John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the “Father of Liberalism”. He is often cited as the first to define the self through a continuity of consciousness.
Locke’s philosophy greatly affected the development of empiricism and its influence on the Age of Enlightenment, although his work had a greater impact in the United States than in Britain. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as Thomas Jefferson. The latter famously cut out passages from Locke’s Two Treatises on Government when drafting the Declaration of Independence.
Philosopher’s ideas about natural rights have been cited as a major inspiration for the American Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Locke’s philosophy is often called liberal rationalism because it featured a commitment to methodical skepticism and a defense of science against superstition and tradition.
His ideas were adopted by Voltaire and Rousseau during their respective visits to England in 1726 and 1728, respectively. Locke’s philosophical moves were followed by many other writers in France and elsewhere during this period, who developed them in their own writing. However, these ideas were not easily received by continental philosophers who followed Descartes’ model. Nor did they find favor with those who wrote after Hume, who developed a very different conception of personal identity that was based on his theory of causation rather than on some notion of continuity or substance.