Herbert Spencer

By Simon Egolf

Background Paragraph

Herbert Spencer was born on April 27, 1820 in Derby England. He had nine younger siblings but he was the only one to survive infancy. As a child his views were greatly affected by the opinions of his father and his uncle. At first, he went to college planning on being a civil enguneer but he later became interested in journalism and political writing. He wrote many books discussing his views including Social Statics, The Principles of Psycholgy, and A System of Synthetic Philosophy. Herbert Spencer had mental health problems throughout his life that caused him to live a mostly secluded manner. During the two decades leading up to his death his mental health deteriorated signifantly and he died on December 8, 1903 after a long illness.

10 Facts/Contributions

1. He was the first to develop the idea of "selectionism"; the idea that a person's behavior changes and adapts based on what happens in that person's lifetime. This is very similar to how animals evolve over time.

2. He believed in a unified science and that there were very strong connections between biology and psychology. However, the idea that they are strongly linked was very controversial and still is today.

3. He believed that people got some of their ways of thought from previous generations. This is called Lamarkian-style evolution and today this idea is known to be false.

4. He believed that a person's way of thought was effected and changed by the complex environment that they exist in.

5. He is helped formulate the law of effect. This is the idea that a behavior that results in a good consequence is more likely to be repeated than a behavior that results in a bad consequence.

6. He had the idea of Social Darwinism that believed that people passed down sophistication and ways of thought to their offspring. This is unlike natural selection which believes that parents only pass down adaptations to their ecological environment.

7. He believed that free will did not exist and that it was caused by self-awareness.

8. He believed that we cannot believe in religion because there is no way to prove the existence of a god or the divine. He also thought that you cannot prove religion to be false because there is also no proof of it being false.

9. He was the person who coined the term "survival of the fittest", not Darwin

10. He called what we call sociology synthetic philosophy.