John Locke

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The enlightenment era arose in the modern cultural ideology of the 18th century, as ideas among philosophers had a widespread effect among the society. The age of enlightenment, in western society, projected the rejection of traditional Christianity, western philosophy, intellectual advances, scientific, and cultural life, government legitimacy and authority. Upon the enlightenment period multiple philosophers emerged, the individuals arose to leading figures using reason to understand all aspects of human life. The motivations for the enlightenment came primarily from the Englishmen, John Locke. John Locke was a philosophical influence in both political theory and theoretical philosophy, which was embraced among the era of 1789-1914 and the concept of equal rights among men. John Locke’s writings influenced the works of multiple diplomats concerning liberty and the social contract between society and the government. Locke’s ideology of man and power was the base for the concept of separation of powers. As one of the enlightenment thinkers, John Locke wrote the Two Treatises of Government influencing the framework of his ideal vision of the nature of man and his freedom, stating that all men exist in “a state of perfect freedom” as “every man being, has been showed, naturally free.” (Primary Sources, 156) His theories involved the money value within trading systems, education ideals, the blank mind shaped by surroundings, and the framework for the American Revolution. Locke’s ideas were taken and embraced as his ideas “seemed to offer the hope of a brave new world” built on reason.” (Spielvogel 516)

The enlightenment was an era of intellectual and social growth as people began to challenge and view the world changed. During the era, society began to believe all men are free people, a concept enforced by John Locke’s ideologies. John Locke believed every person was born with tabula rasa, blank mind, arguing in Essay on Human Understanding that men and women, were products of their environment, and implied that humans were molded by their surroundings. With the theory of the blank mind, John Locke presented with reason and logic that men and women could improve themselves by improving the surroundings. As John Locke rejected “authority and theory… [by] showing knowledge derives from sensory perception and experience…” he impacted western philosophy and the understanding of knowledge. (Primary sources 212) Locke’s idea implied the restructure of society as by changing the environment, men would be properly influenced, and a new society created. The idea of a perfect new society was seen among the creation of the utopian community by Robert Owen. The idea of men being able to be shaped by the community is seen among Owen’s work to set up the model community. Through his works in A New View in Society Owen shows how the communitarian project achieved “moral improvement with commercial success” with the help of an orderly system to manufacture, and “inculcating the moral virtues of cleanliness, order thrift, and sobriety.” (Primary Sources 320) Owen was successful in creating the modeled community, with the idea of tabula rasa, and creating a cooperative self-contained community.

The enlightenment employed the right of equality among all men. John Locke advocated natural rights of man, mainly life, liberty, and property. His avocation for men equality included the validity of governments powers should rely on consent from the citizens. The pursuit of representation from government led to the democracy in the America’s as they created the separation of powers. Locke supported the overthrow of absolute power, as he rejects the concept of royal superiority in his Second Treatise of Government. His belief in mutual consent from the people to the government is the basis of the social contract, showing how man’s “perfect freedom…and liberty [should give man] is able to instruct him in that law he is to govern...
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