PRACTICAL MAN OF THE WORLD
EMPIRICISM AND SCIENTIFIC METHOD
Much of Locke's theory of knowledge was developed in response to the rationalism of Descartes. John Stuart Mill dubbed him "the unquestioned founder of the analytic philosophy of mind". His thinking is in keeping with a strong empirical and materialist tradition which had dominated British thought. As early as 1605, Bacon had sought to outline "a true path from sense to intellect" and to restore "man's power over the universe" through scientific method. Hobbes had even sought to apply the scientific principle that everything is simply matter in motion to human activity. The British empirical tradition has had a strong influence on the development of the "scientific method", with its emphasis on observation and collection of data. It is possible to criticise the modern scientific method for understating the intuitive and inspirational nature of some hypotheses. Einstein's Theory of Relativity, owes more to rationalism than to the "scientific method".
It seems somewhat ironic that someone as conservative in his views should have such an impact on revolutionary constitutions. One has only to read the wording of the American Declaration of Independence to know the source of much of the text drafted by men like Thomas Jefferson. In France, the founders of the revolutionary government were perhaps influenced more directly by Rousseau, but even his consideration of political philosophy and the idea of a "social contract" was inspired by Hobbes and Locke. The debate initiated by the British empiricists about when a sovereign could be legitimately displaced took on new meanings in the absence of a parliamentary history and in the hands of those who would put theory into practice.