Though you may not have heard of the man himself, odds are that you are at least somewhat familiar with certain John Locke quotes. A 17th century English philosopher, Locke’s work serves as a basis for many  of the most commonly held ideas in modern Western civilization – especially in the United States. In fact, the Founding Fathers looked to some of Locke’s ideas as a template for the principles on which the U.S. would be founded. As evidence of this, here are a few transcendent John Locke quotes held dear by millions even today, three centuries after his death.

“The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.” Admittedly, this quote is a little abstract. This is to be expected of a philosopher. But the idea behind it, that a person should be characterized by his or her own actions, is central to the sort of self-determination that is held in such high regard by individuals in Western culture.

“The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate.” To unravel the true meaning of this John Locke quote, a little analysis is needed. In Locke’s day, “civil magistrate” simply meant a judge, or one associated with law. In this context, one can interpret the “care of souls” to mean religion. Putting it all together, it becomes clear that John Locke was trying to demonstrate the importance of freedom of religion with this sentence. Obviously, this has since become a fundamental idea.

 “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.” Though the above John Locke quote shows that he believed law should have limits, he certainly knew its importance. In hypothetical lawlessness, man is naturally skewed toward uncivilized tendencies. These, in their more developed form, become the “tyranny”, or oppressive power, that Locke speaks of. Thus, laws are absolutely necessary to the creation and preservation of a civilized culture. This is something that most people probably (and hopefully) agree with.

“All mankind…being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. If you’ve eve taken a history course, this timeless John Locke quote should sound very familiar. In fact, it is used almost verbatim in the United States’ Declaration of Independence. This very idea has since become the basis of the “inalienable rights” that American culture was founded upon, which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As you can see, the work and quotes of John Locke are central to this most sacred belief.