19th century English philosopher
See also:
  • FreedomPedia
  • Herbert Spencer

    Herbert Spencer (27 April 1820 - 8 December 1903) was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era.


    Herbert Spencer, by David Weinstein, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 15 Dec 2002
    Major sections: Spencer's 'Liberal' Utilitarianism - Rational Versus Empirical Utilitarianism - Political Rights - Conclusion - Bibliography; last substantive revision 17 Jan 2017
    "Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) is typically, though quite wrongly, considered a coarse social Darwinist. After all, Spencer, and not Darwin, coined the infamous expression 'survival of the fittest', leading G. E. Moore to conclude erroneously in Principia Ethica (1903) that Spencer committed the naturalistic fallacy. According to Moore, Spencer's practical reasoning was deeply flawed insofar as he purportedly conflated mere survivability (a natural property) with goodness itself (a non-natural property)."
    Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), by William Sweet, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    Major sections: Life - Method - Human Nature - Religion - Moral Philosophy - Political Philosophy - Assessment - References and Further Reading
    "British philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer was a major figure in the intellectual life of the Victorian era. He was one of the principal proponents of evolutionary theory in the mid nineteenth century, and his reputation at the time rivaled that of Charles Darwin. Spencer was initially best known for developing and applying evolutionary theory to philosophy, psychology and the study of society -- what he called his 'synthetic philosophy' (see his A System of Synthetic Philosophy, 1862-93)."

    Web Pages

    Herbert Spencer - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes photo, short biography and links to timeline of Spencer's life and works, to various editions of his writings and to selected quotations
    "Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was one of the leading 19th century English radical individualists. He began working as a journalist for the laissez-faire magazine The Economist in the 1850s. Much of the rest of his life was spent working on an all-encompassing theory of human development based upon the ideas of individualism, utilitarian moral theory, social and biological evolution, limited government, and laissez-faire economics."


    Herbert Spencer: Liberty and Unlimited Human Progress, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Apr 1995
    Lengthy biographical profile, highlighting Social Statics and his acquaintance with Andrew Carnegie
    "Spencer showed why the theory of evolution, which naturalist Charles Darwin documented, meant that human progress occurs spontaneously as long as people are free, and governments stay out of the way. He stood as the most passionate defender of liberty when socialism and militarism gathered momentum throughout Europe. Spencer was a prolific writer who produced books and articles on biology, education, ethics, psychology, sociology, and government policy, among other subjects."
    Herbert Spencer, by Wendy McElroy, 29 Aug 2012
    Review of the book Herbert Spencer (2013) by Alberto Mingardi, volume 18 of the "Major Conservative and Libertarian Thinkers" series
    "As the book notes, Spencer (1820–1903) was 'perhaps the only philosopher to sell one million copies of his work while still alive.' Nevertheless, his work has been neglected or reviled for almost a century. ... Spencer was a prolific system-builder who wrote hundreds of articles and dozens of books, including the ten-volume Synthetic Philosophy. Wisely, Mingardi narrows his focus to what many consider to be Spencer’s most enduring work: Social Statics (1850) as informed by his Autobiography."
    Related Topic: Evolution
    Herbert Spencer as an Anthropologist [PDF], by Robert L. Carneiro, Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1981
    Traces Spencer's contributions to the fields now known as anthropology and sociology and how his concept of cultural evolution was developed
    "What Darwin did was to argue convincingly that organic forms 'have all descended ... from common parents, and have allbeen modified in the course of descent,' and to propose a mechanism for this process. But from this recognition to the recognition of a profound and universal transformation, proceeding at many levels toward greater complexity and increased integration, is a large step. That step was taken by Spencer alone."
    Herbert Spencer - Hero of the Day, by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    "... the history of liberalism is replete with rich, textured, context-sensitive thinking. In this regard, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was one of the most important classical liberal thinkers to pioneer an alternative 'dialectical libertarianism.' His contributions to this project have yet to be fully appreciated, although his contributions to general systems theory in sociology are well known."
    Herbert Spencer's Theory of Causation [PDF], by George H. Smith, Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1981
    Discusses Spencer's epistemology, his views on causation and how it affects social interactions, concluding with his ethical theory and concept of justice
    "What are the social conditions best suited for the development of the justice sentiment? A free 'industrial' society, answers Spencer. An authoritarian 'militant' society, on the other hand, discourages this sentiment. ... This rather prosaic summary of Spencer's theory of justice ... points out the central role that the conduct/consequence doctrine plays in his theory of justice."
    Related Topics: Epistemology, Ethics, Life, Philosophy
    The Antimilitarist Libertarian Heritage, by Sheldon Richman, 19 Sep 2014
    Reviews several writings by Herbert Spencer on the subjects of war, militarism, colonization and patriotism
    "Herbert Spencer, the great English libertarian philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th century, eloquently expressed radical liberalism's antipathy to war and militarism. ... Spencer was second to none in his antimilitarism and anti-imperialism, that is, his love of universal individual liberty and all forms of voluntary social cooperation."
    Liberalism, by Friedrich A. Hayek, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History, 1978
    Chapter 9; originally written in 1973 for the Enciclopedia del Novicento; covers both the history of both strands of liberalism as well as a systematic description of the "classical" or "evolutionary" type
    "In the intellectual sphere during the second half of the nineteenth century the basic principles of liberalism were intensively discussed. In the philosopher Herbert Spencer an extreme advocacy of an individualist minimum state, similar to the position of W. von Humboldt, found an effective expounder."
    The Life, Death, and Resurrection of an Economy, by Michael C. Monson, The Freeman, May 1993
    Lengthy economic history of Argentina, from the time of the conquistadors to the early 1990's, highlighting the outstanding growth in the 19th and early 20th century and the economic nationalism and government interventions in the 20th century
    "During this period the most influential philosopher in Argentina was the libertarian Herbert Spencer. Indeed, a leading critic attacked Spencerian philosophy for turning Argentina into 'one colossal estancia, bristling with railroads and canals, full of workshops, with populous cities, abounding in riches of all kinds, but without a single learned man, artist, or philosopher.'"


    On Moral Education [PDF], Education: Intellectual, Moral and Physical, 1861
    Condensed from "Moral Education" chapter, from Spring 1966 issue of Left and Right; contrasts the parental practice of punishing children with the approach of letting children be guided by the natural consequences from their actions
    "And if education be a preparation for the business of life, then every child should also, from the beginning, have daily experience of this fact. ... Proper conduct in life is much better guaranteed when the good and evil consequences of actions are rationally understood, than when they are merely believed on authority. ... Bear constantly in mind the truth that the aim of your discipline should be to produce a self-governing being; not to produce a being to be governed by others."
    Related Topic: Children

    The introductory paragraph uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.