Locke, John

Locke, John (1632-1704) English Philosopher: Locke studied at Oxford, where he became involved in experimental studies in medicine and science. As personal physician and political and scientific advisor to the first Earl of Shaftesbury, he met the leading intellectual figures in London, and was elected to the Royal Society in 1688. After Shaftesbury died, Locke fled to Holland, where he supported William of Orange in his successful bid to become William III of England. After the "Glorious Revolution," he anonymously published his Two Treatises of Government, written in reply to Sir Robert Filmer's theory of the Divine Right and Thomas Hobbe's absolutism. Locke's presented a social contract theory which protects natural rights and justifies constitutional law, individual liberty, and the rule of the majority. He explained that a ruling body which offends the natural law must be deposed, a concept that profoundly affected the writers of the Declaration of Independence, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He became commissioner of appeals in 1689, after which his declining health forced him to retire. In addition to the Two Treatises, Locke's major works include A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) and The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), all of which are characterized by a tolerant and moderate approach.