John Locke 384

Sylvester Brounower-John Locke-c.1693-NPG
Sylvester Brounower
Portrait of John Locke, c. 1693
National Portrait Gallery

John_Locke_Signature
While I can hardly do justice here to the ideas and influence of the great John Locke, born this day in 1632, George Santayana provides a lovely sketch in his essay Locke and the Frontiers of Common Sense:

“And who of you has not known some other spontaneous, inquisitive, unsettled genius, no less preoccupied with the marvellous intelligence of some Brazilian parrot, than with the sad obstinacy of some Bishop of Worcester? Here is eternal freshness of conviction and ardour for reform; great keenness of perception in spots, and in other spots lacunae and impulsive judgements; distrust of tradition, of words, of constructive argument; horror of vested interests and of their smooth defenders; a love of navigating alone and exploring for oneself even the coasts already well charted by others. Here is romanticism united with a scientific conscience and power of destructive analysis balanced by moral enthusiasm. Doubtless Locke might have dug his foundations deeper and integrated his faith better. His system was no metaphysical castle, no theological acropolis: rather a homely ancestral manor house built in several styles of architecture: a Tudor chapel, a Palladian front toward the new geometrical garden, a Jacobean parlour for political consultation and learned disputes, and even — since we are almost in the eighteenth century — a Chinese cabinet full of curios. It was a habitable philosophy, and not too inharmonious. There was no greater incongruity in its parts than in the gentle variations of English weather or in the qualified moods and insights of a civilised mind. Impoverished as we are, morally and humanly, we can no longer live in such a rambling mansion. It has become a national monument. On the days when it is open we revisit it with admiration; and those chambers and garden walks re-echo to us the clear dogmas and savoury diction of the sage — omnivorous, artless, loquacious — whose dwelling it was.”

–Santayana, George. Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 1933

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