Western Culture Global Presents

The Top 100 Heroes of Western Culture
These individuals have most contributed to replacing ignorance with knowledge, savagery with civilization, disease with health, tyranny with liberty, poverty with abundance, and despair with happiness.

#5: John Locke (1632-1704)

John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher and arguably history's most influential advocate of liberty.

In his work The Second Treatise of Government, Locke explains how individuals have certain natural rights -- to life, liberty, health and property. And he explains how government is instituted by the consent of those governed for the purpose of protecting these rights. The power of government, according to Locke, must be limited to this function for the government to be legitimate.

And Locke holds that a government that fails to protect rights or uses its power to violate rights may be justifiably overthrown by the citizens and replaced by a new, legitimate government.

These radical ideas of Locke strongly influenced America’s Founding Fathers and are particularly evident in the Declaration of Independence.

In addition, Locke's ideas are at least implicitly at the root of most political and economic freedom that exists in the world today -- freedom without which proper human survival is not possible. The protection of individual rights (along with science) made possible the Industrial Revolution along with the unprecedented wealth and health it has bestowed on much of the world's population. By contrast, those parts of the world that do not value and protect individual rights wallow in primitivism, poverty and premature death.

Locke's other important contribution was arguing that the human mind is tabula rasa or a "blank sheet" at birth; he held that all the ideas a person holds ultimately come from sensory experience. This view helped to undermine the deeply flawed Platonic, Cartesian and Christian view that a person is born with innate, fixed ideas, or in the Christian case, with original sin.

Go to #6: Newton

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