John Locke: The 17th Century Philosopher who Shaped American Thought

In her book America’s Philosopher: John Locke in American Intellectual Life, Claire Rydell Arcenas seeks to better understand and illuminate the crucial 17th century philosopher by showing how he influenced Americans at different historical moments. Widely known as the founding father of modern “liberal” thought, Locke pioneered the ideas of natural law, social contract, religious toleration, and the right to revolution that proved essential to both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution that followed.

“The story of Locke in America,” Rydell Arcenas writes, “is not, then, one of continuity or absence but rather one of striking transformation.” Locke impacted every part of American intellectual life, but that impact changed — and is still changing — over time. 

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Claire Rydell Arcenas

  • Recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation
  • Associate Professor of History at the University of Montana