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Herbert Spencer

(Victorian Era) English philosopher and sociologist All socialism involves slavery

His life
Spencer was born in Derby, England April 27th in 1820, the eldest of nine children, but the only one to survive infancy He came from a very strict religious family(Quakers), and the influence of his background is evident in his writings on ethics and political theory. Educated at home by his father and later by an uncle who wanted him to attend Cambridge, but declined feeling himself unfit for a university career. He worked as a civil engineer during the railway boom of the late 1830s, which sparked his interest in evolution finding fossils while working on the railroads. He devoted much of his time writing for provincial journals on subjects such as politics, life, and society

HIS LIFE (cont.)

He had no college education but learned from his peers, which included scientist, radicals, progressive thinkers, and other philosophers He was influenced by John Stuart Mills A System of Logic and Comtes view of positivism, which set him on the road to his lifes work, but he strongly disagreed with Comte His works contributed to a wide range of subjects, including ethics, religion, anthropology, economics, political theory, philosophy, biology, sociology, and psychology. Spencer was overshadowed because of his somewhat controversial ideas He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1902 however, declined most of the honors he was given.

Other Facts
Most famous philosopher of the Victorian Age. It was Spencer and not Darwin who first popularized the term "Evolution", and few people outside the field realize that the phrase "survival of the fittest" was actually coined by Spencer! He suffered from insomnia and nervous breakdowns which he never recovered from He developed a strong addiction to opium using it daily Never married and had no children, but did have a lover named Mary Ann Evans He may have created the first paper clip Liked to dress in a one-piece suit that made him look like a bear.

Other Facts(cont.)
member of the Athenaeum, an exclusive Gentleman's Club in London open only to those distinguished in the arts and sciences Member of the X club a dining club which included the brightest mines in London His ideas were influential in various movements as far away as Poland, China, and Japan.



Social Statics(1851)
1st major work It was very successful attempts to lay the basis for a limited state(meaning they should not have all the power, but disperse among its citizens ) Popular among women because he believed in womens right to vote(even children) Believed men and government had no harmony in their decisions, so he stated we must become what we want to be as fast as possible He concluded that everyone had basic rights to liberty in virtue of their constitutions as human beings

Principles of Psychology(1855)
2nd book Spencer argued the workings of the human mind were fundamentally knowable through application of natural laws. extreme opposition to that of religious orthodoxy because the human consciousness chief among them - were inherently beyond the understanding of science. This made Spencer's book unpopular with the establishment, and it failed to achieve much critical or public support.

Principles of Biology(book)
Was wrote on his idea of survival of the fittest Compared animals to humans believed they both had a central system that was similar

Data of ethics(book)
Conduct in general ways of judging conduct the relativity of pains and pleasures in an individuals conduct

The Proper Sphere of Government(article)

He advocated the abolishment of Poor Laws, national education and a central church; he wanted the lifting of all restrictions on commerce and factory legislation Also advocated for universal suffrage for women and children, and he argued for the nationalization of land to diminish the power of the aristocracy. Explained more in his first book


Exposed the frailty of the contemporary railway company as a "democratic" form of enterprise accountable to its shareholders

Theories/Theoretical Perspective

Social Darwinism
This generated Spencer's bad rep is often thought of as apologies for the wealthy, as it says those who are successful in society are those best-adapted to it, meaning the poor are less fit to survive in society. The main focus of his social Darwinism was focused on the state itself, which he basically believed evolved first to give society structure, and then withered away as the members of that society were sufficiently evolved to do without it.(Society exists for the benefit of its members,
not the members for the benefit of society.)

Spencer sketched out the basics of evolution and natural selection seven years before Darwin. His basic idea was that human development was naturally progressive and everywhere increasing.

Social Darwinism
Revolved around people and societies Combines sociology and social philosophy Studies human scientifically Believes human behavior is socially determined and traits are passed down Also believed we as humans evolved through natural selection

Darwin's Theory Revolved around nature and animals species Biological view points Believes plants and animals have no divine creation Evolution is gained through natural selection(a natural process resulting in the evolution of organisms best adapted to the environment)

Spencer was one of the most well-known functionalists ever in Sociology. He lived during the height of Darwinism and Positivism, so he thought that natural selection was perfectly applicable to human society. He used "Social Darwinism" to explain that natural selection ensures that the best institutions and people survive and succeed. If natural selection is allowed to operate, society will evolve and progress. Have you ever heard the phrase "survival of the fittest"? Herbert Spencer coined it, not Darwin. Anytime you see Sociology paired with or compared to Biology, chances are very good that Functionalism theory is involved. FYI: This theory is extremely unpopular in Sociology today. It's basically saying that whatever exists must exist for a reason since it has survived; it implies that just because an institution, such as capitalism or white dominance, has survived for so long, that must mean it is the best.

Early modern theorist

Spencer was an early modernist. He influenced a lot of leaders such as William James, Henry Sidgwick, G.E. Moore, and etc. William James stated " He enlarged the imagination and set free the speculative mind of countless doctors , engineers, philosophers , and chemist".

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Society exists for the benefit of its members, not the members for the benefit of society.