John Locke and his Works

His abiding interest in medicine led to his striking an acquaintance with the politician, Anthony Ashley Cooper, known to history as the Earl of Shaftesbury. This was the turning point in Locke’s life, as from then on his destiny was irrevocably linked with Shaftesbury’s. Locke gave up his scientific inclinations and took a keen interest in the affairs of the state. The year 1675, found him in France as a consequence of the liberal Shaftesbury having incurred the wrath of the royals. When Locke returned in 1679, he found a nation rife with political upheaval and a monarchy hostile towards Protestants and removed himself to Holland. Following the revolution of 1688, he returned to England, where he stayed till his death.
Throughout his life, Locke wrote on a wide variety of subjects. His Treatises of Government and Essay Concerning Human Understanding are famed in the annals of political thought and philosophy as invaluable contributions. That aside, he distinguished himself with well-written pieces in the fields of economics, science, theology, and education. According to Haworth, "It would be no exaggeration to describe him as the political philosopher who laid the moral foundations of the modern world view" (100).
Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding was his first and only foray into the realms of epistemology, the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge. Divided into four books, his essay is a detailed theory of knowledge and aims to " discover what kind of things God has fitted us to know, and so how we should direct and use our intellect and understanding" (Woolhouse 78). At the onset, he emphasizes the importance of experience in the pursuit of knowledge and dismisses the notion that ideas are innate. According to Locke, the mind is a blank slate on which ideas are inscribed by the hand of experience. He states that the experience of the senses is the tool used in gleaning knowledge and rationale must be used before a thorough understanding of raw information is possible.