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Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) The Advent of Evolutionary Naturalism.

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Presentation on theme: "Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) The Advent of Evolutionary Naturalism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Herbert Spencer ( ) The Advent of Evolutionary Naturalism

2 Herbert Spencer ( ) Victorian biologist and philosopher, Herbert Spencer was born April 27th, 1820, at the height of British industrialism. He was educated at home in mathematics, natural science, history and English, among some other languages.

3 Spencer’s Life Born into a family of the British aristocracy He was educated at home in mathematics, natural science, history and English, among some other languages. Spencer was sickly in his youth, all eight of his other siblings dying at a young age. His constitution remained weak throughout his life, and he would later suffer from nervous breakdowns which he never recovered from, and he wandered about London never in a complete state of good health.

4 Works and Influences System of Synthetic Philosophy ( ), which brought together biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics. Spencer was undoubtedly strongly influenced by both the demographer Thomas Robert Malthus and the laissez-faire economist Adam Smith. Rejected many of Comte’s ideas concerning social reform that was human induced. To Spencer, “Nature determines EVERYTHING”

5 Spencer’s Life cont’d. He suffered from chronic insomnia, could only work a few hours a day, and used fairly substantial amounts of opium. He experienced a strange sensation in his head which he called "the mischief", and was known for eccentricities like the wearing of ear-plugs to avoid over-excitement, especially when he could not hold his ground in an argument.

6 Spencer’s Career Spencer became the sub-editor of The Economist in 1848, then (and still!) an important financial weekly for the upper- middle class. His book Social Statics was published in 1851 to great acclaim, but his quietly influential Principles Of Psychology released in 1855 met with much criticism.

7 Career cont’d. Although one of the most influential figures in sociology and psychology, Spencer was overshadowed because of his somewhat controversial ideas. His theory of evolution actually preceded Charles Darwin's, when he wrote The Developmental Hypothesis in 1852, 7 years before Darwin's Origin Of Species (1859)!

8 Spencer’s Influence His theory was not taken into serious consideration largely because of a lack of an effective theoretical system for natural selection. Nevertheless, it was Spencer and not Darwin who first popularized the term "Evolution", and few people outside the field realize that the oft-used phrase "survival of the fittest" was actually coined by Spencer!

9 Influences cont’d. His evolutionary stance led to his most famous idea, "Social Darwinism” It influenced early evolutionary economists like Thorstein Veblen, as well as the members of the American apologist school like William Graham Sumner. He projected his theory of biological evolution onto a social plane, emphasizing the importance of organic analogy, i.e. the similarities between Organism and State.

10 Influences cont’d. He saw evolution as the change from a homogeneous condition that was innately unstable, to a heterogeneous and stable one. Spencer's last years were characterized by a collapse of his initial optimism, replaced instead by a pessimism regarding the future of mankind. He died in 1903, and is buried at Highgate Cemetery in London near George Eliot and Karl Marx.

11 According to Spencer… "EVOLUTION IS AN INTEGRATION OF MATTER AND CONCOMITANT DISSIPATION OF MOTION; DURING WHICH MATTER PASSES FROM AN INDEFINITE, INCOHERENT HOMOGENEITY TO A DEFINITE, COHERENT HETEROGENEITY; AND DURING WHICH THE RETAINED MOTION UNDERGOES A PARALLEL TRANSFORMATION."

12 The Organic Analysis 1. Both society and organism grow during most of their existence; baby to adult, town to city. 2. As they grow, they become increasingly complex. 3. The progressive differentiation of structure is also accompanied by progressive differentiation of function.

13 Differences in Society and Organism 1. The parts of an organism form a concrete whole, whereas different areas of society are free and relatively dispersed. 2. Parts of the organism invariably exist to benefit the whole (tautological), whereas in society, the whole exists merely for the benefit of the individual.

14 The Nature of Social Evolution Societies move from simple structures to various levels of compound structures. Simple: consists of separate families. Compound: consists of families organized into clans. Doubly Compound: Clans are organized into tribes. Trebly Compound: Tribes are further organized into nations.

15 Thus… An increase in size of the society results in increase in structure, which in turn produces differences in power and roles of the members. Different members or groups of members also start to play different, specialized roles.

16 And as a result… There is a movement from a military to an industrial society. At the beginning, society is characterized by the compulsory cooperation of its members -- the military society. The industrial society is characterized by the voluntary cooperation of its members. The highest order is called the Ethical State, where common resources may be used to perfect the human character.

17 Military to Industrial Society MILITARY TO INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY: A. MILITARY CHARACTERIZED BY COMPULSORY COOPERATION OF MEMBERS B. INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY CHARACTERIZED BY VOLUNTARY COOPERATION C. THE FINAL STAGE, RESOURCES MAY BE USED TO PERFECT HUMAN CHARACTER, - ETHICAL STATE

18 Evolution of Conflict BETWEEN GROUPS, CLASSES, AND SOCIETIES THERE IS AN EQUILIBRATION OF ENERGY; THIS TAKES THE FORM OF STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE; AND CONFLICT BECOMES A HABITUAL ACTIVITY

19 The Nature of Conflict and Militarism CONFLICT GIVES RISE TO TWO FEARS: A. FEAR OF THE LIVING - LEADING TO POLITICAL CONTROL B. FEAR OF THE DEAD - LEADING TO RELIGIOUS CONTROL AS A RESULT OF THESE CONTROLS, CONFLICT BECOMES MILITARISM

20 Spencer’s Four Processes AS A RESULT OF THIS FOCUS AND USE OF ORGANIC ANALOGY, SPENCER CONCERNS HIMSELF WITH FOUR PROCESSES OR MAJOR CONCEPTS 1. GROWTH 2. DIFFERENTIATION 3. INTEGRATION 4. ADAPTATION

21 Result of Processes… THE MOVEMENT THROUGH THE FOUR PROCESSES IS ALSO MOVEMENT (EVOLUTION) TOWARDS GREATER PEACE AND HARMONY IN HUMAN SOCIETY THIS WAS SPENCER’S GOAL (HOPE) ACCORDING TO SPENCER, “ALL CHANGE IS PROGRESS”

22 Final Ideas… Spencer claimed that knowledge was of two kinds: (1) knowledge gained by the individual, and (2) knowledge gained by the race. He said that intuition, or knowledge learned unconsciously, was the inherited knowledge or experience of the race. He also believed that there is a basic and final reality beyond our knowledge, which he called the Unknowable.

23 In Summary… Herbert Spencer (1820­1903) was thinking about ideas of evolution and progress before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species (1859). Nonetheless, his ideas received a major boost from Darwin's theories and the general application of ideas such as "adaptation" and "survival of the fittest" to social thought is known as "Social Darwinism". It would be possible to argue that human evolution showed the benefits of cooperation and community. Spencer, and Social Darwinists after him took another view. He believed that society was evolving toward increasing freedom for individuals; and so held that government intervention, ought to be minimal in social and political life (a direct challenge to Comte).


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