I first heard of John Locke from course titled “ER22X:Justice” conducted by Professor Sandel. I next read bit more about John Locke from a course titled “UT.2.01x Ideas of the 20th Century” conducted by Professor Bonevac. From these two learning so far and from reading the excerpts what appears to me is that a philosopher like John Locke is trying to fit in the pieces of philosophies existent in the Universe of Knowledge at that point of time for the most appropriate implementation for that period.
I say so as if we try an test a case of Property Rights, the following emerges from my understanding. If I understood right, as long as a person claims a property which is either earned through self-labour and without the infringement of any others persons possessions; or which is traded through mutual consent of the seller and the buyer; the person should have the right to the property. Now, from our mythology and from many practical experience, we have seen in many cases in India, where people have rightfully taken a piece of property unclaimed by others and/or through purchase of the same through legal trade abiding by all the laws of the soil; and nurtured and developed it through self-labour over years and end. Then, due to fluctuations of time and social needs, the person falls into a situation where mightier people claim the property through unfair means including use of political clout. In my opinion, this is outright unfair and is a condemnable act in which the Society generally fails to stand by the oppressed. However, as per prescribed philosophy of persons like John Locke, such acts would be acceptable as long as there exist legal documentation which can be used in the courts of law providing that the transaction was made through mutual consent of both the parties. So, in essence what John Locke has prescribed in the formulation of the United States of America; and which is used as a basis for law making in other democracies; is not essentially a comprehensive philosophy which can be actually applied in a just way in the modern societies.
Through this example, what I am trying to impress upon is that I think philosophers are really trying to create a formula from the perspective of their time within the realm of the reality as is visible to them. Whether this formulation of the philosopher happens through running through with one idea and/or through making and breaking ideas to arrive at the final picture, is really not important. In fact, I think every philosopher and/or artist goes through both the processes. Every creative person in my opinion gathers knowledge and forms an idea which he/she tries running through to the greatest possible distance. However, in every iteration of evolution of the idea, the creative person changes parts of the formulations as certain things tend to stay fit with the bigger piece and some tend to fall apart. In spite of this iterative process, the successful creative persons never loose sight of the original idea. The admired creators are the once who deliver a tangible output at the completion of one such logical iteration.
From practical experience of being a Computer Programmer, I understand that we also follow the same precise mechanism. We start with a problem in hand. We design an initial solution and then elaborate the same. During each iteration of elaboration, we retains some part of the earlier devised solution and we add more parts to the solution. The goodness of the design is generally how good the initial formulations has been so that core part of the solution does not undergo too many changes. We sell and/or implement the solution when a logical whole is ready. However, we continue elaborating the product during the entire life-cycle of the product till it is deemed suitable to be discontinued and/or to be killed.
What in my opinion is critical that the Society needs having a defined process which can amend such philosophical basis from time to time for the most appropriate implementation needs of the time. There needs continuous evaluation from time to time across the entire society for finding out the applicability of the defined norms through the philosophies of the great people. Whether one likes it or not, the greatest truth from all these confusions and the inadequacies of such great minds over thousands of years of formulation, is that it is not just possible for any human being for formulating something absolutely comprehensive. Any formulation by any Human Being (and/or a collection of Human Beings) can at the best be a time-bound solution, which needs updating and/or replacement after it is no longer applicable to the needs of the time.
I tend to believe that the Almighty has just too many variables to play with. It just exposes a few variables from time to time. So, formulation through taking a set of variables and working through them; dropping some and adding some; is going to stay the business of any creative work in this world. And Philosophers will be no different.