Locke, John (1632–1704)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DA054-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved December 10, 2018, from

11. Influence

Perhaps no modern philosopher has had a wider influence than Locke. His immediate achievement was, with Newton, to bring to an end the dominance within Europe of Cartesian science and philosophy, unseating the broadly Neoplatonic notion that mind and world share a common, divinely imposed structure, in favour of a modest, naturalistic conception of human capacities. Careful observation and systematic description are more valuable than the construction of hypotheses purportedly achieved by super-experiential means. Locke’s own ‘historical’ treatment of the mind as a familiar, describable but deeply mysterious part of nature had considerable influence on European thought. His theory of classification influenced later taxonomy, and his brilliantly original theory of personal identity is still a standard text for philosophical discussion. His philosophy was one of the chief influences on Kant, but can still suggest an alternative to Neo-Kantian conceptualism. If his ethical theory appears to be the last throes of early modern natural law theory rather than a new beginning, within that structure he enunciated a classic justification of responsible, tolerant and broadly democratic political society which has remained a major resource for political theorists ever since.

Citing this article:
Ayers, Michael. Influence. Locke, John (1632–1704), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DA054-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2018 Routledge.

Related Articles