Herbert Spencer

Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903)   Born in working class Derby, England, Spencer was a working man. With no formal schooling, at age 17 he got a job on the railroad. Then, when he turned 28, he set off for London to become a journalist. After a stint as an assistant editor for The Economist, Spencer became a success working the freelance market. Spencer liked the idea of evolution. Basing his ideas on Lamarck, then on Darwin, he proposed evolution is an on-going process of differentiation. Life grows in complexity, and learning occurs by contiguity. For Spencer, when associations occur often enough, they can be passed on to the following generation. Like Bain, Spencer was a hedonist. They believed that pleasure increased the frequency of behavior. Known as the Spencer-Bain principle, it says that the probability of a given behavior occurring increases if it is followed by pleasure, and decreases if that behavior is followed by pain. In 1852, Spencer coined his best known phrase “survival of the fittest.” It was term Darwin later used himself.


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