Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 372 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.
that harmonious social co-operation implies that limitation of individual freedom which results from sympathetic regard for the freedoms of others; and that the law of equal freedom is the law in conformity to which equitable individual conduct and equitable social arrangements co-exist.  Mr. Spencer’s theory in 1850 was, as his theory still is, that the mental products of Sympathy which constitute what is called “the moral sense,” arise as fast as men are disciplined into social life; and that along with them arise intellectual perceptions of right human relations, which become clearer as the form of social life becomes better.  Further, in the earlier work it was inferred, as it is inferred in the latest, that there is being effected a conciliation of individual natures with social requirements; so that there will eventually be achieved the greatest individuation, along with the greatest mutual dependence,—­an equilibrium of such kind that each, in fulfilling the wants of his own life, will aid in fulfilling the wants of all other lives.  We observe, finally, that, in the first work, there were drawn essentially the same corollaries respecting the rights of individuals and their relations to the State that are drawn in the “Principles of Ethics.”

A word may be said in conclusion about the difference between the relation of Mr. Spencer on the one hand and Darwin on the other to the thought of the Nineteenth Century.  The fact is not to be lost sight of that the principles of the Evolutionary, or, as Mr. Spencer prefers to term it, the Synthetic, philosophy were formulated before the publication of the “Origin of Species.”  What the ultimately general acceptance of the theory propounded in Darwin’s work did for Mr. Spencer was precisely this:  it greatly strengthened the biological evidence for the evolutionary hypothesis.  That hypothesis was upheld, however, by evidence drawn not merely from biology, but from many other sources.  Moreover, while the Darwinian theory of natural selection, supplemented as it was by the adoption of the Lamarkian factors,—­the effect of use and disuse and the assumed transmissibility of acquired character,—­merely attempted to explain the mode in which the changes in organic life have taken place upon the earth, the evolutionary hypothesis put forth by Mr. Spencer professed to be applicable to the whole sphere of the knowable.  It is further to be borne in mind that Mr. Spencer has devoted a large part of his life to tracing in detail the applications of his fundamental principles to social, political, religious, and ethical phenomena.  Darwin, on the other hand, strictly confined himself to the biological field, and left to disciples the task of indicating the bearing of the Darwinian theory upon sociology, theology, and morals.


The Complete Works of Herbert Spencer (The Synthetic Philosophy).

Also, “Facts and Comments,” by Herbert Spencer (Appleton’s).

Project Gutenberg
Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook