John Locke Quotes


Essay Concerning Human Understanding [1690]

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.

[Dedicatory Epistle]

The commonwealth of learning is not at this time without master-builders, whose mighty designs, in advancing the sciences, will leave lasting monuments to the admiration of posterity… in an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr Newton…’tis ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge.

[Epistle to the Reader]

General propositions are seldom mentioned in the huts of Indians: much less are they to found in the thoughts of children.
[Book 1, Chapter 2, Section 11.]

Let us suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters, without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from experience.

[Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 2.]

Nature never makes excellent things for mean or no uses.

[Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 15.]

No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.

[Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 19.]

It is one thing to show a man that he is in an error, and another to put him in possession of truth.

[Book 4, Chapter 7, Section 11.]

There are very few lovers of truth, for truth-sake, even among those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a man may know, whether he be so, in earnest, is worth enquiry; and I think, there is this one unerring mark of it, viz. the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proof it is built on will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain, receives not truth in the love of it, loves not truth for truth-sake, but for some other byend.

[Book 4, Chapter 19, Section 1.]

Reason is natural revelation, whereby the eternal Father of light, and fountain of all knowledge communicates to mankind that portion of truth which he has laid within the reach of their natural faculties.

[Book 4, Chapter 19, Section 4.]

Crooked things may be as stiff and unflexible as straight: and men may be as positive in error as in truth.

[Book 4, Chapter 19, Section 11.]

All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it.

[Book 4, Chapter 20, Section 17.]

Second Treatise of Government [1690]

Whatsoever…[person] removes out of the state that nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.

[Chapter 5, Section 27.]

In the beginning all the World was America.

[Chapter 5, Section 49.]

[That] ill deserves the name of confinement which hedges us in only from bogs and precipices. So that, however it may be mistaken, the end of law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.

[Chapter 6, Section 57.]

Man…hath by nature a power…to preserve his property—that is, his life, liberty, and estate—against the injuries and attempts of other men.

[Chapter 7, Section 87.]

Man being…by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.

[Chapter 8, Section 95.]

The only way by which any one divests himself of his natural liberty and puts on the bonds of civil society is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community.

[Chapter 8, Section 95.]

The great and chief end…of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.

[Chapter 9, Section 124.]

This power to act according to discretion for the public good, without the prescription of the law, and sometimes even against it, is that which is called prerogative.

[Chapter 14, Section 160.]

Wherever Law ends, Tyranny begins.

[Chapter 18, Section 202.]

Some Thoughts Concerning Education [1693]

A sound mind in a sound body, is a short but full description of a happy state in this world.

[Section 1.]

The rod, which is the only instrument of government that tutors generally know, or ever think of, is the most unfit of any to be used in education.

[Section 47.]

Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided.

[Section 54.]

He that will have his son have a respect for him and his orders, must himself have a great reverence for his son.

[Section 65.]

Virtue is harder to be got than a knowledge of the world; and, if lost in a young man, is seldom recovered.

[Section 70.]

The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.

[Section 88.]

You would think him a very foolish fellow, that should not value a virtuous, or a wise man, infinitely before a great scholar.

[Section 147.]