Herbert Spencer


Herbert Spencer was one of the most important sociologists and philosophers who defended the theory of evolution, thus achieving a synthesis of knowledge that greatly influenced science and the life of the individual with respect to society and science about religion. . His masterpiece, The Synthetic Philosophy , was a work that contained volumes that spoke on the principles of biology , psychology , morals, and sociology . He is remembered for his doctrine of Social Darwinism, which contained principles of evolution, including natural selection , a theory that is currently applied in human societies , social classes and individuals .


Personal information

  • When was he born: 04/27/1820
  • Where he was born: Derby, UK
  • When he died: 12/08/1903
  • Where he died: Brighton, UK

Who was Herbert Spencer?

Herbert Spencer was a very influential English philosopher , psychologist , sociologist , naturopath and psychologist who stood out for his philosophical evolutionism and for his positivism going down in history as one of the most important thinkers of his time.

  • Herbert Spencer Biography
  • Thought of Herbert Spencer
  • Sociology
  • The first principles
  • Contributions
  • Importance
  • Works by Herbert Spencer
  • Herbert Spencer quotes
  • Curiosities

Herbert Spencer Biography

Herbert Spencer was born in the city of Derby located in England an April 27 of the year 1820 . His bourgeois family consisted of his father William George Spencer, a Methodist who ended up being part of the Religious Society of Friends. He managed to train in the field of engineering although this he did in a self-taught way and he worked for several years in the railway sector. He also devoted himself to studying letters and science where he was mainly interested in evolution.

He managed to get a position in The Economist magazine and thus put aside engineering and devoted himself to writing about philosophy . In 1851 he managed to publish his first book known as Social Statics Economist , a work in which he affirmed that the human being would adapt to living without the need for a State. From the year 1853 he began to write his philosophical and scientific works and began to have contact with Auguste Comte .

Despite having had great success in his works, Herbert Spencer had many real and unreal illnesses as he was a hypochondriac man . During his years he was practically alone, full of disappointment and had many “diseases” that doctors never managed to diagnose. Shortly before he passed away, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature . He died on December 8, 1903 when he was 83 years old .

Thought of Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer’s thinking was based on progressive and radical liberalism , he was a very conservative man and was even against many rights for women. He criticized all kinds of authority and created a theory according to his thought that was based on the progress of the human being, which at the same time combined Darwinian evolutionism with an organicist sociology . He always had a totally positivist approach and believed in the evolution of the natural world and the social world. He also defended his ideals on the existence of a universal lawon evolution which was in charge of guiding the natural and social process.


As for sociology, its evolutionary concept established that there were three different stages through which all societies had to pass. The first type referred to the military society of pre-modern organizations and this was characterized by the main dominance of military force and by the centralization of power through force. His second type of sociology was the industrial society where industrial and productive activities were important, which had to be dictated by the entrepreneurs who invested their money in a certain sector.

The third established that when the human being realized the dehumanization that he had suffered, a totally new stage would be created in which cooperation would be more important to be able to form, thanks to ethics, harmony but based on selfishness and selfishness. altruism. He also argued that the evolution of society occurred due to a process of individualization thanks to the differentiation and development of individuals. He believed that societies had managed to evolve through a slow process in which the division of labor had occurred .

The first principles

In his First Principles, Herbert Spencer developed the basic principles of his system of philosophy which was totally evolutionary . For Spencer, philosophy was responsible for unifying reality, showing the way in which the universe and geological, biological, astronomical and cultural aspects were chapters of history. These principles were as follows:

  • Biologizing and organicistic trend
  • Evolutionism and Social Darwinism
  • Evolution of society


Among his main contributions are the following:

  • He left as a legacy a belief system that replaced the conventional religious faith , changing them by the advances of modern science .
  • He established the different objectives in terms of synthetic philosophy .
  • He wrote on psychology , biology, and sociology in order to show that natural laws existed within these sciences.
  • He tried to reformulate social science taking into account psychological, biological and sociological aspects.
  • He made several important contributions to early sociology, mainly structural functionalism .
  • He made several contributions to biological theories .


Herbert Spencer was an important man and recognized even today for his development on a conception about the evolution and progressive development of the physical world , organisms and the human mind, also giving importance to the development of culture and societies. .

Works by Herbert Spencer

His most recognized and main works were the following:

  • Social statics : it was his first book in which he explained that human beings had the ability to adapt to the social state.
  • Principles of Sociology : A book that narrated the assumption that the mind of the human being was subject to natural laws.
  • Synthetic Philosophy : a work that talks about the principles of psychology, sociology, biology and morality.
  • The man against the State : formed by four chapters, The New Toryism, the Slavery that comes, the Great Political Superstition and The Sins of the Legislators.

Other of his works are mentioned below:

  • Progress: Its Law and Its Cause.
  • Moral, intellectual, physical education .
  • Two-volume autobiography.
  • The principles of biology.
  • Social statics.

Herbert Spencer quotes

Some of Herbert Spencer’s most famous quotes are mentioned below:

  • Education has as its main objective the formation of character.
  • The function that liberalism had in the past was to put a limit on the powers that kings had.
  • Society exists for the benefit of its inhabitants, not the inhabitants for the benefit of society.
  • The universal basis of cooperation is to receive reciprocal benefits.
  • The anarchist person denies the right of governments, whether autocratic or democratic, to interfere with his individual freedom .
  • The genie can survive, everything else dies.
  • Philosophy is the unification of thought.


Some of the curiosities about Herbert Spencer were the following:

  • He coined the phrase that says the survival of the fittest.
  • Spencer proposed a theory of evolution seven years before Darwin published his.
  • It has been claimed that Herbert Spencer invented the paper clip ; This is not entirely true, but he invented a similar thing.
  • Spencer was enormously influential throughout the 19th century , but his reputation declined dramatically in the 20th century.

Leave a Comment