existence or purpose (i.e. utility). In a rather Aristotelian concept of man’s nature as a political being, Hume argues that men naturally form society – upon the foundation of families – and that the concepts of justice and property are only known through social utility. For Hume, justice and property are artificial and conventional ideas.