Herbert Spencer was a renowned English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, anthropologist among other attributes. Born on April 27th 1820 in England, Spencer made great impacts in various fields of study with his developments and philosophies. Despite being born into a family of nine, he is the only one who survived infancy. A greater percentage of the education that he received was informal and undisciplined. However, Spencer had several interests that eventually pushed him to training as a civil engineer for railways. Besides, he also ventured into political writing and journalism in his early twenties.
Just as stated above, Spencer is known for quite a number of achievements. One of them is that he is credited with the development and application of evolutionary theory to philosophy, psychology and the study of society. Besides, he is also known for helping to develop the functionalist perspective, one of the major theoretical frameworks in sociology. Spencer’s political thoughts, starting with his defense of natural rights and criticisms of utilitarian positivism are also other things that played a role in defining who he was.
Herbert Spencer worked as a writer and subeditor of The Economist financial weekly from 1848 to 1853. Through the experience, Spencer met several political controversialists like Thomas Carlyle, George Henry Lewes, and T.H Huxley among others. Despite the diverse opinions that he received from his experience with different people, his unquestioning confidence in the things that he believed in was not moved or altered. He was known by many as a stubborn character who refused to read the works of authors with whom he disagreed.
Spencer clearly pointed out his defense for a number of radical causes in his early writings especially on matters regarding land nationalization, the extent to which economics are supposed to reflect a policy of laissez-faire, and the place and role that women should occupy and play in society. Despite the devotion to fight for these causes, he later on abandoned most of them.
The first book to be written by Herbert Spencer; Social Statistic, or the Conditions Essential to Human Happiness was published in 1851. In the book, Spencer gives an account of the development of human freedom and a defense of individual liberties, based on an evolutionary theory that is more similar to Lamarckian style.
The second published by Spencer; The Principles of Psychology came at a time that he had began experiencing health problems, predominantly mental health condition that would affect him for the rest of his life. However, this did not prevent him from writing since he embarked on a lengthy project called A System of Synthetic Philosophy. It is this project that gave an account of Spencer’s views in his fields of interest including biology, ethics, sociology and politics.
Herbert Spencer’s works have been accepted by many across the world and even translated in a variety of languages including French, German, Spanish, Russian and Italian. Shortly before his death, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1902. He finally succumbed to poor health aged 83 years; his ashes were interred facing the grave of Karl Max in Highgate Cemetery, London.
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