Sunday, March 1, 2009

John Locke's link to modern cognitive psychology

John Locke was the most important thinker to live in the Baroque period because he founded the tradition of empirical study. This became the basis of the modern sciences; especially psychology. One of the most important fields of modern psychology is the study of the brain's cognitive processes - called sensation and perception. These two terms describe how people first sense something in their environment, and how that is synthesized further in the mind. The study of sensation and perception has not drastically changed since its birth, with John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). The main point I am trying to make is that John Locke was much more than a philosopher, like Descartes. He was a man who made contributions that were essential to the formation of all modern sciences.
So the main question is then: which type of reasoning is more important, deductive (Descartes, obviously) or inductive reasoning (Locke). It seems pretty obvious that inductive reasoning led to the modern social sciences, but would Locke's inductive reasoning have come about if Descartes wouldn't have asked such profound questions? Descartes was the first to ask such profound, deep questions; he arguably started the Baroque philosophical movement. Locke, meanwhile, lived during the Baroque, but contributed to future progress much more than Descartes did. Therefore Descartes might have technically been the most "Baroque" thinker, but Locke was definitely the most influential on future generations.


  1. I agree absolutely that Locke was a precursor to modern psychological concepts. Locke's separation of perception and sensation is something that has become a main area of study in modern psychology. There are diseases that affect the way one influences the other and there's a good chance Locke was aware of some of these mental disorders before they were actually named. His theories on where knowledge originates, whether it's innate (which he believed that it isn't), and what kind of capacity for knowledge people are born with have also influenced child psychology, especially early child psychology. Early researchers spent much time attempting to discover what kinds of knowledge people are born with and retain during childhood, and some of these findings relate directly to Locke's propositions.

  2. It is interesting that you say that "Locke was the most important thinker to live in the baroque period." Just because Locke a so called tradition of empirical study does not (at least i believe) make him the most important thinker during the baroque era. It is my beliefe that this title should go to someone who contribueted to several areas in life during the baroque period. I am talking of course about Decartes. I believe that because Decartes contributed heavily in not only the discovery of analytic geometry but in the development of deductive reasoning as well.
    I do agree with your statement that Locke was essential during the baroque era, I just do not agree that he was the most important.

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  4. I agree that John Locke was one of the essential contributors to the formation of all modern sciences, but he was not the only one nor the first one. Locke only confirmed Francis Bacon’s thesis in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding that knowledge is derived from sensory experiences seventy years after Bacon’s Novum Organum. In Bacon’s Novum Organum, he strongly defended the empirical method and the new learning. Thus, I believe it is incorrect to say that Locke was the founder of the tradition of empirical study, but more appropriate to say that Locke, like Bacon, firmly defended the 17th century thought of empirical tradition. However, I do not discredit Locke’s contribution in supporting and advancing Bacon’s thesis with his own principles of knowledge.

    Another point I disagree with is the statement that Locke was the most important thinker to live in the Baroque period. Even though Locke’s ideas influenced the formation of basic liberalism and political ideologies in the pursuit of happiness in the 18th century, he was not the only important philosopher of the Baroque period. Other impressive philosophers include Descartes, Spinoza, and Hume. Descartes took philosophy in a new direction and used mathematical equations and reason to help him in thinking. Spinoza denied the reliability of the Bible and used reason and mathematics in philosophy. Lastly, Hume studied human nature by applying the scientific method of observation. Each philosopher contributed very differently to modern sciences, but everyone of them is critical to the Baroque period.