John Locke – Prophet of Political Freedom – II

Lead:  His political philosophy laid the foundation for modern liberal democracy, but in many ways John Locke helped change the way people think. Some have called him the first modern mind.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Not content to simply absorb the classical education he received at 17th century Westminster School and Oxford University, John Locke embarked upon a life of fruitful inquiry into a wide variety of disciplines. He was interested in medicine, experimental science, philosophy, economics, practical politics, education, language, diplomacy, and religion, in a hungry but not Faustian pursuit of knowledge. In most of these fields he was not an expert, but neither was he an amateur floating from one whim to another.

John Locke – Prophet of Political Freedom – I

Lead: Emerging from the political ferment of the English Civil War, John Locke, one of the seminal thinkers of the 17th century, laid the philosophical basis for liberal representative government.


Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.


Content: John Locke was born in 1632 in Pensford, south of Bristol, England. His father, a country attorney, was of puritan inclination and fought in the Civil War on the side of Parliament. This enabled him to send his son to Westminster School where the boy’s superior performance earned him a scholarship at Christ Church College, Oxford. There he also excelled, but found the traditional curriculum tedious and demonstrated early a lifelong eclectic interest in a wide variety of subjects such as empirical science and medicine.

Samuel Johnson and the Enlightenment in England

Lead:  Samuel Johnson lived during the European Enlightenment and therefore believed that ideas should be expressed freely. He once said, “The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.”

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: With roots in the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, Enlightenment thinking advocated the use of reason to challenge existing doctrines and traditions. The result: significant reforms in government, religion, economics, philosophy and education and important advances in humanist principles – freedom, individual rights, liberty and equality. 

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Enlightenment III

Lead: Intellectual movements seize upon innovative communications to spread their ideas. The European Enlightenment used the London coffeehouse, the Parisian salon and a giant set of books. The results were revolutionary.

Content: In the late 20th century American movement conservatives used talk radio to emerge from the political wilderness. Reeling from defeat, their progressive opponents seized upon the Internet to restore their fortunes. The cheerleaders of the Enlightenment, journalists and writers in England and the French philosophes were eager to advance their ideas so as to reform the role of government and religion. Their goal was to secure political liberty, economic freedom and expanded education for the masses. The means they used varied in place and time.


Enlightenment II

Lead: In a supreme irony, the great figures who graced the French Enlightenment were not particularly original thinkers, rather they were the ones who popularized and championed the new and radical ideas of that era.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Philosophe is the French word for philosopher, and the term is used almost exclusively in English to refer to those important figures of the French Enlightenment. Yet, these philosophes, brilliant of intellect and articulate of word, merely passed on in a most elegant and passionate way the ideas created elsewhere. They were the cheerleaders, the intellectual journalists, the summarizers, the popularizers that gave wings and prominence to the themes of liberty, equality, revolutionary science, economic freedom and the primacy of human reason that characterized the movement. The followers of the philosophes were well educated – mostly from the French elite and aristocracy. Their new ideas were considered chic and exciting.


Enlightenment I

Lead: The philosophical underpinning - independence, individual rights, liberty, equality, and economic freedom - of both the French and American Revolutions emerged from the European Enlightenment.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: At the heart of the Enlightenment was the absolute confidence in human reason and the conviction that men and women had the capacity to master their environment. As a result, out of this period, there emerged significant reforms in government, religion and education rooted in the human desire to change the world.