John Locke was born in 1632 and died in 1704. He was a British philosopher, physician, and political theorist. His ideas about natural law, social contract theory, and political liberalism had a significant impact on the development of modern Liberalism. Locke argued that the human mind is a blank slate or tabula rasa at birth, meaning that we are all born without built-in knowledge. Knowledge comes from experience and sensory perception. This theory contradicted the dominant theory at that time, which stated that all knowledge is inherited. Locke also believed in the separation of powers (checks and balances) between the executive, legislature, and judiciary branches of government.
Locke’s philosophical writings were set forth in two treatises: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), which covered epistemology, or “theory of knowledge,” and An Essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government (1690), which covered ethical theory. These early works established his reputation as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers.
His ideas influenced the American revolutionaries who adopted many of his principles in their Declaration of Independence, which includes the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which is based on Locke’s theory that governments cannot exist without the consent of the governed.