John LockeOkay, “The Enlightenment” is an elastic term claimed by several historical epochs, and if the world hasn’t caught up to your particular philosophy yet, perhaps you won’t join us in celebrating


It was August 29, 1632 when Mr. Enlightenment himself, John Locke, was born in High Laver, Essex, England.

The son of Puritans and a trained physician, Locke attended Christ Church College at Oxford, but was unhappy with the curriculum, preferring the works of modern philosophers like René Des Cartes and Francis Bacon.

Locke pursued every opportunity to work with the best minds of his generation, and produced the seminal work, “Two Treatises of Government,” which posited the outrageous idea that people should have a say in who governs them, refuting the prevalent notion of absolute monarchy. He was also an early advocate of another notion that was taboo in his day, the separation of church and state.

So dangerous were his ideas in the 17th Century that Locke published his works anonymously, yet they still managed to reach the fertile and restless minds of scholars and social activists in Europe and its far-flung overseas colonies. Eventually Locke was influencing liberal thought for the likes of Voltaire, Rousseau, Paine and America’s Founding Fathers.

John Locke’s influence can be traced directly to July 4, 1776, when a bunch of liberal radicals decided they could govern themselves better than a king, a century after Locke brought up the possibility.

Locke’s book, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” is considered the first awakenings of the Western concept of self. Perhaps his most important legacy was teaching people to question the status quo and think for themselves, and that can be an enlightening experience indeed.

Suggested Activities: Considering the possibilities.

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