Why Was John Locke so Important?

John Locke contributed to the field of philosophy; his philosophical views influenced leaders in the French Enlightenment and American Revolution. Locke was born in Somerset, England, in 1632. He arrived into a wealthy family, and received education at the Westminster School in London and later at Christ Church in the University of Oxford.

Locke began his studies at Oxford in 1652, initially specializing in medicine. He befriended prominent politician Anthony Ashley Cooper, who shared his philosophies on politics with Locke. Inspired by Cooper’s support for religious tolerance, Locke wrote an essay titled “On Toleration” in 1667. His essay asserted that Protestants should have the same civil rights as others in society, even though they disagreed on some aspects of Anglican teachings. Locke’s work caught the attention of England’s rulers. They proposed a position of ambassador for Locke, which he turned down. Instead, Locke accepted a position as member on the Board of Trade and Plantations.

With a career established in politics, Locke invested more time in writing about human life. He developed philosophies on humans and human rights, including the notion all people enjoy the same experiences and feelings. Locke translated views of human equality to politics, asserting that governments essentially derive power from the people.