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From Westminster school he went to Christ Church, Oxford, in the autumn of at the age of twenty. As Westminster school was the most important English school, so Christ Church was the most important Oxford college. Education at Oxford was medieval. Locke, like Hobbes before him, found the Aristotelian philosophy he was taught at Oxford of little use. There was, however, more at Oxford than Aristotle.

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The new experimental philosophy had arrived. The group around Wilkins was the nucleus of what was to become the English Royal Society. The Society grew out of informal meetings and discussion groups and moved to London after the Restoration and became a formal institution in the s with charters from Charles II. The program was to study nature rather than books. Locke received his B. His career at Oxford, however, continued beyond his undergraduate days. The rank was equivalent to a Fellow at any of the other colleges, but was not permanent. Locke had yet to determine what his career was to be.

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At this point, Locke needed to make a decision. The statutes of Christ Church laid it down that fifty five of the senior studentships should be reserved for men in orders or reading for orders. Only five could be held by others, two in medicine, two in law and one in moral philosophy. Thus, there was good reason for Locke to become a clergyman.

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Locke decided to become a doctor. The new leader of the Oxford scientific group was Robert Boyle. Boyle was, however, most influential as a theorist. He was a mechanical philosopher who treated the world as reducible to matter in motion.

Locke read Boyle before he read Descartes. When he did read Descartes, he saw the great French philosopher as providing a viable alternative to the sterile Aristotelianism he had been taught at Oxford.

The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without master-builders, whose mighty designs, in advancing the sciences, will leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity: but every one must not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham; and in an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some others of that strain, it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge …. Locke knew all of these men and their work. Sydenham was an English physician and Locke did medical research with him.

He writes:. Presumably this will reveal the degree of certainty of the knowledge based on such ideas. David Thomas was his friend and collaborator. Locke and Thomas had a laboratory in Oxford which was very likely, in effect, a pharmacy. In Lord Ashley, one of the richest men in England, came to Oxford in order to drink some medicinal waters there. He had asked Dr.

Thomas to provide them. Thomas had to be out of town and asked Locke to see that the water was delivered. As a result of this encounter, Ashley invited Locke to come to London as his personal physician.


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Living with him Locke found himself at the very heart of English politics in the s and s. Lord Ashley was one of the advocates of the view that England would prosper through trade and that colonies could play an important role in promoting trade. Ashley persuaded Charles II to create a Board of Trade and Plantations to collect information about trade and colonies, and Locke became its secretary. In his capacity as the secretary of the Board of Trade Locke was the collection point for information from around the globe about trade and colonies for the English government.

In his capacity as the secretary to the Lords Proprietors, Locke was involved in the writing of the fundamental constitution of the Carolinas. There was a monetary crisis in England involving the value of money, and the clipping of coins. Locke wrote papers for Lord Ashley on economic matters, including the coinage crisis. While living in London at Exeter House, Locke continued to be involved in philosophical discussions.

He tells us that:. Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of this Essay, I should tell thee, that five or six friends meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a subject very remote from this, found themselves quickly at a stand, by the difficulties that rose on every side. After we had awhile puzzled ourselves, without coming any nearer a resolution of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into my thoughts that we took a wrong course; and that before we set ourselves upon inquiries of that nature, it was necessary to examine our own abilities, and see what objects our understandings were, or were not, fitted to deal with.

This I proposed to the company, who all readily assented; and thereupon it was agreed that this should be our first inquiry. Some hasty and undigested thoughts, on a subject I had never before considered, which I set down against our next meeting, gave the first entrance into this Discourse; which having been thus begun by chance, was continued by intreaty; written by incoherent parcels; and after long intervals of neglect, resumed again, as my humour or occasions permitted; and at last, in a retirement where an attendance on my health gave me leisure, it was brought into that order thou now seest it.

Epistle to the Reader, N: 7. He recalls the discussion being about the principles of morality and revealed religion Cranston —1.

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Thus the Oxford scholar and medical researcher came to begin the work which was to occupy him off and on over the next twenty years. In after Shaftesbury had left the government, Locke went back to Oxford, where he acquired the degree Bachelor of medicine, and a license to practice medicine, and then went to France Cranston The Edict of Nantes promulgated by Henry IV in was in force, and so there was a degree of religious toleration in France.

Louis XIV was to revoke the edict in and French Protestants were then killed while some , went into exile. In Shaftesbury was imprisoned in the tower. His imprisonment lasted for a year. In , after the mysterious murder of a London judge, informers most notably Titus Oates started coming forward to reveal a supposed Catholic conspiracy to assassinate the King and put his brother on the throne.

This whipped up public anti-Catholic frenzy. Though Shaftesbury had not fabricated the conspiracy story, nor did he prompt Oates to come forward, he did exploit the situation to the advantage of his party. In the public chaos surrounding the sensational revelations, Shaftesbury organized an extensive party network, exercised great control over elections, and built up a large parliamentary majority.


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As the panic over the Popish plot receded, Shaftesbury was left without a following or a cause. Shaftesbury was seized on July 21, and again put in the tower. He was tried on trumped-up charges of treason but acquitted by a London grand jury filled with his supporters in November. At this point some of the Country Party leaders began plotting an armed insurrection which, had it come off, would have begun with the assassination of Charles and his brother on their way back to London from the races at Newmarket.

The chances of such a rising occurring were not as good as the plotters supposed. Memories of the turmoil of the civil war were still relatively fresh. Eventually Shaftesbury, who was moving from safe house to safe house, gave up and fled to Holland in November He died there in January Locke stayed in England until the Rye House Plot named after the house from which the plotters were to fire upon the King and his brother was discovered in June of Locke left for the West country to put his affairs in order the very week the plot was revealed to the government and by September he was in exile in Holland.

He also wrote and published his Epistola de Tolerentia in Latin. The English government was much concerned with this group.

1. Historical Background and Locke’s Life

They tried to get a number of them, including Locke, extradited to England. In the meanwhile, the English intelligence service infiltrated the rebel group in Holland and effectively thwarted their efforts—at least for a while. The revolt was crushed, Monmouth captured and executed Ashcraft Ultimately, however, the rebels were successful. This became known as the Glorious Revolution of It is a watershed in English history. For it marks the point at which the balance of power in the English government passed from the King to the Parliament.

Locke returned to England in on board the royal yacht, accompanying Princess Mary on her voyage to join her husband. It is worth noting that the Two Treatises and the Letter Concerning Toleration were published anonymously.