Locke’s Travels In France 1675-1679

John Locke’s travels in France in 1675-1679 were a journey of varied social and political experiences for him and offered a taste of a different culture and ideology. The travels had a significant impact on the Enlightenment philosopher, whose ideas were heavily influenced by the works of Descartes and Bacon that he encountered in France. Although Locke’s travels enhanced his understanding of a different cultural and political perspective and enabled him to develop his ideas independently from the Church of England, his travels in France were not without problems and had a few negative implications.

Locke’s travels to France began when he accepted the invitation of the Earl of Shaftesbury to act as his secretary and accompany him on a diplomatic mission. Though French society was experiencing a period of scientific and cultural advancement, its political system was in absolute ruin with its ruthless Church-State suppression of dissenters. It was in this environment that Locke first encountered French thought and philosophy. He was immediately taken by the works of Descartes, with his embrace of the scientific method, and Bacon, whose inductive analysis and rejection of superstitious scholasticism appealed to Locke’s own views of the world. These experiences greatly influenced the new direction of Locke’s thought and helped him to form his own version of liberalism.

Despite the enriching experiences that Locke gained during his travels, the situation in France at the time was far from ideal for him. His English nationality made him an obvious target for harassment from the French Church and he often felt he was under threat. Furthermore, when the Earl of Shaftesbury eventually fell from power in 1679, Locke’s position suddenly became highly precarious. Having sided so strongly against the Church, he was very aware of the dangers that he faced and fled the country with little notice. Little did he know that he would never return.

An Opportunity for New Perspectives

Nevertheless, Locke’s travels did provide him with a unique opportunity to experience a different culture and make his own independent stances on a number of issues. Despite the political turmoil, Locke was deeply fascinated by the French culture and people. He often remarked on how the French language and customs differed from that of the English. His open mindedness allowed him to embrace the works of a number of different thinkers and form his own independent views on the role of government and the importance of the individual.

The Lasting Impact

It is clear that Locke’s travels had a significant impact on the philosopher. His encounters with French masters of the scientific age and the experience of French society influenced his thought to such an extent that his political ideas of human rights, democracy and civil liberties went on to form the basis of modern liberalism. Locke is considered one of the founding fathers of the Enlightenment, and his travels in France clearly played a major role in shaping his seminal works.

John Locke’s travels in France enabled him to form his own perspective on a range of social, political and religious issues. Although his travels were not without problems and had some unfortunate consequences, overall they provided him with unprecedented opportunities to develop his thought away from the Church of England and the constraints of the English culture at the time. His travels ultimately gave him a platform from which to articulate his liberalism and promote individual freedom – a legacy that still impacts us today.

Karen Shane

Karen T. Shane is an accomplished writer and traveler with a special passion for France. She has lived in France for many years and has explored the country extensively. Karen is passionate about sharing the cultural richness of France with her readers and helping them to gain a deeper understanding of the country and its people.

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