1: Locke the Most Important Figure in English Philosophy

JOHN LOCKE may be regarded as, on the whole, the most important figure in English philosophy. Others excelled him in genius; he had not the comprehensive grasp of Hobbes, or the speculative originality of Berkeley, or the subtlety of Hume; but he was surpassed by none in candour, sagacity and shrewdness. These qualities recommended him to his countrymen, and the width of his interests reconciled them to his philosophy. He was a physician, always on the outlook for new knowledge, an adviser of statesmen, a sufferer in the cause of freedom and an amateur theologian. His writings on economics, on politics and on religion expressed the best ideas of the time—the ideas that were about to become dominant. He was the philosopher of the revolution settlement; and, when the settlement was made, he came home to publish the books which he had prepared in exile. Even his great work, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, may have seemed only to show the grounds in the human mind for the lessons of honesty, liberty and toleration which he constantly inculcated. It is almost with a shock of surprise that one realises that this same Essay, by its “historical plain method,” gave a new direction to European philosophy, and provided a new basis for the science of psychology.