Herbert Spencer Essay

Herbert Spencer Essay
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  • University/College:
    University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Words: 900

  • Pages: 4

Herbert Spencer

He was a biologist first before he became a philosopher. Spencer was born on 1820 of April 27. He never had a formal education, instead he was being taught home by his parents. He was taught of math, social sciences and science and he was also taught of a variety of speaking languages which made him very intelligent and proficient. He was a typical, ordinary boy who loves to play around but unfortunately he easily gets sick and even he was an adult he easily catches illnesses. He had an insomnia which greatly affected him physically.

He had his job when he was still on his teenage years in the railways and loved to write things. This contributed to what he has become and what great things he has achieved in his life. Herbert Spencer was born 1820- 2903, a British philosopher. He is noted for his effort to devise a philosophical system incorporating all scientific learning. In this “ synthetic philosophy,” as he called it, Spencer applied to all branches of knowledge the principle of evolution, which he defined as the change of all things from simple to more complex forms.

Spencer achieved particular renown as a social evolutionist. His conclusion that society evolves by the biological process of natural selection, a process for which he coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”, was highly influential. Some of his ideas, however, were based on the largely discredited notion that acquired characteristics can play a role in evolution. Spencer’s first book, Social Statistics in 1850 , presented a theory of evolution predating Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species by nine years; unlike Darwin, however, Spencer, did not present scientific evidence to support his theory.

After Darwin’s theory of natural selection was published, Spencer adopted it enthusiastically. He then wrote a series of volumes surveying biology, sociology, ethics, and psychology from an evolutionary point of view. These works brought him world recognition. The first book in the series, First Principles in 1862, presented his synthetic philosophy. It caused much controversy on the relation between science and religion. Spencer, an agnostic, rejected all theological systems as futile attempts to know the unknowable and concluded that knowledge can be gained only through the study of science.

Spencer was taught by his father who was a schoolmaster and uncle who was a minister, and did not attend college. Although his real interest was science, for several years he worked as a civil engineer for an English railway and later as an editor for the Economist in 1848- 1853. He is an English Philosopher; he generalized evolutionary theory outside the confines of biology. He wrote the principle of Psychology in 1870-1872 and Sociology in 1873- 1896, he applied his encyclopedic knowledge to support his historicist concept of progress. The common origin of European Sociology was the Enlightenment.

Different national traditions reacted to the enlightenment inheritance in different ways. The only British innovations were Spencer’s adaptation of Darwin’s model of Biological evaluation to provide explanations of societal change. In France, however, the conservative reaction to the French Revolution rejected atomistic models of society which is centered on the individual and questioned the validity of empirical inquiry. The man who added something new to this idea was only Herbert Spencer. He recognized that the Orthodox interpretation of society assumed but did not explain change.

Spencer, however, did not abandon the ideas of the Enlightenment but regarded them in relation to a model of social change owing much to Darwin’s origin of species. He argued that societies were driven forward to more complex and higher forms by the struggle for the survival between individuals, and that the struggle had produced in Britain a Laissez Faire industrial society, which was a yet the highest social form. He was said to be the competitor of Charles Darwin. Survival of the Fittest and Evolution are the common terms being made known by this Victorian Biologist who eventually became a philosopher.

He viewed evolution as the same that he thought was not consistent. He had formulated different concepts and these are the Adaptation, Integration, Growth and Differentiation. Spencer’s remaining years were still focused on his thought of evolution of mankind and its outcome in the future. He was full of pessimism and thought that maybe mankind will not be able to survive. Herbert Spencer was idolize by many and many were influenced by him and they were Charles Darwin, Alfred Marshall, Henry Sidgwick, William Graham Sumner and many other sociologist and theorists.

He became known duet to his Positivism and Evolutionism. He developed ideas which helped made other ideas which explained more of the existence of man. His greatest contribution to mankind was to think and explore more from their minds and not just settle in mediocrity. He wants us to be concerned of the society in which we are existing and the culture that we are following and passing on to other generations. In 1903, Herbert Spencer died. He died with dignity and great reputation, bringing with him the appreciation and love by the entire individual’s around him that time.


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