130 John Locke Quotes

These John Locke quotes will help unlock your mind’s potential and push you to experience life for what it is. With 130 of his most popular quotes, you’re sure to find a piece of motivation that fits with what you need.

Unlike rationalists like Plato and Thomas Aquinas who believed that we are born with ideas and knowledge innate in us, John Locke argues that a person’s mind is a blank slate which can only be filled with knowledge through our own experiences.

Learn more about his theories and philosophy through our collection below.

Best John Locke Quotes

1.“Revolt is the right of the people.”

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

3. “The great question which, in all ages, has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of their mischiefs, has been, not whether there is power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it.”

4. “Education begins the gentleman; but reading, good company, and reflection must finish him.”

5. “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

6. “Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves poison the fountain.”

7. “The only defense against the world is a thorough knowledge of it.”

8. “I have always thought the actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.”

9. “To prejudge other men’s notions before we have looked into them is not to show their darkness, but to put out our own eyes.”

10. “Men being, as has been said, 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.”

11. “All wealth is the product of labor.”

12. “We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character from those who are around us.”

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

14. “To love truth for truth’s sake is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed plot of all other virtues.”

15. “So that, in effect, religion, which should most distinguish us from beasts, and ought most peculiarly to elevate us, as rational creatures above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves.”

16. “Our business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our conduct.”

17. “The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. It is all pure, all sincere—nothing too much, nothing wanting!”

18. “The necessity of believing without knowledge, nay often upon very slight grounds, in this fleeting state of action and blindness we are in, should make us more busy and careful to inform ourselves than constrain others.”

19. “There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men.”

20. “The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly these three: combining several simple ideas into one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence. This is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.”

John Locke Quotes on the Law of Nature and Scriptures

21. “To avoid this state of war is one great reason of men putting themselves into society, and quitting the state of nature—for where there is an authority, a power on earth, from which relief can be had by appeal, there the continuance of the state of war is excluded, and the controversy is decided by that power.”

22. “For though the law of nature be plain and intelligible to all rational creatures; yet men, being biased by their interest, as well as ignorant for want of study of it, are not apt to allow it as a law binding to them in the application of it to their particular cases.”

23. “Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature.”

24. “Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever.”

25. “Such is the nature of the understanding—that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments—nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgement that they have framed of things.”

26. “God hath woven into the principles of human nature such a tenderness for their off-spring, that there is little fear that parents should use their power with too much rigour.”

27. “We are not at all to wonder that we having but some few superficial ideas of things, discovered to us only by the senses from without, or by the mind, reflecting on what it experiments in itself within, have no knowledge beyond that, much less of the internal constitution, and true nature of things, being destitute of faculties to attain it.”

28. “If the mind is not engaged by argument to make this step, it must be induced by some other principle of equal weight and authority; and that principle will preserve its influence as long as human nature remains the same. What that principle is may well be worth the pains of inquiry.”

29. “No man in civil society can be exempted from the laws of it, for if any man may do what he thinks fit, and there be no appeal on earth, for redress or security against any harm he shall do; I ask, whether he be not perfectly still in the state of nature, and so can be no part or member of that civil society; unless any one will say, the state of nature and civil society are one and the same thing, which I have never yet found any one so great a patron of anarchy as to affirm.”

30. “Whosoever will list himself under the banner of Christ must, in the first place and above all things, make war upon his own lusts and vices.”

31. “It is in vain for any man to usurp the name of Christian without holiness of life, purity of manners, benignity and meekness of spirit.”

32. “Thus Turks and Christians are of different religions, because these take the Holy Scriptures to be the rule of their religion and those of the Alcoran. And for the same reason, there may be different religions also even amongst Christians.”

33. “For if it be out of a principle of charity, as they pretend, and love to men’s souls that they deprive them of their estates, maim them with corporal punishments, starve and torment them in noisome prisons, and in the end even take away their lives—I say, if all this be done merely to make men Christians and procure their salvation, why then do they suffer whoredom, fraud, malice, and such—like enormities, which manifestly relish of heathenish corruption, to predominate so much and abound amongst their flocks and people?”

34. “Why, then, does this burning zeal for God, for the Church, and for the salvation of souls—burning I say, literally, with fire and faggot—pass by those moral vices and wickednesses, without any chastisement, which are acknowledged by all men to be diametrically opposite to the profession of Christianity, and bend all its nerves either to the introducing of ceremonies, or to the establishment of opinions, which for the most part are about nice and intricate matters, that exceed the capacity of ordinary understandings?”

35. “The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light.”

36. “And so made Jesus Christ nothing but the restorer and preacher of pure natural religion; thereby doing violence to the whole tenure of the New Testament.”

37. “But if Adam and Eve, instead of their ordinary night’s sleep, had passed the whole twenty-four hours in one continued sleep, the duration of that twenty-four hours had been irrecoverably lost to them, and been forever left out of their account of time.”

38. “To one that, thus unbiased, reads the scriptures, what Adam fell from was the state of perfect obedience, which is called justice in the New Testament. Though the word, which in origin signifies justice, be translated righteousness, and by this fall he lost paradise, wherein was tranquillity and the tree of life— he lost bliss and immortality.”

39. “But, by the law of faith, faith is allowed to supply the defect of full obedience; and so, the believers are admitted to life and immortality, as if they were righteous.”

40. “This shows that the state of paradise was a state of immortality—of life without end; which he lost that very day that he ate. His life began from thence to shorten, and waste, and to have an end; and from thence to his actual death, was but like the time of a prisoner, between the sentence passed, and the execution, which was in view and certain.”

41. “The law of faith then, in short, is for everyone to believe what God requires him to believe, as a condition of the covenant he makes with him and not to doubt the performance of his promises.”

42. “God Himself will not save men against their wills.”

43. “Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues.”

44. “There are a thousand ways to wealth, but only one way to heaven.”

45. “Whether the magistrate joins himself to any church, or separate from it, the church remains always as it was before—a free and voluntary society.”

46. “He that will not set himself proudly at the top of all things, but will consider the immensity of this fabric, and the great variety that is to be found in this little and inconsiderable part of it which he has to do with, may be apt to think that, in other mansions of it, there may be other and different intelligent beings, of whose faculties he has as little knowledge or apprehension as a worm shut up in one drawer of a cabinet hath of the senses or understanding of a man; such variety and excellency being suitable to the wisdom and power of the Maker.”

47. “Though if infidels were to be converted by force, if those that are either blind or obstinate were to be drawn off from their errors by armed soldiers, we know very well that it was much more easy for Him to do it with armies of heavenly legions than for any son of the Church, how potent so ever, with all his dragoons.”

48. “When we find out an idea, by whose intervention we discover the connection of two others, this is a revelation from God to us, by the voice of reason.”

49. “God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it to them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniences of life, they were capable of drawing from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational, not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious.”

50. “Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist.”

51. “The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration.”

52. “The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force; but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.”

53. “I found the two extremes that men run into on this point—either on the one hand shook the foundations of all religion, or on the other, made Christianity almost nothing.”

John Locke Quotes on Government, Property, and Power

54. “Laws provide, as much as is possible, that the goods and health of subjects be not injured by the fraud and violence of others; they do not guard them from the negligence or ill-husbandry of the possessors themselves.”

55. “The power of the legislative, being derived from the people by a positive voluntary grant and institution, can be no other than what that positive grant conveyed—which being only to make laws, and not to make legislators. The legislative can have no power to transfer their authority of making laws, and place it in other hands.”

56. “For liberty is, to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be, where there is no law. But freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists.”

57. “The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.”

58. “The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands; for it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others.”

59. “Since charity obliges us to wish well to the souls of all men, and religion ought to alter nothing in any man’s civil estate or right, it shall be lawful for slaves, as well as others, to enter themselves, and be of what church or profession any of them shall think best, and therefore, be as fully members as any freeman.”

60. “Moral laws are set as a curb and restraint to these exorbitant desires, which they cannot be but by rewards and punishments, that will over-balance the satisfaction any one shall propose to himself in the breach of the law.”

61. “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”

62. “It seems a strange way of understanding a law, which requires the plainest and most direct words, that by death should be meant eternal life in misery.”

63. “Where there is no property, there is no injury.”

64. “And therefore, the punishment of those who would not follow him, was to lose their souls, their lives.”

65. “Chains are but an ill wearing, how much care so ever has been taken to file and polish them.”

66. “Wherever, therefore, any number of men so unite into one society, as to quit everyone with his executive power of the law of Nature, and to resign it to the public, there, and there only, is a political or civil society. Hence it is evident that absolute monarchy, which by some men is counted the only government in the world, is indeed inconsistent with civil society, and so can be no form of civil government at all.”

67. “No peace and security among mankind—let alone common friendship—can ever exist as long as people think that governments get their authority from God and that religion is to be propagated by force of arms.”

68. “For the civil government can give no new right to the church, nor the church to the civil government.”

69. “Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society.”

70. “This is the fundamental and immutable right of a spontaneous society—that it has power to remove any of its members who transgress the rules of its institution; but it cannot, by the accession of any new members, acquire any right of jurisdiction over those that are not joined with it.”

71. “For it will be very difficult to persuade men of sense that he who with dry eyes and satisfaction of mind can deliver his brother to the executioner to be burnt alive, does sincerely and heartily concern himself to save that brother from the flames of hell in the world to come.”

72. “It is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish which lies in the way to knowledge.”

73. “Now, I appeal to the consciences of those who persecute, wound, torture, and kill other men on the excuse of ‘religion’, whether they do this in a spirit of friendship and kindness.”

74. “Who are we to tell anyone what they can or can’t do?”

75. “Every man carries about him a touchstone, if he will make use of it, to distinguish substantial gold from superficial glitterings, truth from appearances. And indeed the use and benefit of this touchstone, which is natural reason, is spoiled and lost only by assumed prejudices, overweening presumption, and narrowing our minds.”

76. “Slavery is so vile and miserable an estate of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation.”

77. “Man’s power, and its way of operation, is much the same in the material and intellectual world. For the materials in both beings, such as he has no power over either to make or destroy, all that man can do, is either to unite them together, or to set them by one another, or wholly separate them.”

78. “It is of great use to the sailor to know the length of his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the depths of the ocean.”

79. “Methinks Sir Robert should have carried his monarchical power one step higher and satisfied the world.”

80. “Liberty is not an idea belonging to volition, or preferring; but to the person having the power of doing, or forbearing to do, according as the mind shall chuse or direct.”

81. “Beasts abstract not.”

82. “And when a countryman says the cold freezes water, though the word freezing seems to import some action, yet truly it signifies nothing, but the effect, videlicet that water, that was before fluid, is become hard and consistent, without containing any idea of the action whereby it is done.”

83. “One or two particulars may suggest hints of enquiry, and they do well who take those hints; but if they turn them into conclusions, and make them presently general rules, they are forward indeed, but it is only to impose on themselves by propositions assumed for truths without sufficient warrant.”

84. “‘How vain,’ I say, ‘It is to expect demonstration and certainty in things not capable of it; and refuse assent to very rational propositions, and act contrary to very plain and clear truths, because they cannot be made out so evident as to surmount every the least pretense of doubting.’”

85. “We are all short sighted, and very often see but one side of a matter; our views are not extended to all that has a connection with it. From this defect I think no man is free.”

86. “We see but in part, and we know but in part, and therefore it is no wonder we conclude not right from our partial views.”

87. “In many cases, it is not one series of consequences will serve the turn, but many different and opposite deductions must be examined and laid together, before a man can come to make a right judgment of the point in question.”

John Locke Quotes on Humanity, Education and Literature

88. “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.”

89. “The business of education, in respect of knowledge, is not, as I think, to perfect a learner in all or any one of the sciences; but to give his mind that disposition and those habits that may enable him to attain any part of knowledge he shall stand in need of in the future course of his life.”

90. “A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this world. He that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be a little better for anything else.”

91. “Reverie is when ideas float in our mind without reflection or regard of the understanding.”

92. “The faculties of our souls are improved and made useful to us just after the same manner as our bodies are.”

93. “If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.”

94. “Thus the ideas, as well as children of our youth, often die before us, and our minds represent to us those tombs to which we are approaching; where, though the brass and marble remain, yet the inscriptions are effaced by time, and the imagery moulders away.”

95. “One unerring mark of the love of truth is not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant.”

96. “Few men think, yet all will have opinions. Hence men’s opinions are superficial and confused.”

97. “I pretend not to teach, but to inquire; and therefore cannot but confess here again, that external and internal sensation are the only passages I can find of knowledge to the understanding.”

98. “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.”

99. “What worries you, masters you.”

100. “Personal identity depends on consciousness, not on substance.”

101. “No man can be forced to be rich or healthful, whether he will or not.”

102. “The most precious of all possessions is power over ourselves.”

103. “Man is not permitted without censure to follow his own thoughts in the search of truth, when they lead him ever so little out of the common road.”

104. “It is therefore worthwhile to search out the bounds between opinion and knowledge; and examine by what measures, in things, whereof we have no certain knowledge—we ought to regulate our assent, and moderate our persuasions.”

105. “The understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see and perceive all other things, takes no notice of itself; and it requires art and pains to set it at a distance and make it its own object.”

106. “The business of man is to be happy.”

107. “Earthly minds, like mud-walls, resist the strongest batteries. And though perhaps sometimes the force of a clear argument may make some impression, yet they nevertheless stand firm, and keep out the enemy truth, that would captivate or disturb them.”

108. “Tell a man passionately in love that he is jilted; bring a score of witnesses of the falsehood of his mistress, it is ten to one, but three kind words of hers shall invalidate all their testimonies.”

109. “Those who have read of everything are thought to understand everything too; but it is not always so.”

110. “We are of the ruminating kind, and it is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of collections; unless we chew them over again, they will not give us strength and nourishment.”

111. “There are some men of one, some but of two syllogisms, and no more; and others that can but advance one step farther.”

112. “Books seem to me to be pestilent things, and infect all that trade in them with something very perverse and brutal.”

113. “There are indeed in some writers with visible instances of deep thoughts, close and acute reasoning, and ideas well pursued.”

114. “Truths are not the better nor the worse for their obviousness or difficulty, but their value is to be measured by their usefulness and tendency.”

115. “In short, herein seems to lie the difference between idiots and madmen—that madmen put wrong ideas together, and so make wrong propositions, but argue and reason right from them; but idiots make very few or no propositions, and reason scarce at all.”

116. “For all that is to be found in books is not built upon true foundations, nor always rightly deduced from the principles it is pretended to be built on.”

117. “We are born to be, if we please, rational creatures, but it is use and exercise only that makes us so, and we are indeed so no farther than industry and application has carried us.”

118. “It is only practice that improves our minds as well as bodies, and we must expect nothing from our understanding any farther than they are perfected by habits.”

119. “The most perfect character is supposed to lie between those extremes—retaining an equal ability and taste for books, company, and business; preserving in conversation that discernment and delicacy which arise from polite letters; and in business, that probity and accuracy which are the natural result of a just philosophy.”

120. “Virtue is harder to get than knowledge of the world; and, if lost in a young man, is seldom recovered.”

121. “Nor need we fear that this philosophy, while it endeavors to limit our inquiries to common life, should ever undermine the reasonings of common life, and carry its doubts so far as to destroy all action, as well as speculation.”

122. “Everyone is orthodox to himself.”

123. “The memory may be stored, but the judgment is a little better, and the stock of knowledge not increased, by being able to repeat what others have said or produce the arguments we have found in them.”

124. “Without such a revelation, the believing or not believing, that proposition or book to be of divine authority, can never be matter of faith, but matter of reason.”

125. “Affectation is an awkward and forced imitation of what should be genuine and easy—wanting the beauty that accompanies what is natural.”

126. “Let not men think there is no truth but in the sciences that they study, or the books that they read.”

127. “It is hard to know what other way men can come at truth, to lay hold of it, if they do not dig and search for it as for gold and hidden treasure; but he that does so must have much earth and rubbish before he gets the pure metal—sand, and pebbles, and dross usually lie blended with it, but the gold is nevertheless gold, and will enrich the man that employs his pains to seek and separate it.”

128. “There are other simple ideas which convey themselves into the mind by all the ways of sensation and reflection—pleasure or delight, and its opposite, pain or uneasiness—power; existence; unity.”

129. “There is no room for equivocations, there is no need for distinctions.”

130. “But in truth, the ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them, and to these they all universally pay a ready submission.”

Which of these John Locke Quotes Made You Aware of Your Own Consciousness and the Truth of Your Being?

As one of the most influential philosophers in history, John Locke’s ideologies have greatly impacted the world since the Age of Enlightenment. He strongly believed in man’s three natural rights—life, liberty, and property, and that everything we know stems from gained experiences and personal anecdotes. For him, one’s knowledge and identity can be acquired only through our senses.

What do you think of John Locke’s theories? Are you inclined to look back into your previous experiences and see what lessons you’ve learned from them? Share your thoughts via the comments section below!

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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