Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Locke is the Key Part 1: On Empiricism

By Iron Tiger

As I continue my Re-reading of the philosophers, I grew up admiring, I have long wanted to get into the works of Enlightenment Thinker, John Locke. An English philosopher considered by many to be the founder of the Classical Liberalism that built the foundations upon which the Founding Fathers built the Declaration of Independence, with its call for the natural rights of life liberty, and pursuit of happiness (property), as well as the Constitution. He would have a profound impact on Thomas Jefferson’s original Republican Party, the one that would split into the Northern Nationalist Republican Party, and the Southern Democratic-Republicans (and later Just Democrats), as well as the philosophical core that would help Re-establish the second Republican Party, with Lincoln. Locke’s philosophy is at the heart of the modern Conservative movement, ironically named since the modern Conservative movement exists to conserve the values of Classical Liberalism Locke extolled. But there is a great deal more we can learn from Locke, and a great deal of insight, I believe, he can offer for our present situation.

If you will allow me to digress a bit. I remember well, Ronald Reagan. To this day he remains my favorite President of my lifetime. The speech I remember best was when he warned us about how liberty may yet fade if we’re not careful.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

President Ronald Reagan

The warning haunts me now, as we see our own children rail against free speech, romanticize deadly ideology like Communism, and act like Jack booted National Socialists, burning cities down, while calling those of us who love liberty Nazis. How could this have happened?

In this speech, Reagan was channeling John Locke’s philosophy of Empiricism. Locke believed that a human being is born into this world a blank slate and that everything they believe is based on what they are taught, rather than what they are born with. A simple way to summarize it comes from one of my favorite teachers, Dr Glenn Kimber of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Restoration who would say,

If you were taught what they were taught, you’d believe what they believe, and so do what they do.”

Dr. Glenn Kimber, Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Restoration

This is also an echo of John Locke’s belief that nothing is innate. Not even yearning for freedom.

Locke was a firm believer in Tabula Rasa, that children come into this world a completely blank slate, and so everyone has the potential to become anything based on what they are taught, what they experience, and what they gain through sensory exploration. That is to say that the human being is shaped less by nature, and far more by nurture. He said,

I think I may say, that of all the men we meet with, nine parts of ten are what they are, good or evil, useful or not, by their education.”

John Locke

Therefore, good education centered on passing down the values and morals we know are crucial for society to work is imperative. He also said,

. . . the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have important and lasting consequences.”

John Locke

In other words, what we learn in our youth generally shapes what we believe and become in our adulthood.

Is it then any wonder our kids are so different from us? Or how we are different from our parents? My parents insisted we go to church but did little beyond encouraging us to learn for ourselves. The result is that two of us retained our faith and remained relatively consistent with what we saw demonstrated by our parents, while two of us became what college made them. I loved my mother, and so I learned from her a passion for spirituality. I love my father and so I learned from him a passion for the revolutionary war that led me to study the founding generation and those who inspired them. However, at no point in time did my parents sit us down, and teach us these things personally, other than by insisting on church attendance. You might say I learned these things by observation, a sensory experience if you will. My younger brother and youngest sister, however, as mean as this may sound, put their stock in the public education system and later college. As kids, they did not enjoy the sort of reading and research I did. And so, they too became products of their own sensory experiences. Such deviations in minds from the same blood are only possible if we are indeed born without innate knowledge or values. This is how we in the West have become very different people even within the same country.

If we are not born with innate values, and learn more through education and experience, then even the very experience of living in a city may produce a very different kind of person than someone experiencing rural life. For instance, in a high crime environment, where seemingly random acts of violence are committed with regularity with a firearm, one may be less inclined to defend the second amendment. However, in a rural community, where firearms are necessary to protect livestock from predators one would be more adamant in their defense of this most precious right. Similarly, one who grew up in the rough and tumble of a rather cruel world, being mocked and ridiculed constantly would have a thicker skin, and a greater appreciation for the 1st Amendment, and the ability to respond in kind it affords them. However, a child who has been shielded from criticism their whole life may find what critiques they encounter as adults intolerable, and so they demand that their critics be censured and censored. Moreover, those who receive praise for such demands are then more likely to voraciously seek out further opportunities to condemn their critics, so they may receive further praise, thus becoming victims in their own minds, because that is how they were taught to be.

Locke cautioned against learning useless topics, such as Latin, Greek, or poetry, as he felt these had no practical use in the real world and believed education should be focused instead on practical things, science, mathematics, business, etc. He would find today’s education appalling. Rather than focusing our children’s minds on things that would help them to be successful in the adult world, we now center them on activism. Our children are panicked over global warming, a phenomenon whose danger is constantly overstated by those seeking absolute power. They are taught to obsess over racial and cultural differences that really don’t matter, and more disturbing, they are taught to obsess over sex and sexuality when they are far too young to understand such concepts. And so, it is they enter the adult world with not one iota of how to be productive, but full knowledge of where the bricks are that they can throw at police officers in the next, “Firey, but mostly peaceful protest.”

I believe we can all sense that something has gone horribly wrong. What I don’t know that we’re ready to confess is the cause. But the deeper into Locke’s philosophy, the more convinced I am that the world is burning down around us because we, as parents, didn’t sit our kids down and teach them ourselves the value of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Taking your kids to Church and relying on the State to teach them these things has clearly not borne the fruit we had hoped for. Achieving a social hegemony built around liberty cannot be achieved without parental participation in the education process. The children are instead behaving in the way they have been instructed to by those who have taken it upon themselves to provide instruction. So, our kids don’t understand things like the sanctity of life, the importance of liberty, and the value of private property. Instead of our kids being taught the values needed to uphold and strengthen our Constitutional Republic, our education system engages in the seditious act of teaching kids to tear it and burn it all down. A society cannot long survive an education system dedicated to its demise.

So, what do we do? My takeaway from John Locke is that parents have an active role to play in ensuring their children have happy childhoods, and healthy education that can give them the skills they need upon which they may build a successful future. That means many of us need to run for the school boards, not for Congress. That means we need to stop looking for heroes to fix this for us and take a much more active role in shaping our children’s minds. That means we must not rely on Church and State alone to educate our kids, but also sit them down and teach them important lessons, values, and philosophies. Philosophies such as the empiricism of John Locke.


Leave a Reply

New Topic Each Month.
Become the expert and learn things you’ve been missing.
Liberty and Your Countrymen Need You!

Join Our Email List

Get news alerts and updates in your inbox!

Get Involved

Iron County News is a grassroots volunteer newspaper. It subsists on the monetary and working donations of private citizens and journalists who feel that real news needs to come to the forefront of mainstream news practices.

If you’re interested in writing for the Iron County News, or contributing in other ways, please contact us.

Subscribe to Our Email List

Get Iron County News alerts and updates in your inbox!