Medicine in John Locke's philosophy

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 15 (6):675-695 (1990)
John Locke's philosophy was deeply affected by medicine of his times. It was specially influenced by the medical thought and practice of Thomas Sydenham. Locke was a personal friend of Sydenham, expressed an avid interest in his work and shared his views and methods. The influence of Sydenham's medicine can be seen in the following areas of Locke's philosophy: his “plain historical method”; the emphasis on observation and sensory experience instead of seeking the essence of things; the rejection of hypotheses and principles; the refusal of research into final causes and inner mechanisms; the ideal of irrefutable evidence and skepticism on the possibilities of certainty in science. The science which for Locke held the highest paradigmatic value in his theory of knowledge was precisely medicine. To a great extent, Locke's Essay on Human Understanding can be understood as an attempt to justify, substantiate, and promote Sydenham's medical method. This method, generalized, was then proposed as an instrument for the elaboration of all natural sciences
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/15.6.675
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