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Herbert Spencer

Birthdate: 27. April 1820
Date of death: 8. December 1903

Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era.

Spencer developed an all-embracing conception of evolution as the progressive development of the physical world, biological organisms, the human mind, and human culture and societies. As a polymath, he contributed to a wide range of subjects, including ethics, religion, anthropology, economics, political theory, philosophy, literature, astronomy, biology, sociology, and psychology. During his lifetime he achieved tremendous authority, mainly in English-speaking academia. "The only other English philosopher to have achieved anything like such widespread popularity was Bertrand Russell, and that was in the 20th century." Spencer was "the single most famous European intellectual in the closing decades of the nineteenth century" but his influence declined sharply after 1900: "Who now reads Spencer?" asked Talcott Parsons in 1937.Spencer is best known for the expression "survival of the fittest", which he coined in Principles of Biology , after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. This term strongly suggests natural selection, yet as Spencer extended evolution into realms of sociology and ethics, he also made use of Lamarckism. Wikipedia

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Social Statics
Herbert Spencer

„It is provable both that the historical sequence was, in its main outlines, a necessary one; and that the causes which determined it apply to the child“

—  Herbert Spencer

Education: Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1861)
Context: It is provable both that the historical sequence was, in its main outlines, a necessary one; and that the causes which determined it apply to the child as to the race.... as the mind of humanity placed in the midst of phenomena and striving to comprehend them has, after endless comparisons, speculations, experiments, and theories, reached its present knowledge of each subject by a specific route; it may rationally be inferred that the relationship between mind and phenomena is such as to prevent this knowledge from being reached by any other route; and that as each child's mind stands in this same relationship to phenomena, they can be accessible to it only through the same route. Hence in deciding upon the right method of education, an inquiry into the method of civilization will help to guide us.<!--pp.76-77

„All evil results from the non-adaptation of constitution to conditions. This is true of everything that lives.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Part I, Ch. 2 : The Evanescence of Evil, § 1
Social Statics (1851)
Context: All evil results from the non-adaptation of constitution to conditions. This is true of everything that lives. Does a shrub dwindle in poor soil, or become sickly when deprived of light, or die outright if removed to a cold climate? it is because the harmony between its organization and its circumstances has been destroyed.

„To the clergy nothing is more obvious than that a state-church is just, and essential to the maintenance of religion. The sinecurist thinks himself rightly indignant at any disregard of his vested interests. And so on throughout society.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Pt. II, Ch. 16 : The Rights of Women
Social Statics (1851)
Context: Attila conceived himself to have a divine claim to the dominion of the earth: — the Spaniards subdued the Indians under plea of converting them to Christianity; hanging thirteen refractory ones in honour of Jesus Christ and his apostles: and we English justify our colonial aggressions by saying that the Creator intends the Anglo-Saxon race to people the world! An insatiate lust of conquest transmutes manslaying into a virtue; and, amongst more races than one, implacable revenge has made assassination a duty. A clever theft was praiseworthy amongst the Spartans; and it is equally so amongst Christians, provided it be on a sufficiently large scale. Piracy was heroism with Jason and his followers; was so also with the Norsemen; is so still with the Malays; and there is never wanting some golden fleece for a pretext. Amongst money-hunting people a man is commended in proportion to the number of hours he spends in business; in our day the rage for accumulation has apotheosized work; and even the miser is not without a code of morals by which to defend his parsimony. The ruling classes argue themselves into the belief that property should be represented rather than person — that the landed interest should preponderate. The pauper is thoroughly persuaded that he has a right to relief. The monks held printing to be an invention of the devil; and some of our modern sectaries regard their refractory brethren as under demoniacal possession. To the clergy nothing is more obvious than that a state-church is just, and essential to the maintenance of religion. The sinecurist thinks himself rightly indignant at any disregard of his vested interests. And so on throughout society.

„Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Pt. I, Ch. 2 : The Evanescence of Evil, concluding paragraph
Social Statics (1851)
Context: Man needed one moral constitution to fit him for his original state; he needs another to fit him for his present state; and he has been, is, and will long continue to be, in process of adaptation. And the belief in human perfectibility merely amounts to the belief that, in virtue of this process, man will eventually become completely suited to his mode of life.
Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity. Instead of civilization being artificial, it is part of nature; all of a piece with the development of the embryo or the unfolding of a flower. The modifications mankind have undergone, and are still undergoing, result from a law underlying the whole organic creation; and provided the human race continues, and the constitution of things remains the same, those modifications must end in completeness.

„Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression, and by aggression.“

—  Herbert Spencer

<!-- The first sentence is attributed as a statement of 1850 in the introduction of Our Enemy, the State http://www.barefootsworld.net/nockoets0.html by Albert Jay Nock -->
The Man versus the State (1884), The Sins of Our Legislators
Context: Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression, and by aggression. In small undeveloped societies where for ages complete peace has continued, there exists nothing like what we call Government: no coercive agency, but mere honorary headship, if any headship at all. In these exceptional communities, unaggressive and from special causes unaggressed upon, there is so little deviation from the virtues of truthfulness, honesty, justice, and generosity, that nothing beyond an occasional expression of public opinion by informally-assembled elders is needful. Conversely, we find proofs that, at first recognized but temporarily during leadership in war, the authority of a chief is permanently established by continuity of war; and grows strong where successful aggression ends in subjection of neighboring tribes. And thence onwards, examples furnished by all races put beyond doubt the truth, that the coercive power of the chief, developing into king, and king of kings (a frequent title in the ancient East), becomes great in proportion as conquest becomes habitual and the union of subdued nations extensive. Comparisons disclose a further truth which should be ever present to us — the truth that the aggressiveness of the ruling power inside a society increases with its aggressiveness outside the society. As, to make an efficient army, the soldiers in their several grades must be subordinate to the commander; so, to make an efficient fighting community, must the citizens be subordinate to the ruling power. They must furnish recruits to the extent demanded, and yield up whatever property is required.
An obvious implication is that the ethics of Government, originally identical with the ethics of war, must long remain akin to them; and can diverge from them only as warlike activities and preparations become less.

„The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion.“

—  Herbert Spencer

Lectures on Education delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, 1855, published in "What Knowledge is of Most Worth", The Westminster Review (July 1859) volume CXLI, p. 1-23, at p. 19 http://books.google.com/books?id=5NQ6AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA19
Context: The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. … Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses any thing in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded.

„Throughout all organic nature there is at work a modifying influence“

—  Herbert Spencer

The Development Hypothesis (1852)
Context: Throughout all organic nature there is at work a modifying influence of the kind... as the cause, these specific differences: an influence which, though slow in its action, does, in time, if the circumstances demand it, produce marked changes—an influence, which to all appearance, would produce in the millions of years, and under the great varieties of condition which geological records imply, any amount of change.

„We have a priori reasons for believing that in every sentence there is some one order of words more effective than any other“

—  Herbert Spencer

Pt. I, sec. 3, "The Principle of Economy Applied to Sentences"
The Philosophy of Style (1852)
Context: We have a priori reasons for believing that in every sentence there is some one order of words more effective than any other; and that this order is the one which presents the elements of the proposition in the succession in which they may be most readily put together.

„There can be little question that good composition is far less dependent upon acquaintance with its laws, than upon practice and natural aptitude.“

—  Herbert Spencer

Pt. I, sec. 1, "The Principle of Economy"
The Philosophy of Style (1852)
Context: There can be little question that good composition is far less dependent upon acquaintance with its laws, than upon practice and natural aptitude. A clear head, a quick imagination, and a sensitive ear, will go far towards making all rhetorical precepts needless.

„Let men learn that a legislature is not “our God upon earth,” though, by the authority they ascribe to it, and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is at the best borrowed.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Pt. III, Ch. 19 : The Right to Ignore the State, § 2
Social Statics (1851)
Context: “No human laws are of any validity if contrary to the law of nature; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority mediately or immediately from this original.” Thus writes Blackstone, to whom let all honour be given for having so far outseen the ideas of his time; and, indeed, we may say of our time. A good antidote, this, for those political superstitions which so widely prevail. A good check upon that sentiment of power-worship which still misleads us by magnifying the prerogatives of constitutional governments as it once did those of monarchs. Let men learn that a legislature is not “our God upon earth,” though, by the authority they ascribe to it, and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is at the best borrowed.

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„Education has for its object the formation of character.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Pt. II, Ch. 17 : The Rights of Children
Social Statics (1851)
Context: Education has for its object the formation of character. To curb restive propensities, to awaken dormant sentiments, to strengthen the perceptions, and cultivate the tastes, to encourage this feeling and repress that, so as finally to develop the child into a man of well proportioned and harmonious nature — this is alike the aim of parent and teacher.

„An insatiate lust of conquest transmutes manslaying into a virtue; and, amongst more races than one, implacable revenge has made assassination a duty. A clever theft was praiseworthy amongst the Spartans; and it is equally so amongst Christians, provided it be on a sufficiently large scale.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Pt. II, Ch. 16 : The Rights of Women
Social Statics (1851)
Context: Attila conceived himself to have a divine claim to the dominion of the earth: — the Spaniards subdued the Indians under plea of converting them to Christianity; hanging thirteen refractory ones in honour of Jesus Christ and his apostles: and we English justify our colonial aggressions by saying that the Creator intends the Anglo-Saxon race to people the world! An insatiate lust of conquest transmutes manslaying into a virtue; and, amongst more races than one, implacable revenge has made assassination a duty. A clever theft was praiseworthy amongst the Spartans; and it is equally so amongst Christians, provided it be on a sufficiently large scale. Piracy was heroism with Jason and his followers; was so also with the Norsemen; is so still with the Malays; and there is never wanting some golden fleece for a pretext. Amongst money-hunting people a man is commended in proportion to the number of hours he spends in business; in our day the rage for accumulation has apotheosized work; and even the miser is not without a code of morals by which to defend his parsimony. The ruling classes argue themselves into the belief that property should be represented rather than person — that the landed interest should preponderate. The pauper is thoroughly persuaded that he has a right to relief. The monks held printing to be an invention of the devil; and some of our modern sectaries regard their refractory brethren as under demoniacal possession. To the clergy nothing is more obvious than that a state-church is just, and essential to the maintenance of religion. The sinecurist thinks himself rightly indignant at any disregard of his vested interests. And so on throughout society.

„The blindness of those who think it absurd to suppose that complex organic forms may have arisen by successive modifications out of simple ones becomes astonishing when we remember that complex organic forms are daily being thus produced.“

—  Herbert Spencer

The Development Hypothesis (1852)
Context: The blindness of those who think it absurd to suppose that complex organic forms may have arisen by successive modifications out of simple ones becomes astonishing when we remember that complex organic forms are daily being thus produced. A tree differs from a seed immeasurably in every respect... Yet is the one changed in the course of a few years into the other: changed so gradually, that at no moment can it be said — Now the seed ceases to be, and the tree exists.

„Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.“

—  Herbert Spencer

The Development Hypothesis (1852)
Context: Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.

„The ideal form for a poem, essay, or fiction, is that which the ideal writer would evolve spontaneously.“

—  Herbert Spencer

Pt. II, sec. 4, "The Ideal Writer"
The Philosophy of Style (1852)
Context: The ideal form for a poem, essay, or fiction, is that which the ideal writer would evolve spontaneously. One in whom the powers of expression fully responded to the state of feeling, would unconsciously use that variety in the mode of presenting his thoughts, which Art demands.

„The ruling classes argue themselves into the belief that property should be represented rather than person — that the landed interest should preponderate. The pauper is thoroughly persuaded that he has a right to relief.“

—  Herbert Spencer, book Social Statics

Pt. II, Ch. 16 : The Rights of Women
Social Statics (1851)
Context: Attila conceived himself to have a divine claim to the dominion of the earth: — the Spaniards subdued the Indians under plea of converting them to Christianity; hanging thirteen refractory ones in honour of Jesus Christ and his apostles: and we English justify our colonial aggressions by saying that the Creator intends the Anglo-Saxon race to people the world! An insatiate lust of conquest transmutes manslaying into a virtue; and, amongst more races than one, implacable revenge has made assassination a duty. A clever theft was praiseworthy amongst the Spartans; and it is equally so amongst Christians, provided it be on a sufficiently large scale. Piracy was heroism with Jason and his followers; was so also with the Norsemen; is so still with the Malays; and there is never wanting some golden fleece for a pretext. Amongst money-hunting people a man is commended in proportion to the number of hours he spends in business; in our day the rage for accumulation has apotheosized work; and even the miser is not without a code of morals by which to defend his parsimony. The ruling classes argue themselves into the belief that property should be represented rather than person — that the landed interest should preponderate. The pauper is thoroughly persuaded that he has a right to relief. The monks held printing to be an invention of the devil; and some of our modern sectaries regard their refractory brethren as under demoniacal possession. To the clergy nothing is more obvious than that a state-church is just, and essential to the maintenance of religion. The sinecurist thinks himself rightly indignant at any disregard of his vested interests. And so on throughout society.

„Ethical ideas and sentiments have to be considered as parts of the phenomena of life at large.“

—  Herbert Spencer

Source: The Principles of Ethics (1897), Part III: The Ethics of Individual Life, Ch. 1, Introductory
Context: Ethical ideas and sentiments have to be considered as parts of the phenomena of life at large. We have to deal with man as a product of evolution, with society as a product of evolution, and with moral phenomena as products of evolution.

„The supporters of the Development Hypothesis… can show that any existing species—animal or vegetable—when placed under conditions different from its previous ones, immediately begins to undergo certain changes fitting it for the new conditions. They can show that in successive generations these changes continue; until, ultimately, the new conditions become the natural ones.“

—  Herbert Spencer

The Development Hypothesis (1852)
Context: The supporters of the Development Hypothesis... can show that any existing species—animal or vegetable—when placed under conditions different from its previous ones, immediately begins to undergo certain changes fitting it for the new conditions. They can show that in successive generations these changes continue; until, ultimately, the new conditions become the natural ones. They can show that in cultivated plants, in domesticated animals, and in the several races of men, such alterations have taken place. They can show that the degrees of difference so produced are often, as in dogs, greater than those on which distinctions of species are in other cases founded.

„The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded.“

—  Herbert Spencer

Lectures on Education delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, 1855, published in "What Knowledge is of Most Worth", The Westminster Review (July 1859) volume CXLI, p. 1-23, at p. 19 http://books.google.com/books?id=5NQ6AQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA19
Context: The current opinion that science and poetry are opposed is a delusion. … Think you that a drop of water, which to the vulgar eye is but a drop of water, loses any thing in the eye of the physicist who knows that its elements are held together by a force which, if suddenly liberated, would produce a flash of lightning? Think you that what is carelessly looked upon by the uninitiated as a mere snow-flake does not suggest higher associations to one who has seen through a microscope the wondrously varied and elegant forms of snow-crystals? Think you that the rounded rock marked with parallel scratches calls up as much poetry in an ignorant mind as in the mind of a geologist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a million years ago? The truth is, that those who have never entered upon scientific pursuits know not a tithe of the poetry by which they are surrounded.

„People … become so preoccupied with the means by which an end is achieved, as eventually to mistake it for the end.“

—  Herbert Spencer

Ethics (New York:1915), § 14, pp. 38-39
The Principles of Ethics (1897), Part I: The Data of Ethics
Context: People … become so preoccupied with the means by which an end is achieved, as eventually to mistake it for the end. Just as money, which is a means of satisfying wants, comes to be regarded by a miser as the sole thing to be worked for, leaving the wants unsatisfied; so the conduct men have found preferable because most conducive to happiness, has come to be thought of as intrinsically preferable: not only to be made a proximate end (which it should be), but to be made an ultimate end, to the exclusion of the true ultimate end.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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