John Locke #choosepsychiatry


John Locke (1632-1704)

John Locke is noted as an extremely influential libertarian philosopher. Sir William Osler noting his identity as a medical professional wrote ‘No member of our profession of any age or any country has made so many important contributions to philosophy and practical politics as Dr Locke’.

Locke attained his medical degree in Oxford in 1675 before going on to work as a physician. There is evidence that he treated many patients. In one particular case, that of his cousin’s son, a question has been raised about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as well as Depression (later in life) and the effects that illness may have had on his education. Whilst Reil first used the term ‘Psychiatry’ in the nineteenth century, Psychiatry practice was evident prior to this.

Indeed Locke’s influenced Psychiatric practice in the 18th Century with his theoretical constructs particularly with his contributions to the British School of Associationism which was to be influential in the later development of the theory of classical conditioning. Locke’s classic text ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ conceptualises the human mind beginning as a ‘blank slate’ or ‘tabula rasa’. Locke reasons that information is accumulated through sensory input and this in turn was to form the basis for empiricism.

Locke also established libertarian principles of tolerance in his work ‘A Letter Concerning Toleration’. Locke developed his ideas on education in ‘Some Thoughts Concerning Education’. Locke’s works have had a profound impact and have even been considered to have been instrumental in the formulation of the ‘American Declaration of Independence’.

John Locke died in Essex in 1704.

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