Herbert Spencer

By Regan Smith

Spencer's Early Life

  • Born April 27, 1820 in Derby, England
  • Oldest of nine children- the only one to survive infancy
  • He was a very sickly child, so he was homeschooled by his father whose unconventional beliefs lead to an informal and disorderly education
  • His fathers career as a teacher put them in the lower class, but he went to live with his rich uncle at age 13
  • He had many diverse interests and trained as a civil engineer for railways
  • In his early 20s he started journaling and doing political writing
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Spencer's Contributions

  • Synthetic Philosophy: a combination of his view on biology, sociology, ethics and politics
  • Put together ideas on natural and social sciences and organized them into his evolutionary theory
  • Spencer's Evolutionary Theory: Societies, like organisms, start simple and advance over time
  • Compared the systems of organisms and societies (see chart above)
  • Coined the phrase "survival of the fittest" before it was used by Charles Darwin
  • Helped advance the ideas of Social Darwinism with his thoughts on societies
  • One of three sociologists to advance the Structural-Functional Perspective
  • Structural-Functional Perspective: explains that society is made up of parts, each with their own function and if one is not working then they could all shut down

Society vs. Animal Systems

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Structural-Functional Perspective

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