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Title: Herbert Spencer
Author: Thomson, J. Arthur (John Arthur), 1861-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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INTRODUCTION                                             vii


I. HEREDITY                                                1

II. NURTURE                                                7

III. PERIOD OF PRACTICAL WORK                             17

IV. PREPARATION FOR LIFE-WORK                             27







XI. AS REGARDS HEREDITY                                  154

XII. FACTORS OF ORGANIC EVOLUTION                        180

XIII. EVOLUTION UNIVERSAL                                209

XIV. PSYCHOLOGICAL                                       232

XV. SOCIOLOGICAL                                         242

XVI. THE POPULATION QUESTION                             259

XVII. BEYOND SCIENCE                                     269

CONCLUSION                                               278

INDEX                                                    283


This volume attempts to give a short account of Herbert Spencer's life,
an appreciation of his characteristics, and a statement of some of the
services he rendered to science. Prominence has been given to his
_Autobiography_, to his _Principles of Biology_, and to his position as
a cosmic evolutionist; but little has been said of his psychology and
sociology, which require another volume, or of his ethics and politics,
or of his agnosticism--the whetstone of so many critics. Our
appreciation of Spencer's services is therefore partial, but it may not
for that reason fail in its chief aim, that of illustrating the working
of one of the most scientific minds that ever lived, "whose excess of
science was almost unscientific."

The story of Spencer's life is neither eventful nor picturesque, but it
commands the interest of all who admire faith, courage, and loyalty to
an ideal. It is a story of plain living and high thinking, of one who,
though vexed by an extremely nervous temperament, was as resolute as a
Hebrew prophet in delivering his message. It is the story of a quiet
servant of science, indifferent to conventional honours, careless about
"getting on," disliking controversy, sensationalism, and noise, trusting
to the power of truth alone, that it must prevail.

Another aspect of interest is that Spencer was an arch-heretic, one of
the flowers of Nonconformity, against theology and against metaphysics,
against monarchy and against molly-coddling legislation, against
classical education and against socialism, against war and against
Weismann. So that we can hardly picture the man who has not some crow to
pick with Spencer.

It is not to be wondered at, then, that we find extraordinary difference
of opinion as to the value of the great Dissenter's deliverances. In
1894, Prof. Henry Sidgwick spoke of Herbert Spencer as "our most eminent
living philosopher," and in the same sentence described him as "an
impressive survival of the drift of thought in the first half of the
nineteenth century." Some have likened him to a second Aristotle, while
others assure us that the author of the Synthetic Philosophy was not a
philosopher at all. Similarly there are scientists who tell us that
Spencer may have been a great philosopher, but that he was too much of
an _a priori_ thinker to be of great account in science. Many critics,
indeed, devote so much time and ability to demonstrating Spencer's
incompetence, in this or that field of thought, that the reader is left
with the impression that it must be a tower of strength which requires
so many assaults. And there are others, neither philosophers nor
scientists, who are content to dismiss Spencer with saying that the
least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. Yet this much is
conceded by most, that Herbert Spencer was an unusually keen
intellectual combatant, who took the evolution-formula into his strong
hands as a master-key, and tried (teaching others to try better) to open
therewith all the locked doors of the universe--all the immediate,
though none of the ultimate, riddles, physical and biological,
psychological and ethical, social and religious. And this also is
conceded, that his life was signalised by absolute consecration to the
pursuit of truth, by magnanimous disinterestedness as to rewards, by a
resolute struggle against almost overwhelming difficulties, and by an
entire fearlessness in delivering the message which he believed the
Unknown had given him for the good of the world. In an age of specialism
he held up the banner of the Unity of Science, and he actually
completed, so far as he could complete, the great task of his
life--greater than most men have even dreamed of--that of applying the
evolution-formula to everything knowable. He influenced thought so
largely, he inspired so many disciples, he left so many enduring
works--enduring as seed-plots, if not also as achievements--that his
death, writ large, was immortality.





Remarkable parents often have commonplace children, and a genius may be
born to a very ordinary couple, yet the importance of pedigree is so
patent that our first question in regard to a great man almost
invariably concerns his ancestry. In Herbert Spencer's case the question
is rewarded.

_Ancestry._--From the information afforded by the _Autobiography_ in
regard to ancestry remoter than grandparents, we learn that, on both
sides of the house, Spencer came of a stock characterised by the spirit
of nonconformity, by a correlated respect for something higher than
legislative enactments, and by a regard for remote issues rather than
immediate results. In these respects Herbert Spencer was true to his
stock--an uncompromising nonconformist, with a conscience loyal to
"principles having superhuman origins above rules having human origins,"
and with an eye ever directed to remote issues. Truly it required more
than "ingrained nonconformity," loyalty to principles, and far-sighted
prudence to make a Herbert Spencer, and hundreds unknown to fame must
have shared a similar heritage; but the resemblances between some of
Spencer's characteristics and those of his stock are too close to be
disregarded. Disown him as many nonconformists did, they could not
disinherit him. Nonconformity was in his blood and bone of his bone.

_Grandparents._--Spencer's maternal grandfather, John Holmes of Derby,
was a business man and an active Wesleyan, with "a little more than the
ordinary amount of faculty." The grandmother, née Jane Brettell, is
described as "commonplace," but her portrait suggests a more charitable
verdict. Spencer's paternal grandfather was a schoolmaster, a
"mechanical teacher," somewhat oppressed by life, and "extremely
tender-hearted." If, when a newspaper was being read aloud, there came
an account of something cruel or very unjust, he would exclaim: "Stop,
stop, I can't bear it!" Of this sensitive temperament his illustrious
grandson had a large share. The most notable of the four grandparents
was Catherine Spencer, née Taylor, "of good type both physically and
morally." "Born in 1758 and marrying in 1786, when nearly 28, she had
eight children, led a very active life, and lived till 1843: dying at
the age of 84 in possession of all her faculties." A personal follower
of John Wesley, intensely religious, indefatigably unselfish, combining
unswerving integrity with uniform good temper and affection, "she had
all the domestic virtues in large measures." Her grandson has said that
"nothing was specially manifest in her, intellectually considered,
unless, indeed, what would be called sound common sense." Grandparents
taken together count on an _average_ for about a quarter of the
individual inheritance, but we would note that in Herbert Spencer's
case, Catherine Spencer should be regarded as a peculiarly dominant
hereditary factor.

_Uncles._--Two of her children died in infancy, the only surviving
daughter (_b._ 1788) was an invalid; then came Herbert Spencer's father,
William George (_b._ 1790), and there were four other sons. Henry
Spencer, a year and a half younger than Herbert Spencer's father, was "a
favourable sample of the type," independent with "a strong dash of
chivalry," an energetic, though in the end unsuccessful man of business,
an ardent radical and with "a marked sense of humour." The next son,
John, had strong individuality; he was a notably self-assertive,
obstinate solicitor, successful only in out-living all his brothers.
Thomas, the next brother, began active life as a school-teacher near
Derby, was a student of St John's, Cambridge, achieved honours (ninth
wrangler), and became a clergyman of the Church of England at Hinton. He
was "a reformer," "anticipating great movements," a "radical," a
"Free-Trader," a "teetotaler," "an intensified Englishman." The youngest
son, William, "distinguished less by extent of intellectual acquisitions
than by general soundness of sense, joined with a dash of originality,"
carried on his father's school, and was one of Herbert Spencer's
teachers. He was a Whig and a nonconformist, but more moderate than his
brothers in either direction.

These facts in regard to Herbert Spencer's uncles corroborate the
general thesis that heredity counts for much. The four uncles had
individuality, rising sometimes to the verge of eccentricity; in their
various paths of life they were independent, critical, self-assertive,
and with a characteristic absence of reticence.

_Parents._--George Spencer, Herbert's father (_b._ 1790) was "the flower
of the flock." "To faculties which he had in common with the rest
(except the humour of Henry and the linguistic faculty of Thomas), he
added faculties they gave little sign of. One was inventive ability, and
another was artistic perception, joined with skill of hand." He began
very early to teach in his father's school, and was for most of his life
a teacher. As such, he was noted for his reliance on non-coercive
discipline, and at the same time for his firmness; he continually sought
to stimulate individuality rather than to inform. His _Inventional
Geometry_ and _Lucid Shorthand_ had some vogue for a time.

He was an unconventional person, as shown in little things--by his
repugnance to taking off his hat, to donning signs of mourning, or to
addressing people as "Esq." or "Rev'd.," and in big things by his
pronounced "Whigism." With "a repugnance to all living authority" he
combined so much sympathy and suavity that he was generally beloved. He
found Quakerism "congruous with his nature in respect of its complete
individualism and absence of ecclesiastical government." He had unusual
keenness of the senses, delicacy of manipulation, and noteworthy
artistic skill. A somewhat fastidious and finicking habit of trying to
make things better was expressed in his annotations on dictionaries and
the like, but he had also a larger "passion for reforming the world."
As his son notes, the one great drawback was lack of considerateness and
good temper in his relations with his wife. For this, however, a nervous
disorder was in part to blame. He lived to be over seventy.

Herbert Spencer's mother, née Harriet Holmes (1794-1867), introduced a
new strain into the heritage. "So far from showing any ingrained
nonconformity, she rather displayed an ingrained conformity." A Wesleyan
by tradition rather than by conviction, she was constitutionally averse
to change or adventure, non-assertive, self-sacrificing, patient, and
gentle. "Briefly characterised, she was of ordinary intelligence and of
high moral nature--a moral nature of which the deficiency was the
reverse of that commonly to be observed: she was not sufficiently
self-asserting: altruism was too little qualified by egoism."

Spencer did not think that he took after his mother except in some
physical features. He had something of his father's nervous weakness,
but he had not his large chest and well developed heart and lungs.
Believing that "the mind is as deep as the viscera," he does not scruple
to state that his "visceral constitution was maternal rather than

     "Whatever specialities of character and faculty in me are due to
     inheritance, are inherited from my father. Between my mother's mind
     and my own I see scarcely any resemblances, emotional or
     intellectual. She was very patient; I am very impatient. She was
     tolerant of pain, bodily or mental; I am intolerant of it. She was
     little given to finding fault with others; I am greatly given to
     it. She was submissive; I am the reverse of submissive. So, too,
     in respect of intellectual faculties, I can perceive no trait
     common to us, unless it be a certain greater calmness of judgment
     than was shown by my father; for my father's vivid representative
     faculty was apt to play him false. Not only, however, in the moral
     characters just named am I like my father, but such intellectual
     characters as are peculiar are derived from him" (_Autobiography_
     ii., p. 430).



     _Boyhood--School--At Hinton--At Home_

Herbert Spencer was born at Derby on the 27th of April 1820. His father
and mother had married early in the preceding year, at the age of about
29 and 25 respectively. Except a little sister, a year his junior, who
lived for two years, he was practically the only child, for of the five
infants who followed none lived more than a few days. As Spencer
pathetically remarks: "It was one of my misfortunes to have no brothers,
and a still greater misfortune to have no sisters." But is it not
recompense enough of any marriage to produce a genius?

In reference to his father's breakdown soon after marriage, Spencer
writes: "I doubt not that had he retained good health, my early
education would have been much better than it was; for not only did his
state of body and mind prevent him from paying as much attention to my
intellectual culture as he doubtless wished, but irritability and
depression checked that geniality of behaviour which fosters the
affections and brings out in children the higher traits of nature. There
are many whose lives would have been happier had their parents been more
careful about themselves, and less anxious to provide for others."

_Boyhood._--The father's ill-health had this compensation, that Herbert
Spencer spent much of his childhood (æt. 4-7) in the country--at New
Radford, near Nottingham. In his later years he had still vivid
recollections of rambling among the gorse-bushes which towered above his
head, of exploring the narrow tracks which led to unexpected places, and
of picking the blue-bells "from among the prickly branches, which were
here and there flecked with fragments of wool left by passing sheep." He
was allowed freedom from ordinary "lessons," and enjoyed a long latent
receptive period.

In 1827 the family returned to Derby, but for some time the boy's life
was comparatively unrestrained. There was some gardening to do--an
educational discipline far too little appreciated--and there was "almost
nominal" school-drill; but there was plenty of time for exploring the
neighbourhood, for fishing and bird-nesting, for watching the bees and
the gnat-larvæ, for gathering mushrooms and blackberries. "Beyond the
pleasurable exercise and the gratification of my love of adventure,
there was gained during these excursions much miscellaneous knowledge of
things, and the perceptions were beneficially disciplined." "Most
children are instinctively naturalists, and were they encouraged would
readily pass from careless observations to careful and deliberate ones.
My father was wise in such matters, and I was not simply allowed but
encouraged to enter on natural history."

He had the run of a farm at Ingleby during holidays; he enjoyed fishing
in the Trent, in which he was within an ace of being drowned when about
ten years old; he was a keen collector of insects, watching their
metamorphoses, and often drawing and describing his captures; and he was
also encouraged to make models. In short, he had in a simple way not a
few of the disciplines which modern pædagogics--helped greatly by
Spencer himself--has recognised to be salutary.

In his boyhood Spencer was extremely prone to castle-building or
day-dreaming--"a habit which continued throughout youth and into mature
life; finally passing, I suppose, into the dwelling on schemes more or
less practicable." For his tendency to absorption, without which there
has seldom been greatness of achievement, he was often reproached by his
father in the words: "As usual, Herbert, thinking only of one thing at a

He did not read tolerably until he was over seven years old, and
_Sandford and Merton_ was the first book that prompted him to read of
his own accord. He rapidly advanced to _The Castle of Otranto_ and
similar romances, all the more delectable that they were forbidden
fruits. While John Stuart Mill was working at the Greek classics,
Herbert Spencer was reading novels in bed. But the appetite for reading
was soon cloyed, and he became incapable of enjoying anything but novels
and travels for more than an hour or two at a time.

_School._--As to more definite intellectual culture, the first school
period (before ten years) seems to have counted for little, and is
interesting only because it revealed the boy's general aversion to
rote-learning and dogmatic statements. Shielded from direct punishment,
he lived in an atmosphere of reproof, and this "naturally led to a
state of chronic antagonism." But when he was ten (1830) he became one
of his Uncle William's pupils, and this led to some progress. There was
drawing, map-making, experimenting, Greek Testament without grammar, but
comparatively little lesson-learning. "As a consequence, I was not in
continual disgrace." The boy was quick in all matters appealing to
reason, and "had a somewhat remarkable perception of locality and the
relations of position generally, which in later life disappeared."

Apart from school he had the advantage of hearing discussions between
his father and his friends on all sorts of topics, of preparing for the
scientific demonstrations which his father occasionally gave, of
sampling scientific periodicals which came to the Derby Philosophical
Society of which his father was honorary secretary, and of reading such
works as Rollin's _Ancient History_ and Gibbon's _Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire_. He was continually prompted to "intellectual
self-help," and was continually stimulated by the question, "Can you
tell me the cause of this?"

"Always the tendency in himself, and the tendency strengthened in me,
was to regard everything as naturally caused; and I doubt not that while
the notion of causation was thus rendered much more definite in me than
in most of my age, there was established a habit of seeking for causes,
as well as a tacit belief in the universality of causation." "A tacit
belief in the universality of causation" seems a big item to be put to
the credit of a boy of thirteen, but we have the echo of it in Clerk
Maxwell's continual boyish question, "What is the go of this?" That the
question of cause was acute in both cases implies that both had
hereditarily fine brains, but it also suggests that the question is
normal in those who are naturally educated. The sensitive, irritable,
invalid father was no ideal parent, but he did not snub his son's
inquisitiveness, nor coerce his independence, nor appeal to authority as
such as a reason for accepting any belief.

Spencer has given in his _Autobiography_ a picture of himself as a boy
of thirteen. His constitution was distinguished "rather by good balance
than by great vital activity"; there was "a large margin of latent
power"; he was more fleet than any of his school-fellows. He was
decidedly peaceful, but when enraged no considerations of pain or danger
or anything else restrained him. He was affectionate and tender-hearted,
but his most marked moral trait was disregard of authority. His memory
was rather below par than above; he was "averse to lesson-learning and
the acquisition of knowledge after the ordinary routine methods," but he
picked up general information with facility; he could not bear prolonged
reading or the receptive attitude. From about ten years of age to
thirteen he habitually went on Sunday morning with his father to the
Friends' Meeting House, and in the evening with his mother to the
Methodist Chapel. "I do not know that any marked effect on me followed;
further, perhaps, than that the alternation tended to enlarge my views
by presenting me with differences of opinion and usage." While John Mill
kept his son away from conventional religious influences, Spencer's
father excluded none; and the result seems to have been much the same
in the two cases. In this and other connections, Prof. W. H. Hudson
points out the contrast between the methods of the two fathers of the
two remarkable sons--John Stuart Mill was constrained along carefully
chosen paths, Herbert Spencer enjoyed more elbow-room and free-play,
what German biologists call "Abänderungsspielraum."

At thirteen, Herbert Spencer had little Latin and less Greek; he was
wholly uninstructed in "English"; he had no knowledge of mathematics,
English history, ancient literature, or biography. "Concerning things
around, however, and their properties, I knew a good deal more than is
known by most boys." Through physics and chemistry in certain lines,
through entomology and general natural history, through miscellaneous
reading in physiology and geography, he had in many ways an intellectual
grip of his environment; but on the lines of the "humanities" he was
wofully uneducated.

On the other hand, his education had been stimulating and emancipating,
and even as a boy of thirteen his intelligence was alert and
independent. Much in the open air, he had kept an open mind. He had
learned to use his brains and to enjoy nature. After that, everything is

_At Hinton._--When Herbert Spencer was thirteen (in the summer of 1833)
his parents took him to his Uncle Thomas, at Hinton Charterhouse, near
Bath. The journey was a revelation to the boy, and his early days at
Hinton were full of delight, especially in regard to the new
butterflies. But when he discovered that he had come to stay and to be
schooled, he had a feverish _Heimweh_, and soon followed his parents
homewards. "That a boy of thirteen should, without any food but bread
and water and two or three glasses of beer, and without sleep for two
nights, walk 48 miles one day, 47 the next, and some 20 the third, is
surprising enough." It was a rather absurd boyish escapade, mainly due
to lack of parental frankness, but not without the compliment implied in
all nostalgia, and it gives us an inkling of Spencer's obstinacy and

A fortnight after the escapade, the runaway returned peacefully to
Hinton--content with his dramatic assertion of himself. For about three
years he remained under his uncle's tutorship, and this was a formative
period. Hinton stands high in a hilly country, between Bath and Frome,
with picturesque places all round. His uncle was "a man of energetic,
strongly-marked character," "intellectually above the average," with a
good deal of originality of thought. Like his kindly wife, he belonged
to the evangelical school.

"The daily routine was not a trying one. In the morning Euclid and
Latin, in the afternoon commonly gardening, or sometimes a walk; and in
the evening, after a little more study, usually of algebra I think, came
reading, with occasionally chess. I became at that time very fond of
chess, and acquired some skill." The aversion to linguistic studies
continued, but there was an enthusiasm for mathematics and physics. To a
modern educationist the regime at Hinton cannot but seem narrow; there
was no history, no letters, no concrete science, and no play. There was
certainly no over-pressure, but there was some brain-stretching and
some salutary moral discipline. Stimulating, doubtless, was the
table-talk and Mr Spencer's arguments with his nephew, whom he found
"very deficient in the principle of _Fear_." We must not forget the
visits to London (including the then private Zoological Gardens), or the
first appearances in print--two letters in the newly started _Bath
Magazine_ on curiously shaped floating crystals of common salt, and on
the New Poor Law! In June 1836, Herbert Spencer returned to Derby,
benefited by the rural life and bracing climate of Hinton, "strong, in
good health, and of good stature."

Looking backward after many years, Herbert Spencer felt that he was
treated as a youth "with much more consideration and generosity than
might have been expected. There was shown great patience in prosecuting
what seemed by no means a hopeful undertaking." It is interesting, of
course, to speculate what might have been the result if the boy's
education had been less of a family affair; and it would be unfair to
conclude that the success which attended the easy-going, personal,
familiar instruction of this boy of uncommon brains would also attend a
similar treatment of those of humbler parts. But would it not be well to
make the experiment oftener, since the material abounds, and since the
results of the conventional discipline of public schools and the like
are not dazzlingly successful?

Spencer felt strongly, as he indulged in retrospect, that his
well-meaning educators "had to deal with intractable material--an
individuality too stiff to be easily moulded." That we may, in time,
come to have not an occasional stiff haulm with a big ear, but a whole
crop of them, must be the prayer of all who believe in education and

Another of Spencer's retrospective convictions is one that makes all
human nature kin--that he was not so black as he was painted. His father
and his uncle had been eminently "good" boys, and they gauged boy-nature
by their own standard. Had he gone to a public school, Spencer thinks
that his "_extrinsically_-wrong actions would have been many, but the
_intrinsically_-wrong actions would have been few." This distinction
will doubtless appeal to the wise.

_At Home._--For a year and a half after leaving Hinton, Herbert Spencer
remained at home, enjoying another period of freedom. He made in a day,
without previous experience, a survey of his father's small property at
Kirk Ireton--two fields and three cottages with their gardens; he made
designs for a country house; he hit upon a remarkable property of the
circle; and he fished. Meanwhile, however, his father who "held, and
rightly held, that there are few functions higher than that of the
educator," induced him to engage in school-work, and this experiment
lasted for three months. It appears to have been directly a success,
Spencer's lessons were at once "effective and pleasure-giving," and
"complete harmony continued throughout the entire period"; it was not
less important eventually, for we cannot doubt that part of the
effectiveness of Herbert Spencer's book on _Education_ is traceable to
the fact that he had, for a term at least, personal experience of

Even at this early age (17 years) Spencer had ideals of "intellectual
culture, moral discipline, and physical training." But as he disliked
mechanical routine, had a great intolerance of monotony, and had ideas
of his own, it seems likely enough that if he had embraced the
profession of teacher, he would sooner or later have "thrown it up in
disgust." The experiment was not to be tried further, however, for in
November 1837, his uncle William wrote from London that he had obtained
for his nephew a post under Mr Charles Fox as a railway engineer. "The
profession of a civil engineer had already been named as one appropriate
for me; and this opening at once led to the adoption of it."

We may sum up the first two periods of Spencer's life. The period of
childhood was marked by a more than usual freedom from the conventional
responsibilities of juvenile tasks, by the large proportion of open-air
life, and by much more intercourse with adults than with other children.
The table talk between his father and uncles had an important moulding
influence, all the more that there was "a comparatively small interest
in gossip." "Their conversation ever tended towards the impersonal....
There was no considerable leaning towards literature.... It was rather
the scientific interpretations and moral aspects of things which
occupied their thoughts." The period of boyhood and of more definite
education was marked by freedom and variety, by a relative absence of
linguistic discipline, by a preponderance of scientific training, by
much family influence, and by an unusual amount of independent



     _Engineering--Many Inventions--Glimpse of Evolution-Idea--A Resting
     Period--Beginning to Write--Experimenting with Life_

Herbert Spencer's life after boyhood may be conveniently divided into
four periods:--

1. For about ten years he was engaged in varied practical
work--surveying, plan-making, engineering, secretarial business, and
superintendence (1837-1846).

2. After an unattached couple of years, during which he continued his
self-education, experimented, invented, and meditated, there began a
period of miscellaneous literary work, of journalism, and essay-writing,
during which he wrote his _Principles of Psychology_ and felt his way to
his System (1848-1860).

3. At the age of forty, he settled down to something like unity of
occupation--developing and writing _The Synthetic Philosophy_

4. Finally, during a prolonged period of pronounced invalidism, he
withdrew almost completely from social life, husbanding his meagre
supply of mental energy for the completion of his System, the revision
of his works, and his _Autobiography_ (1882-1903).

_Engineering._--For about ten years (1837-46) Herbert Spencer had a
varied experience of practical life. He began as assistant, at £80 a
year, to Mr Charles Fox, who had been one of Mr George Spencer's
pupils,--a man of mechanical genius, who was at that time resident
engineer of the London division of the "London and Birmingham" railway,
and afterwards became well known as the designer and constructor of the
Exhibition-Building of 1851. Spencer had surveying and measuring,
drawing and calculating to do, and he threw off the slackness which
marked his school-days. During the first six months in London he never
went to any place of amusement and never read a novel, but gave his
leisure to mathematical questions and to suggesting little inventions or
improved methods.

A transference for the summer months to Wembly, near Harrow, gave him
even more time for study, and we read of an appliance by which he
proposed to facilitate some kinds of sewing. He seems to have pleased
his employer well, for in September 1838 he was advanced to a post of
draughtsman in connection with the "Gloucester and Birmingham" railway,
at a salary of £120 yearly. Thus the next two years were spent at
Worcester, where he had his first experience of working alongside of
other young men, to whom he appeared rather an "oddity," though not one
to be "quizzed." His "mental excursiveness" grew stronger and stronger,
and had occasionally useful results, leading, for instance, to an
article in _The Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal_ (May 1839) on a
new plan of projecting the spiral courses in skew bridges, to a
re-invention of Nicholson's Cyclograph, and to an improvement in the
apparatus for giving and receiving the mail-bags carried by trains.

_Many Inventions._--In 1840, Spencer became engineering secretary to
his chief, Captain Moorson, and went to live in the little village of
Powick, about three miles out of Worcester. He enjoyed his work, and had
the new experience of establishing relations with a number of children,
with whom he soon became a favourite. Long afterwards, in his declining
years he found much gratification in making friends with children, and
referred to it quaintly as "a vicarious phase of the philoprogenitive
instinct." It was at Powick that Spencer first began to have a
conscience about his very defective spelling (his _morals_ had always
been _sans reproche_) and to take an interest in style. It was at
Powick, too, in a physical and social environment that suited him, that
Spencer invented his "Velocimeter," a little instrument for showing by
inspection the velocity of an engine, and two or three other devices. He
had inherited his father's constructive imagination, and his father's
discipline had increased it. The father wrote on July 3rd, 1840, "I am
glad you find your inventive powers are beginning to develop themselves.
Indulge a grateful feeling for it. Recollect, also, the never-ceasing
pains taken with you on that point in early life." And the son remarks
gratefully that this conveys a lesson to educators; the inherited
endowment is much, but the fostering of it is also much. "Culture of the
humdrum sort, given by those who ordinarily pass for teachers, would
have left the faculty undeveloped." On the whole, however, Spencer
attached most importance to the hereditary endowment, for he goes on to
say that Edison, "probably the most remarkable inventor who ever lived,"
was a self-trained man, and that Sir Benjamin Baker, "the designer and
constructor of the Forth Bridge, the grandest and most original bridge
in the world, received no regular engineering education." It was at
Powick, too, that place of many inventions, that Herbert Spencer (aetat.
20) made the intimate acquaintance of an "intelligent, unconventional,
amiable, and in various ways attractive" young lady, who "tended to
diminish his _brusquerie_." Luckily or unluckily, the young lady was
engaged; and Spencer remarks, "It was pretty clear that had it not been
for the pre-engagement our intimacy would have grown into something
serious. This would have been a misfortune, for she had little or
nothing and my prospects were none of the brightest." Here the ancestral
prudence crops out.

_Glimpses of Evolution-Idea._--The year 1840-41 was "a nomadic period,"
of bridge-building at Bromsgroove and Defford, of "castle-building,"
too, for he dreamt of making a fortune by successful inventions, of
testing engines, and other routine duties,--a life involving
considerable wear and tear which began to tell on Spencer's eyes. During
this period he renewed his youth by collecting fossils, and "making a
collection is," as he afterwards said, "the proper commencement of any
natural history study; since, in the first place, it conduces to a
concrete knowledge which gives definiteness to the general ideas
subsequently reached, and, further, it creates an indirect stimulus by
giving gratification to that love of acquisition which exists in all."
It was then that the purchase of Lyell's _Principles of Geology_ led
him, curiously enough, to adopt the supposition that organic forms have
arisen, not by special creation, but by progressive modifications,
physically caused and inherited. In spite of Lyell's chapter refuting
Lamarck's views concerning the origin of species, it was with Lamarck
that Spencer, at the age of twenty, sided. The idea of natural genesis
was in harmony with the general idea of the order of Nature towards
which Spencer had been growing. "My belief in it never afterwards
wavered, much as I was, in after years, ridiculed for entertaining it."

"The incident illustrates the general truth that the acceptance of this
or that particular belief, is in part a question of the type of mind.
There are some minds to which the marvellous and the unaccountable
strongly appeal, and which even resent any attempt to bring the genesis
of them within comprehension. There are other minds which, partly by
nature and partly by culture, have been led to dislike a quiescent
acceptance of the unintelligible; and which push their explorations
until causation has been carried to its confines. To this last order of
minds mine, from the beginning, belonged."

Spencer's engagement with Capt. Moorson came to a natural termination,
and an offer of a permanent post on the Birmingham and Gloucester
railway was declined, one motive being a desire to prepare for the
future by a course of mathematical study, another being to work at an
idea his father had arrived at of an electro-magnetic engine. Thus his
twenty-first birthday was spent at home in Derby, after an absence of
three and a half years,--which had been on the whole "satisfactory, in
so far as personal improvement and professional success were

_A Resting Period._--But when he got home he found his study of a work
on the Differential Calculus a weariness to the flesh. "To apply day
after day merely with the general idea of acquiring information, or of
increasing ability," was not in him, though he could work hard when the
end in view was definite or large enough. Moreover an article in the
_Philosophical Magazine_ led to an immediate abandonment of the idea of
an electro-magnetic engine. "Thus, within a month of my return to Derby,
it became manifest that, in pursuit of a will-o'-the-wisp, I had left
behind a place of vantage from which there might probably have been
ascents to higher places."

As a consolation for what was at the time a disappointment, Herbert
Spencer made a herbarium, which still retained in 1894 a specimen of
Enchanter's Nightshade gathered in the grove skirting the river near
Darley. In company with Edward Lott, with whom he formed a life-long
friendship, he often spent the early summer morning, in rowing up the
Derwent, which in those days was rural and not unpicturesque above
Derby. As they rowed they sang popular songs, making the woods echo with
their voices, and now and then arresting their "secular matins" for the
purpose of gathering a plant. It is refreshing to read of Spencer having
in his head a considerable stock of sentimental ballads.

It was during this fallow year that at the age of one-and-twenty he went
with his father on a walking tour in the Isle of Wight, and first saw
the sea. "The emotion produced in me was, I think, a mixture of joy and
awe,--the awe resulting from the manifestation of size and power, and
the joy, I suppose, from the sense of freedom given by limitless
expanse." His father and he were good companions.

We read of various activities during this period,--of investigations,
with inadequate mathematics, concerning the strength of girders, of
experiments in electrotyping and the like, of botanical excursions, of
some enthusiastic exercise in part-singing, drawing and modelling. In
the early summer of 1842 Spencer paid a visit to his old haunts at
Hinton. "The journey left its mark because, in the course of it, I found
that practice in modelling had increased my perception of beauty in
form. A good-looking girl, who was one of our fellow-passengers for a
short interval, had remarkably fine eyes: and I had much quiet
satisfaction in observing their forms." Our hero had not much sense of

_Beginning to write._--Of greater importance is the fact that Spencer
began in 1842 to write letters to _The Nonconformist_ on social
problems, in which prominence was given to such conceptions as the
universality of law and causation, progressive adaptation in organisms
and in Man, and the tendency to equilibrium through self-adjustment.
"Every day in every life there is a budding out of incidents severally
capable of leading to large results; but the immense majority of them
end as buds, only now and then does one grow into a branch, and very
rarely does such a branch outgrow and overshadow all others." The visit
to Hinton led to political conversations with Thomas Spencer, to a
letter of introduction to the editor of _The Nonconformist_, to the
letters on "The Proper Sphere of Government," to the _Social Statics_
and eventually to the _Synthetic Philosophy_!

Spencer's next activity was an inquiry into his father's system of
short-hand, which he found to be better than Pitman's. He passed to
speculations on the methods to be followed in forming a universal
language, and to shrewd criticisms of the decimal system of enumeration.
In the autumn of 1842 he interested himself enthusiastically in "The
Complete Suffrage Movement." For a youth of twenty-two he took a big
plunge into politics. "It produced in me a high tide of mental energy";
the signature on a draft democratic bill "has a sweep and vigour
exceeding that of any other signature I ever made, either before or

In the spring of 1843 Herbert Spencer went to London and tried very
unsuccessfully to get editors to accept his wares. He made a pamphlet of
his _Nonconformist_ letters, but perhaps a hundred copies were sold!
"The printer's bill was £10 2s. 6d., and the publisher's payment to me
on the first year's sales was fourteen shillings and threepence!"

_Experimenting with Life._--Spencer's half year in London came
to little. As he says, he was too much "in the mood of Mr
Micawber,--waiting for something to turn up, and waiting in vain." So he
raised the siege and retreated to Derby. There he read Mill's _System of
Logic_, Carlyle's _Sartor Resartus_ and some of Emerson's essays. He
tried his hand at improving watches, printing-presses, type-making, and
what not; he speculated on the rôle of carbon in the earth's history,
and on phrenology; and in 1844 he migrated to Birmingham to be
sub-editor of a short-lived paper called _The Pilot_.

It was then that he made a superficial acquaintance with Kant's
_Critique of Pure Reason_, only to give it "summary dismissal." He was
deterred from pursuing the acquaintance by the "utter incredibility" of
the proposition that time and space are "nothing but" subjective forms,
and by "want of confidence in the reasonings of any one who could accept
a proposition so incredible."

After about a month of sub-editing, he reverted to his former profession
of railway engineer, having been commissioned to help with mapping out a
projected branch line between Stourbridge and Wolverhampton. The country
was dreary enough, but Spencer had abundant open-air work, and it was
during this short period that he made a lasting friendship with Mr W. F.
Loch which was important in his life.

Then followed an interval, partly in London and partly in the fields of
Warwickshire, occupied in various ways connected with railway
development, which was then becoming a mania. He seems to have done his
work effectively, but it led to no important personal results, and the
failure of his chief employer's schemes in 1846 ended Spencer's
connection with railway projects and engineering. In afterwards
discussing the question whether he should have made a good engineer or
not, Spencer notes with his characteristic self-impartiality that he had
adequate inventiveness but insufficient patience, enough of intelligence
but too little tact. He had an "aversion to mere mechanical humdrum
work," "inadequate regard for precedent," no interest in financial
details, and a "lack of tact in dealing with men, especially superiors."
The frank analysis is interesting, especially in indicating how Spencer
was weak where Darwin was strong, in "la patience suivie," in dogged
persistence at detailed work. It may seem strange to say this when we
think of his indomitable perseverance with his life-work, but this was
quite consistent with a "constitutional idleness," with a shirking from
everything tedious except his own thinking. As Thomas Hardy says of one
of his characters, "he was a thinker by instinct, but he was only a
worker by effort." He never learned or tried to learn what it was to put
his nose to the grindstone: he would not learn "lessons," he recoiled
from languages, he baulked at the differential calculus, he trifled with
Kant and Comte, he was always "an impatient reader." He elected to think
for himself, and had the defect of this rare quality.



     _More Inventions--Sub-editing--Avowal of
     Evolutionism--Friendships--Books and Essays--Crystallisation
      of his Thought--Settling to Life-work_

Thrown out of regular employment once more, Spencer was left free for a
time to follow his own bent. He lived a "miscellaneous and rather futile
kind of life," reading a little and thinking much over a proposed book
on Social Statics, holidaying a good deal and trying in vain to make
money by inventions.

_More Inventions._--In 1845 he had a scheme of quasi-aerial locomotion:
not a flying machine but "something uniting terrestrial traction with
aerial suspension"; but even on paper it broke down. In 1846 he patented
an effective "binding pin" for fastening loose sheets, which might have
been a financial success if it had been properly pushed. About the same
time he was speculating on a method of multiplying decorative
patterns,--a sort of "mental kaleidoscope," and on a systematic
nomenclature for colours, analogous to that on which the points of the
compass are named. More ambitious was a new planing engine and an
improvement in type-making, but neither got much beyond the paper stage.
In fact Spencer discovered, as so many have done, that it is one thing
to invent and another thing to make inventions boil the pot. For a year
and a half, he lamented, time and energy and money had been simply
thrown away. The proceeds of the binding pin just about served to pay
for his share in the cost of the planing machine patent.

Seven years spent in experimenting towards a livelihood had not brought
Spencer much success. In point of fact he was "stranded," and there was
talk of emigration to New Zealand, or of "reverting to the ancestral
profession" of teaching, but the year of suspense ended with his
appointment (1848) as sub-editor in _The Economist_ office, at a salary
of one hundred guineas a year. "Thus an end was at last put to the
seemingly futile part of my life which filled the space between
twenty-one and twenty-eight--futile in respect of material progress, but
in other respects perhaps not futile."

He had enjoyed a varied intercourse with men and things during these
seven lean years of railway-making, sub-editing, experimenting,
inventing; he had had experience of field work and office work, of doing
what he was told and of exercising authority; he had had time for
drawing, modelling, music, and some natural history; he had come to know
something of life's ups and downs. "In short, there had been gained a
more than usually heterogeneous, though superficial, acquaintance with
the world, animate and inanimate. And along with the gaining of it had
gone a running commentary of speculative thought about the various
matters presented." _Vivendo discimus._

_Sub-editing._--Spencer's duties as sub-editor of _The Economist_ were
not onerous; he had abundant leisure for reading and reflection, for
music and that pleasant conversation which is one of the ends of life.
He had great Sunday evening talks with his broad-minded philanthropic
uncle Thomas who had come to live in London, and he began to know
interesting people, notably, perhaps, Mr G. H. Lewes. His reading was
mainly in connection with the journal he had charge of, and Coleridge's
_Idea of Life_, with its doctrine of individuation, was the only serious
work which seems to have left any impression during that early period.
He tried Ruskin but recoiled disappointed from his "multitudinous
absurdities." He also tried vegetarianism but found that it lowered his
bodily and mental vigour.

He worked hard at his first book, sitting late over it with an assiduity
to which he looked back with astonishment in after years. The subject of
the book was "A system of Social and Political Morality" and he had
great searchings for a suitable title, his own preference for
"Demostatics" yielding finally in favour of "Social Statics." This
phrase had been used by Comte as the heading of one of the divisions of
his Sociology, but Spencer was quite unaware of this, and at that time
"knew nothing more of Auguste Comte, than that he was a French
philosopher." There were also great difficulties in securing
publication, although to get the work printed and circulated without
loss was as much as he hoped for. "At that time I was, and have since
remained, one of those classed by Dr Johnson as fools--one whose motive
in writing books was not, and never has been, that of making money."

What Spencer calls "an idle year" (1850-1) followed the publication of
_Social Statics_, but it was then that he attended a course of lectures
by Prof. Owen on Comparative Osteology, and doubtless got a firmer hold
of those principles of organic architecture which make even dry bones
live. It was then, too, that he had walks with George Henry Lewes, which
were profitable on both sides. Lewes received an impulse which awakened
interest in scientific inquiries, and Spencer became interested in
philosophy at large. He read Lewes's _Biographical History of
Philosophy_, and there was one memorable ramble during which a volume by
Milne-Edwards in Lewes's bag was the means of vivifying for Spencer the
idea of "the physiological division of labour." "Though the conception
was not new to me, as is shown towards the end of _Social Statics_, yet
the mode of formulating it was; and the phrase thereafter played a part
in the course of my thought." About the same time, in preparing a review
of Carpenter's _Physiology_, he came across von Baer's formula
expressing the course of development through which every living creature
passes--"the change from homogeneity to heterogeneity"; and from this
very important consequences ensued.

Through Lewes he got to know Carlyle, but the acquaintance was never
deepened. While he admired Carlyle's vigour and originality, he was
repelled by his passionate incoherence of thought, his prejudices, his
dogmatism, his "insensate dislike of science." "Carlyle's nature was one
which lacked co-ordination, alike intellectually and morally. Under both
aspects, he was, in a great measure, chaotic." To Carlyle, on the other
hand, Spencer appeared "an unmeasurable ass."

_Avowal of Evolutionism._--In 1852 Spencer definitely began his work as
a pioneer of Evolution Doctrine by publishing the famous _Leader_
article on "The Development Hypothesis," in which he avowed his belief
that the whole world of life is the result of an age-long process of
natural transmutation. In the same year he wrote for _The Westminster
Review_ another important essay, "A Theory of Population deduced from
the General Law of Animal Fertility," in which he sought to show that
the degree of fertility is inversely proportionate to the grade of
development, or conversely that the attainment of higher degrees of
evolution must be accompanied by lower rates of multiplication. Towards
the close of the article he came within an ace of recognising that the
struggle for existence was a factor in organic evolution. It is
profoundly instructive to find that at a time when pressure of
population was practically interesting men's minds, not Spencer only,
but Darwin and Wallace, were being independently led from this social
problem to a biological theory of organic evolution. There could be no
better illustration, as Prof. Geddes has pointed out, of the Comtian
thesis that science is a "social phenomenon."

_Friendships._--About this time a strong friendship arose between
Spencer and Miss Evans (George Eliot). To him she was "the most
admirable woman, mentally," he ever met, and he speaks enthusiastically
of her large intelligence working easily, her remarkable philosophical
powers, her habitual calm, her deep and broad sympathies. It is
interesting to learn that he strongly advised her to write novels, and
that she tried in vain to induce him to read Comte. As they were often
together and the best of friends, the gossips had it that he was in love
with her and that they were about to be married. "But neither of these
reports was true."

Another friendship, formed about the same time, was an important factor
in Spencer's life; he got to know Huxley and thus came into close touch
with a scientific worker of the first rank, useful alike in suggestion
and in criticism. He found another friend in Tyndall, whom he greatly
admired for his combination of the poetic with the scientific mood, for
"his passion for Nature quite Wordsworthian in its intensity," and for
his interest in "the relations between science at large and the great
questions which lie beyond science."

In 1853, by the death of his uncle Thomas, who had persistently
overworked himself, Spencer received a bequest of £500. On the strength
of this and the extended literary connections which the good offices of
Mr Lewes and Mr (afterwards Prof.) David Masson had secured for him, he
resigned his sub-editorship of _The Economist_ in order to obtain
leisure for larger works. He always believed in burning his ships before
a struggle.

Looking back on the "_Economist_" period, Spencer felt that his later
career had been "mainly determined by the conceptions which were then
initiated and the friendships which were formed."

_Books and Essays._--Spencer's life of greater freedom began with a
holiday in Switzerland (1853), which "fully equalled his anticipations
in respect of its grandeur, but did not do so in respect of its beauty."
The tour was greatly enjoyed, for Spencer was a lover of mountains, but
some excesses in walking seem to have overtaxed his heart, and
immediately after his return "there commenced cardiac disturbances which
never afterwards entirely ceased; and which doubtless prepared the way
for the more serious derangements of health subsequently established."

For a time he settled down to essay-writing; _e.g._, on "Method in
Education," in which he sought to justify his own experience of his
father's non-coercive liberating methods by affiliating these with the
Method of Nature; on "Manners and Fashions," in which he protested
against unthinking subservience to social conventions, some of which are
mere survivals of more primitive times without present-day
justification; on "The Genesis of Science," in which he showed how the
sciences have grown out of common knowledge; and on "Railway Morals and
Railway Policy," in which he made some salutary disclosures with
characteristic fearlessness.

Spencer's second book, "The Principles of Psychology," began to be
written in 1854 in a summer-house at Tréport, and it was in the same
year that the author made his first acquaintance with Paris. Preoccupied
with his task, he wandered from Jersey to Brighton, from London to
Derby, often writing about five hours a day, and thinking with but
little intermission. The result was that he finished the book in about a
year and almost finished his own career. The nervous breakdown that
followed cost him a year and a half for recuperation, and his pursuit of
truth was ever afterwards involved with a pursuit of health.

In search of health Spencer reverted to the best of his ability to a
simple life, but he found it difficult not to think. Thought rode
behind him when he tried horseback exercise, and novels brought only
sleeplessness. He tried yachting and he tried fishing, shower-baths and
sea-bathing, playing with children and sleeping in a haunted room, but
the cure was slow; music was almost the only thing he could enjoy with
impunity. It was when fishing one morning in Loch Doon that he vented
his first oath, at the age of thirty-six, because his line was tangled,
and became, he tells us, more fully aware of the irritability produced
by his nervous disorder!

As entire idleness seemed futile, and as two and a half years had
elapsed since he had made any money, Spencer returned to London
(1857)--to a home with children--and began in a leisurely way to write
more essays. He composed the article on "Progress: its Law and Cause" at
the pathetically slow rate of about half a page per day, and the effort
proved beneficial. A significant essay entitled, "Transcendental
Physiology," dates from the same year, and during an angling holiday in
Scotland he wrote another on the "Origin and Function of Music."
Starting from the fact that feeling tends to discharge itself in
muscular contractions, including those of the vocal organs, he sought to
show that music is a development of the natural language of the

_Crystallisation of his Thought._--Spencer settled down in London in a
home "with a lively circle," and pursued his calling as a thinker with
quiet resolution. He had Sunday afternoon walks and talks with Huxley,
and he occasionally dined out to meet interesting people such as Buckle
and Grote; but the tenor of his life was uninterrupted by much
incident. In this year he published a volume of essays new and old,
_Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative_; and this was probably
in part responsible for a great unification in Spencer's thought. It was
in the beginning of 1858 that he made the first sketch of his System,
and on the 9th of January he wrote to his father as follows: "Within the
last ten days my ideas on various matters have suddenly crystallised
into a complete whole. Many things which were before lying separate have
fallen into their places as harmonious parts of a system that admits of
logical development from the simplest general principles."

In this _annus mirabilis_ (1858) when Darwin and Wallace read their
papers at the Linnæan Society expounding the idea of Natural Selection,
Spencer was also thinking keenly along evolutionary lines. He ventured
on a defence of the Nebular Hypothesis and a criticism of Owen's
Vertebral Theory of the Skull; and he was working at the question of the
form and symmetry of animals, which he interpreted as "determined by the
relations of the parts to incident forces." Vigorous as he was in his
intelligence, he was still unable to work for more than about three
hours a day, and his pecuniary prospects were dismal. In view of his
determination to go on working out his System, it was a fortunate chance
that led him in an emergency to discover that he could greatly increase
his productivity by dictating instead of writing.

Spencer made various efforts (1859-60) to secure some Government
appointment which would afford him a steady income and yet leave him
free for his life-work, but as nothing came of these, he went on quietly
with his essay-writing, with many pleasant holidays interspersed, and
produced his "Illogical Geology," "The Social Organism," "Prison
Ethics," "The Physiology of Laughter," and so on.

_Settling to his life-work._--Baffled in other plans, he at length
organised a scheme of publishing his projected series of volumes by
subscription. His influential friends headed the list and four hundred
names were soon secured in Britain; the disinterested energy of an
American admirer, Prof. E. S. Youmans, raised the total to six hundred.
And thus Spencer, at the age of forty, handicapped by lack of means and
health, calmly sat down to a task which was calculated to occupy him for
twenty years.... "To think that an amount of mental exertion great
enough to tax the energies of one in full health and vigour, and at his
ease in respect of means, should be undertaken by one who, having only
precarious resources, had become so far a nervous invalid that he could
not with any certainty count upon his powers from one twenty-four hours
to another! However, as the result proved, the apparently unreasonable
hope was entertained, if not wisely, still fortunately. For though the
whole of the project has not been executed, yet the larger part of it
has." In one form of faith Spencer was in no wise lacking.



     _Thinking by Stratagem--The System
     Grows--Difficulties--Italy--Habits of
      to America--Closing Years_

Having theoretically secured the requisite number of subscribers to the
projected series of volumes, Spencer tried to settle down to "something
like unity of occupation." In the Spring of 1860 he began the _First
Principles_--only to break down before he had finished the first
chapter; and the same depressing experience was continually repeated.
Fortunately for Spencer's peace of mind, his uncle William left him some
money; one may well say fortunately, since the number of defaulters in
the subscription list was so large that in the absence of other
resources even the first volume could not have been published.

_Thinking by Stratagem._--Spencer's devices for keeping off the cerebral
congestion which work induced were many and various--some almost
laughable, if the whole business had not been so tragic. He would ramble
into the country, find a sheltered nook or sunny bank, do a little work,
and move on like a "Scholar Gipsy"; he would take his amanuensis on the
Regent's Park water, row vigorously for five minutes, dictate for
fifteen, and so on _da capo_; he frequented an open racquet-court at
Pentonville, and sandwiched games and _First Principles_; even in the
Highlands he would dictate while he rowed. It was altogether like
thinking by stratagem, and the tension of working against time became so
irksome, that he issued a notice to the subscribers that successive
numbers would come out when they were ready. Nevertheless, he completed
the _First Principles_ in June 1862.

_The System Grows._--Having safely set forth his doctrine, Spencer
turned with zest to relaxation, acting as cicerone to his friends at the
International Exhibition, climbing in Wales, fishing in Scotland,
revisiting Paris, and so forth. The years passed in alternate work and
play, and the next great event was the publication of the first volume
of the _Principles of Biology_ in 1864. In spite of inadequate
preparation Spencer produced by the strength of his intelligence a
biological classic. At the time, of course, little notice was taken of
it; thus in "The Athenæum" of 5th November 1864, a paragraph concerning
the book commenced thus: "This is but one of two volumes, and the two
but a part of a larger work: we cannot therefore but announce it." "In
1864," Spencer says, "not one educated person in ten or more knew the
meaning of the word Biology; and among those who knew it, whether
critics or general readers, few cared to know anything about the
subject" (_Autobiography_, ii. p. 105).

It was in the same year (1864) that Spencer formulated his views on the
classification of the sciences and his reasons for dissenting from the
philosophy of Comte.

Of considerable interest was the formation of a decemvirate of
Spencer's friends, which was first called "The Blastodermic" and
afterwards the "X" club. It consisted of Huxley, Tyndall, Hooker,
Lubbock, Frankland, Busk, Hirst, Spottiswoode, and Spencer, with one
vacancy which was never filled up. The members dined together
occasionally and talked at large. "Among its members were three who
became Presidents of the Royal Society, and five who became Presidents
of the British Association. Of the others one was for a time President
of the College of Surgeons; another President of the Chemical Society;
and a third of the Mathematical Society...." "Of the nine I was the only
one who was fellow of no society, and had presided over nothing." The
club lasted for at least twenty-three years (1887), and had considerable
influence both on its members and externally.

In 1865 Spencer took considerable interest in a new weekly journal,
called "The Reader," in which many prominent workers were implicated,
but the enterprise ended in disappointment, unless, indeed, it was a
step towards the establishment of _Nature_. In this and the following
year he busied himself with an investigation regarding circulation in
plants,--the only concrete piece of biological work he ever indulged in.
But the great event of 1866 was the completion of _The Principles of

_Difficulties._--In the beginning of 1866 Spencer found that many of the
subscribers to his serial publications had withdrawn, and that not a few
were much in arrears, and he sorrowfully decided that he must abandon
his undertaking. It was at this juncture that he discovered what stuff
his friends were made of. Mr John Stuart Mill wrote proposing to help
to indemnify Spencer for losses incurred, and offering to guarantee the
publisher against any loss on the next treatise. He called this "a
simple proposal of co-operation for an important public purpose, for
which you give your labour and have given your health." As Spencer felt
himself obliged to decline this generous proposal, the next move among
his friends was to arrange to take a large number of copies (250) for
distribution. To this, with mingled feelings of satisfaction and
dissatisfaction, Spencer agreed. Meanwhile, however, his American
admirers, organised by Professor Youmans, invested in Spencer's name a
sum of 7000 dollars as a fund to ensure the continued publication of his
works. This, in combination with an improvement in Spencer's financial
position, consequent on his father's death (1866), made publication once
more secure without the aid of the subsidising scheme proposed by his
English friends.

In September 1866 Herbert Spencer settled himself in London, _en
pension_ at 37 Queen's Gardens, Lancaster Gate, which remained his home
for over a score of years. Henceforth he was less of a nomad, and he
secured himself against all interruptions by taking a secret study a few
doors off.

There are two records for the beginning of 1867 which are interesting in
their contrast. The first is that Spencer declined without hesitation
certain overtures by his friends that he should stand for the
professorship of Moral Philosophy at University College, London, and for
a similar post in Edinburgh; the second is that he invented a most
elaborate invalid-bed, which, like most of his inventions, fell flat.

The invalid-bed had been suggested by his mother's prolonged feebleness,
but it was not long to be used. Spencer was left in 1867 with no nearer
relatives than cousins. In reference to his mother, we quote with all
reverence one of the few strong personal touches in the _Autobiography_.

     "Thus ended a life of monotonous routine, very little relieved by
     positive pleasures. I look back upon it regretfully: thinking how
     small were the sacrifices which I made for her in comparison with
     the great sacrifices which, as a mother, she made for me in my
     early days. In human life, as we at present know it, one of the
     saddest traits is the dull sense of filial obligations which exists
     at the time when it is possible to discharge them with something
     like fulness, in contrast with the keen sense of them which arises
     when such discharge is no longer possible."

In the spring of 1867 Spencer finished publishing the second volume of
the _Biology_, and immediately set to work to recast _First Principles_.
And as if that was not enough, he began in the same year, with the help
of his secretary, Mr David Duncan, his collection of sociological data,
which was intended to afford the foundation for a treatise on the
_Principles of Sociology_. In spite of occasional holidays at Yarrow, at
Glenelg, and in other delightful places, the usual nemesis of industry
was not avoided. Spencer's nerve-centres, which could never endure
prolonged attention, showed the usual symptoms of over-fatigue; and
though he tried morphia and skating, hydropathy and rackets, he had to
give up work early in 1868. He betook himself to Italy for rest,
attracted partly by the fact that Vesuvius was in eruption! About this
time he was elected a member of the Athenæum Club, the sedative
amenities of which proved a useful prophylactic in after years.

_Italy._--Of Spencer's Tour in Italy the _Autobiography_ gives us some
interesting reminiscences. He arrived in Naples in a state of extreme
exhaustion, wearied with the voyage, wearied with a menu in which tunny
was the _pièce de résistance_, and finding comfort only in the shelter
of his Inverness cape. And yet, the day after his arrival, the author of
_Social Statics_ might have been seen giving swift chase to an audacious
thief who had taken advantage of the philosopher's preoccupation to
abstract his opera-glass. "Most likely had the young fellow had a knife
about him I should have suffered, perhaps fatally, for my imprudence." A
few days later, the same characteristic rashness impelled him to ascend
the burning mountain without a guide and at great risk. "How to account
for the judicial blindness I displayed, I do not know; unless by
regarding it as an extreme instance of the tendency which I perceive in
myself to be enslaved by a plan once formed--a tendency to become for a
time possessed by one thought to the exclusion of others."

Nothing that Spencer saw in Italy impressed him so much as "the dead
town" of Pompeii. The man who "took but little interest in what are
called histories" was stirred by this concrete historical fossil. "It
aroused sentiments such as no written record had ever done." He enjoyed
Rome, but rather for its harmonious colouring than for its historical
associations, of which he had no vivid perception. He was more irritated
than pleased by the old masters. He got most pleasure from the scenery,
but Italy is "a land of beautiful distances and ugly foregrounds."
Companionless and impatient, his chief thought was how to get home most
comfortably, and so he returned no better than he went.

_Habits of Work._--About this time the tide had turned as regarded the
sale of his works, and he wrote gratefully "the remainder of my
life-voyage was through smooth waters." As the _Autobiography_ shows, it
was a quiet and uneventful voyage. Periods of work alternated with
holidays, many parts of the country were visited, and angling became
more and more his best recreation. "Nothing else served so well to rest
my brain and fit it for resumption of work." Another resource was
billiards, which he greatly enjoyed. He never could remember whist or
similar games.

On fine mornings he used to spend two or three hours on the Serpentine,
alternating rowing and dictating. After his morning's work and after
lunch he used to walk through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and the
Green Park, without more than a quarter of a mile upon pavement, to the
Athenæum Club, where he skimmed through periodicals and books, and
played his game. Thereafter he sauntered back to dinner at seven, "which
was followed by such miscellaneous ways of passing the time without
excitement as were available. Thus passed my ordinary days." By this
time he had given up novel-reading, only treating himself to one about
once a year, and then in a dozen or more instalments. He did not care to
multiply social relations, he "avoided acquaintanceships and cultivated
only friendships." "There is in me very little of the _besoin de
parler_; and hence I do not care to talk with those in whom I feel no
interest." And thus, though far from being a recluse, he lived his life
of thought quietly.

In 1871 Spencer was nominated for the office of Lord Rector at the
University of St Andrews, but he declined the honour for the sake of his
work. He also declined the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the
same University, and subsequently, similar honours, chiefly on the
ground "that the advance of thought will be most furthered, when the
only honours to be acquired by authors are those spontaneously yielded
to them by a public which is left to estimate their merits as well as it

The first (synthetic) volume of the new edition of the _Psychology_
begun in 1867 was finished in 1870, the second (analytic) volume begun
in 1870 was completed in the end of 1872. Having become much interested
in the well-known "International Scientific Series," Spencer contributed
to it in 1873 the volume known as _The Study of Sociology_, which has
done much in Britain and America to secure the position of Sociology as
a workable science. It was unusually successful for a book of its kind,
and brought Spencer about £1500.

_Sociology._--From 1867 onwards Spencer had been collecting Sociological
Data to serve as a basis for generalised interpretation. With the help
of Mr David Duncan, Mr James Collier, and Dr Scheppig, this big piece of
work made steady progress, and its publication began to be discussed in
1871. It was hoped that the plan of "exhibiting sociological phenomena
in such wise that comparisons of them in their co-existences and
sequences, as occurring among various peoples in different stages, were
made easy, would immensely facilitate the discovery of sociological
truths." The first part of this _Descriptive Sociology_ was published in
1873, but the demand for it was very slight; not quite 200 copies were
asked for in eight months. "I had," Spencer says, "greatly
over-estimated the amount of desire which existed in the public mind for
social facts of an instructive kind. They greatly preferred those of an
uninstructive kind." In this and similar connections, the reader of the
_Autobiography_ cannot but be impressed by two facts,--on the one hand,
the chivalrous eagerness on the part of American friends to be allowed
to lessen Spencer's pecuniary burden, and, on the other hand, the almost
ultra-sensitive resoluteness which Spencer exhibited in declining these

In 1874, with the materials and memoranda of a quarter of a century
around him, the thinker, who was blamed for not being inductive, set
himself to write the _Principles of Sociology_, "feeling much as might a
general of division who had become commander-in-chief; or rather, as one
who had to undertake this highest function in addition to the lower
functions of all his subordinates of the first, second, and third
grades. Only by deliberate method persistently followed was it possible
to avoid confusion."

The period of work on the _Sociology_ was broken by some delightful
holidays in the Highlands and elsewhere, by the British Association
meeting at Belfast (1874) when Tyndall gave his famous Presidential
Address, and by the usual ill-health. The first volume was completed in
1877. Apart from the nemesis of nerves, Spencer's life at this time
seems to have been a happy one; he was fairly free from pecuniary cares;
he was no longer tied to a serial issue of his publications; he could
afford pleasant holidays, and he had a small circle of loyal friends.
The philosopher began a series of annual picnics, which he seems to have
engineered with great skill; in various ways he acted up to what he says
was his habitual maxim, "Be a boy as long as you can." In 1877 he had
the excitement of a shipwreck near Loch Carron, and the encouragement of
having his _Descriptive Sociology_ translated into Russian.

_Ill-Health._--In spite of all his care, the year 1878 opened with a
serious illness, and this prompted him to begin dictating _The Data of
Ethics_ lest an aggravation of his ill-health should hinder him from
raising this coping-stone of his system. Just before Christmas of this
year, he went with Prof. Youmans to the Riviera, and for a couple of
months was more than usually successful in combining work and play. He
finished _The Data of Ethics_ in June 1879, and _Ceremonial
Institutions_ later in the year. As a reward of industry, and as a
safeguard against too much of it, a holiday up the Nile in pleasant
company was then arranged, and Spencer entered upon it in great spirits.
But an ill-considered meal at Alexandria brought on dyspepsia and morbid
fancies, and he was forced to return at the first cataract. He had seen
many of the sights and was inevitably impressed, but he seems to have
been glad to get out of the "melancholy country"--"the land of decay and
death--dead men, dead races, dead creeds," as it appeared to his
jaundiced eyes.

On his return journey he spent three days in Venice, but though he
derived much pleasure from the general effects, he was repelled by the
obtrusiveness and superficiality of the decorations. He regarded St
Mark's as "a fine sample of barbaric architecture"; "it has the trait
distinctive of semi-civilised art--excess of decoration"; "it is
archæologically, but not æsthetically precious."

The entry in his journal for Feb. 12th, 1880 reads: "Home at 7-10;
heartily glad--more pleasure than in anything that occurred during my

Although he did not greatly enjoy his tour in Egypt, and brought back
his packet of work unopened, the break seems to have been "decidedly
beneficial." "It has apparently worked some kind of constitutional
change; for, marvellous to relate, I am now able to drink beer with
impunity and, I think, with benefit--a thing I have not been able to do
for these fifteen years or more." He thought that it had also perhaps
furthered his work to have had contact with people in a lower stage of

In 1881 Spencer published the eighth part of his _Descriptive Sociology_
and put a full stop to the undertaking which left him with a deficit of
between three and four thousand pounds, and which had half-killed two

Spencer's next task was the completion of _Political Institutions_,
another instalment of the _Sociology_, which he had begun in 1879, and
he was at this time also occupied in considering and answering the more
formidable of the criticisms which his system had aroused, and in
revising new editions of the _First Principles_ and _The Study of
Sociology_. It is interesting to note that the last work was carefully
revised sentence by sentence five times.

_Citizenship._--In 1881 Spencer felt in a new way the universal call
"_Il faut être citoyen_"; he was drawn into practical action, and
although this led to the greatest disaster of his life, the cause was
worthy of the sacrifice. It was the cause of peace. While writing
_Political Institutions_ he had become more firmly convinced than ever
that "the possibility of a higher civilization depends wholly on the
cessation of militancy and the growth of industrialism." Conversations
with Mr Frederic Harrison and others led to meetings of those who were
sympathetic with what might be called a non-aggression policy, and
Spencer was so keenly interested that in spite of forebodings he
undertook some organising work, and even went the length of moving a
resolution and making a speech at a public meeting. There was no direct
political result of the "Anti-Aggression League," but there was most
mischievous result to Spencer. "There was produced a mischief which, in
a gradually increasing degree, undermined life and arrested work." He
had now begun to descend the inclined plane which brought him down in
the course of subsequent years to "the condition of a confirmed invalid,
leading little more than a vegetative life." What Spencer did in
connection with the Anti-Aggression movement was probably only the last
straw, but he could not look back on his intrinsically right action
without regret. "Right though I thought it, my course brought severe
penalties and no compensations whatever. I am not thinking only of the
weeks, months, years, of wretched nights and vacant days; though these
made existence a long-drawn weariness. I refer chiefly to the gradual
arrest and final cessation of my work; and the consciousness that there
was slipping by that closing part of life during which it should have
been completed." He was too honest to profess a pleasure he did not feel
in a _mens sibi conscia recti_. "It is best," he said, "to recognise the
facts as they are, and not try to prop up rectitude by fictions."

_Visit to America._--In 1882 in the hope of recovering tone, not, as
some of the papers said, of recouping his finances, Spencer went on a
visit to America, along with Mr Lott his friend of forty years. He was,
of course, pressed to lecture, and was offered terms up to 250 dollars
per night, but he would have none of it. Lecturing was not his metier,
and his health was broken. "As matters stand," he wrote, "the giving a
lecture or reading a paper, would be nothing more than making myself a
show; and I absolutely decline to make myself a show." The only public
appearance he made was at a dinner in his honour at New York, where,
with his fatigued brain, he spoke straight to the Americans on the sin
of over-devotion to work. With his friend Lott as a buffer, he succeeded
in avoiding all interviewers until he had got on board the _Germanic_ on
his return voyage, when he was taken unawares at the last moment.

Spencer saw some of the finest sights in America and Canada; he met
congenial spirits, and everything possible was done to make his visit a
tonic; but he came back in a worse state than he went, "having made
another step downwards towards invalid life."

_Closing Years._--From 1882 till 1889, when the _Autobiography_ ends,
Spencer's life was one of invalidism with occasional gleams of health.
There was nothing organically wrong with him, but he had no reserve of
nervous energy, and he was not able to work for more than brief
intervals at a time. Yet he produced during these years _The Man Versus
the State_, a volume on _Ecclesiastical Institutions_, and _The Factors
of Organic Evolution_. He also dictated the _Autobiography_ at the
average rate of about fifteen lines per day!

As years went on Spencer became more and more of a recluse, more and
more a man of nerves, the grasshopper became a burden, and as he watched
himself with scientific minuteness, hypochondria naturally grew upon
him. He continued, however, to use for work the minute fractions of a
day when he felt relatively vigorous, and thus he at length actually
finished his _Synthetic Philosophy_ in 1896.

He gives an account of his daily routine when he had attained the age of
seventy-three. In the mornings he did a little work, dictating for ten
minutes at a time, and repeating the process from two to five times.
During the rest of the day he killed time, walking a few hundred yards,
driving for an hour or so in a carriage with india-rubber tyres, or
"sitting very much in the open air, hearing and observing the birds,
watching the drifting clouds, listening to the sighings of the wind
through the trees." He could not read or bear being read to, he could
not play games or listen to music, he used ear-stoppers to shut out
conversation whenever he got tired of it, and without respect of
persons, and he took opium to secure a few hours sleep at nights. He
might have been more comfortable, physically, if he had abandoned all
attempt at work, but the architectonic instinct tyrannised over him. He
really lived for the sake of the little oases of work-time which broke
the monotony of his daily journey.

It should be remembered, that invalid as he was, Spencer aggravated
matters by his scientific hypochondria, and perhaps also by his
soporifics. His disturbances of health involved little positive
suffering, and, till he was considerably over sixty, he had few
deprivations. Even in old age he had no invalid appearance. "Neither in
the lines of the face nor in its colour, is there any such sign of
constitutional derangement as would be expected. Contrariwise, I am
usually supposed to be about ten years younger than I am" (1893).

     "Spencer's closing years," Prof. Hudson writes, "were clouded with
     much sadness and disappointment." His days were vacant and his
     nights a weariness; he had outlived most of his friends and was
     lonely; and "the completion of his _Synthetic Philosophy_ in 1896
     did not bring him the keen satisfaction he fairly might have
     expected." He saw his political advice disregarded, and on all
     sides an exuberant growth of the socialistic organisations which he
     had spent himself in criticising. "He saw, too, with profound
     sorrow, unmistakable signs everywhere of reaction in religion,
     politics, society. The recrudescence of militarism, the development
     of a sordidly materialistic spirit throughout the modern nations
     and their abandonment of the principles of sanity and political
     righteousness--all these things cast a very black shadow over his
     declining path. I do not wonder that, as he looked back over his
     magnificent life-work, his mind should have been darkened by the
     doubt as to whether some of the truths, to which he attached the
     greatest value, might not after all have been set forth in vain"
     ("Fortnightly Review," 1904, p. 17).

Spencer's life closed in his eighty-third year, on December 8th, 1903.



     _The Autobiography--Physical Characteristics--Intellectual
     Characteristics--Limitations--Development of Spencer's
     Mind--Methods of Work--Genius?_

Spencer was much given to summing up what he called the "traits" of the
men he met, and he extended the process to himself in his
_Autobiography_, which is an elaborate piece of self-portraiture.

_The Autobiography._--Some one has called autobiography the least
credible form of fiction, but that is not the impression which Spencer's
gives. His self-analysis is candid and continuous; he is always
revealing his feet of clay, and that with a self-complacency which is
unintelligible to those who do not understand the impersonal scientific
mood which had become habitual to Spencer. He almost achieved the
impossible, of looking at himself from the outside.

Huxley wrote an autobiography in a score of pages, and he never wrote
anything better; Spencer occupied over a thousand pages with his account
of himself, and he never wrote anything worse. Dictated in outline in
1875, it was elaborated piecemeal, in small daily instalments, after the
most serious of the many breakdowns in health had precluded more
difficult work. Naturally enough, therefore, the _Autobiography_ is
often prolix and lacking in proportion, often slack in style and, it
must be confessed, tedious. Little details in a picture may be essential
to the effective impression, but Spencer often wearies us with trifling
incidents whose narration has no excuse except as happening in a great
life. Yet, if we lay the volumes aside, bored by their monumental
egotism, we return to them with sympathy, and are won again by their
unaffected frankness and candid sincerity.

With the _Autobiography_ before us, but exercising the right of private
judgment, we propose in this and the next chapter to sum up Spencer's
characteristics--physical, intellectual, and emotional, and to refer to
his methods of work and conduct of life.

_Physical Characteristics._--Spencer at his best was an impressive
figure, "tall, erect, a little gaunt, with a magnificent broad brow and
high domed head." "His face," Prof. W. H. Hudson writes, "was a
strikingly expressive one, with its strong frontal ridge, deep-set eyes,
prominent nose, and firmly-cut mouth and jaw--the face of a man marked
out for intellectual leadership."[1] It was not wrinkled with thought,
as one might have expected, but was smooth as a child's or as a
bishop's, the explanation being, as Spencer said, that he never worried
over things, but allowed his brain to do its own thinking without
pressure. He looked anything but an invalid, for his cheeks were ruddy
even in later years. He had a fine voice and "a rather rare laugh of
deep-chested musical qualities."

He lamented that he had not inherited his father's finely developed
chest organs, and that in consequence his cerebral circulation was
under par. More positively, he seems to have inherited a readily
fatigued nervous system, which limited his powers of protracted
attention and made him not infrequently irritable and difficult to get
on with. As we have seen he suffered periodically from over-taxing his
brain, which induced terrible insomnia. Like Carlyle, he suffered from

_Intellectual Characteristics._--1. Among his intellectual
characteristics, Spencer gave the foremost place to his "unusual
capacity for the intuition of cause." The capacity was inherited and it
was carefully nurtured. His restlessness to discover causes--"natural
causes"--was illustrated when, as a boy of thirteen, he called in
question the dictum of Dr Arnott respecting inertia, and it was
characteristic of his whole intellectual life. He cultivated this
inquisitiveness for causes till the mood became habitual, and resulted
in what we may almost call an interpretative instinct. That this never
led him astray, not even his most enthusiastic disciples would venture
to maintain.

While the scientific method is always fundamentally the same, there is
happily some legitimate elasticity in the order of procedure. Some minds
start with a clue perceived by a flash of insight and then proceed to
test and verify; others collect their data laboriously and never get a
glimpse of their conclusion until the induction is complete. Some seem
to have a selective instinct for getting hold of the most significant
facts, or for making the crucial experiment; others have to plod on
patiently from fact to fact and must make many "fools' experiments."
Some find a nugget while their neighbours get their gold in dust
particles after washing much ore.

Now Spencer had that passion for facts which is fundamental to all solid
scientific work, but he had the greater gift of getting rapidly beneath
facts to the question of their significance. He had not the love of
details which is essential to the descriptive naturalist for instance,
which sometimes becomes intellectual avarice for copper coinage, but he
was instinctively an ætiologist, an interpreter.

In his account of the working of his mind, he says:--

     "There was commonly shown a faculty of seizing cardinal truths
     rather than of accumulating detailed information. The implications
     of phenomena were then, as always, more interesting to me than the
     phenomena themselves. What did they prove? was the question
     instinctively put. The consciousness of causation, to which there
     was a natural proclivity, and which had been fostered by my father,
     continually prompted analyses, which of course led me below the
     surface and made fundamental principles objects of greater
     attention than the various concrete illustrations of them. So that
     while my acquaintance with things might have been called
     superficial, if measured by the _number_ of facts known, it might
     have been called the reverse of superficial, if measured by the
     _quality_ of the facts. And there was possibly a relation between
     these traits. A friend who possessed extensive botanical knowledge,
     once remarked to me that, had I known as much about the details of
     plant-structure as botanists do, I never should have reached those
     generalisations concerning plant-morphology which I had reached."
     (_Autobiography_ I.)

2. Another inherited capacity was "the synthetic tendency," the power of
generalising or of working out unifying formulæ. His first book _Social
Statics_ set out with a general principle; his first essay was
entitled, "A theory of population, _deduced from the general law_ of
animal fertility"; his life-work was the _Synthetic Philosophy_. One of
George Eliot's witticisms made game of Spencer's aptitude for
generalisation. He had been explaining his disbelief in the critical
powers of salmon, and his aim in making flies "the best average
representation of an insect buzzing on the surface of the water." "Yes,"
she said, "you have such a passion for generalising, you even fish with
a generalisation." And this exactly describes what he spent much of his
life in doing.

Mr Francis Galton has graphically stated his impression, that Spencer's
composite mental photographs, in forming a generalisation, or in using a
general formula-term, were many times multiple of those of ordinary
mortals. A composite mental photograph from a small number of
intellectual negatives yields a blurred outline--a woolly idea, with
ragged edges and loose ends--but a composite mental photograph from a
very large number of impressions, yielded, in Spencer's case, a
generalisation which was crisp and well-defined. Some one has said that
Ruskin had the most analytic mind in modern Christendom: that Spencer
had one of the most synthetic minds can hardly be questioned.

3. It was one of the open secrets of Spencer's power that his analytic
tendency was almost equal to his synthetic tendency. "Both subjectively
and objectively, the desire to build up was accompanied by an almost
equal desire to delve down to the deepest accessible truth, which should
serve as an unshakable foundation." "It appears that in the treatment
of every topic, however seemingly remote from philosophy, I found
occasion for falling back on some ultimate principle in the natural

The first volume of the Psychology is synthetic, the second volume is
analytic, "taking to pieces our intellectual fabric and the products of
its actions, until the ultimate components are reached"; and we find the
same two methods pursued in his other books.

     "While, on the one hand, they betray a great liking for drawing
     deductions and building them up into a coherent whole; on the other
     hand, they betray a great liking for examining the premises on
     which a set of deductions is raised, for the purpose of seeing what
     assumptions are involved in them, and what are the deeper truths
     into which such assumptions are resolvable. There is shown an
     evident dissatisfaction with proximate principles, and a
     restlessness until ultimate principles have been reached; at the
     same time there is shown a desire to see how the most complex
     phenomena are to be interpreted as workings of these ultimate
     principles. It is, I think, to the balance of these two tendencies
     that the character of the work done is mainly ascribable."

But while Spencer had beyond doubt analytic powers of a very high order,
it is to be feared that there is some justice in the criticism that he
sometimes confused abstraction with analysis, and reached an apparently
simple result by abstracting away some essential components.

4. "One further cardinal trait, which is in a sense a result of the
preceding traits, has to be named--the ability to discern inconspicuous
analogies." It was in part this ability that gave Spencer his power of
handling so many different orders of facts. "The habit of ignoring the
variable outer components and relations, and looking for the invariable
inner components and relations, facilitates the perception of likeness
between things which externally are quite unlike--perhaps so utterly
unlike that, by an unanalytical intelligence, they cannot be conceived
to have any resemblance whatever." It is this kind of insight which
enables the morphologist to unify a whole series of organic types by
detecting the similarities of architecture underlying the exceedingly
diverse external expression. It was this kind of insight which led
Spencer to his analogy between a social organism and an individual
organism, and to many others which have been found fruitful. But it is
to be feared that some of his analogies, notably that between inanimate
mechanisms and living creatures led him far astray.

5. Another power strongly developed was constructive imagination. The
boy who was so fond of building castles in the air, who grudged the
sleep which put an end to his fanciful adventures, grew up a man whose
mind was his kingdom. All sorts of things and thoughts pulled the
trigger of his imagination, with which he was often so preoccupied that
he would pass those living in the same house with him and look them in
the face without knowing that he had seen them.

     Spencer found in the delight of constructive imagination part of
     the explanation of his versatility. The products of his mental
     action ranged "from a doctrine of State functions to a
     levelling-staff; from the genesis of religious ideas to a watch
     escapement; from the circulation in plants to an invalid bed; from
     the law of organic symmetry to planing machinery; from principles
     of ethics to a velocimeter; from a metaphysical doctrine to a
     binding-pin; from a classification of the sciences to an improved
     fishing-rod joint; from the general Law of Evolution to a better
     mode of dressing artificial flies." "But for every interest in
     either the theoretical or the practical, a requisite condition has
     been--the opportunity offered for something new. And here may be
     perceived the trait which unites the extremely unlike products of
     mental action exemplified above. They have one and all afforded
     scope for constructive imagination."

Clearness in exposition was another of Spencer's gifts, and he connected
this with the fact that his grandfather and father had been teachers.
But lucidity of exposition usually accompanies clear thinking, and
increases if there is opportunity for practice. His fearlessness and his
self-confidence, he also connected with the fact that in school the
master must be the absolute authority, but it seems much more plausible
to regard this characteristic independence of judgment as an outcrop of
the Nonconformist mood of his ancestors.

_Limitations._--Spencer was too scrupulous a self-analyst not to be
aware of many of his own limitations, and he has exposed the defects of
his qualities with the utmost frankness. Thus his disregard of
authority, which helped him to independent positions in science and
philosophy, seemed to become a habit of mind which prompted him to react
from current beliefs and opinions without always doing them justice. His
anti-classical bias led him "to underestimate the past as compared with
the present". "Lack of reverence for what others have said and done has
tended to make me neglect the evidence of early achievements."

     One concrete instance may be selected,--his failure to appreciate
     Plato's dialogues, which the wise are at one in regarding as
     masterpieces of philosophical discussion, and as affording
     invaluable discipline for the most modern of thinkers. Spencer
     approached them with a strong bias, with a predisposition to
     depreciate, and what was the result? "Time after time I have
     attempted to read, now this dialogue and now that, and have put it
     down in a state of impatience with the indefiniteness of the
     thinking and the mistaking of words for things: being repelled also
     by the rambling form of the argument. Once when I was talking on
     the matter to a classical scholar, he said--'Yes, but as works of
     art they are well worth reading.' So, when I again took up the
     dialogues, I contemplated them as works of art, and put them aside
     in greater exasperation than before. To call that a 'dialogue'
     which is an interchange of speeches between the thinker and his
     dummy, who says just what it is convenient to have said, is absurd.
     There is more dramatic propriety in the conversations of our
     third-rate novelists; and such a production as that of Diderot,
     _Rameau's nephew_, has more strokes of dramatic truth than all the
     Platonic dialogues put together, if the rest are like those I have
     looked into. Still, quotations from time to time met with, lead me
     to think that there are in Plato detached thoughts from which I
     might benefit had I the patience to seek them out. The like is
     probably true of other ancient writings." (!)

Disregard of authority is a great gift, if it go hand in hand with a
careful examination of the reasons which lead to a conclusion becoming
authoritative, but Spencer does not seem to have felt this
responsibility. He began every subject by cleaning the slate. Thus one
of the most conspicuous, and in some ways least agreeable
characteristics of his intellectual work was his indifference as to what
previous investigators had said. This was in part an expression of his
own strength and independence, but it also savoured of arrogance. The
virtue of it was that he approached a subject with the vigour of a fresh
mind, but its vice was repeatedly disclosed in his failure to realise
all the difficulties and subtleties of a problem--a failure which
sometimes involved nothing short of amateurishness. A skilful naturalist
has said that in tackling an unsolved problem there are only two
commendable methods,--one to read everything bearing on the question,
the other to read nothing. It was the second method that Spencer
habitually practised. He gathered facts, but took little stock in
opinions or previous deliverances.

Thus in beginning to plan out his _Social Statics_ he "paid little
attention to what had been written either upon ethics or politics. The
books I did read were those which promised to furnish illustrative
material." He wrote his _First Principles_ with a minimal knowledge of
the philosophical classics, and his _Psychology_ as if he had been
living before the invention of printing. Some one thought certain parts
of his _Education_ savoured of Rousseau, but he had not heard of _Emile_
when he wrote. He was greatly indebted to von Baer for a formula, but
there is no evidence that he ever read any part of the great
embryologist's works. The suggestion that he was indebted to Comte for
some sociological ideas might have been dismissed at once on _a priori_
grounds as absurd. And in point of fact when Spencer wrote his _Social
Statics_ he knew no more of Comte than that he was a French
philosophical writer, and it was not till 1853 that he began to nibble
at Comte's works, to which Lewes and George Eliot had repeatedly
directed his attention. He adopted two of Comte's words--"altruism" and
"sociology"--but beyond that his indebtedness was little. We may take
his own word for it: "The only indebtedness I recognise is the
indebtedness of antagonism. My pronounced opposition to his views led me
to develop some of my own views." That they both tried to organise a
system of so-called philosophy out of the sciences indicates a community
of aim, but there the resemblance ceases.

Spencer's intellectual development seems to have been peculiarly
detached and independent. He was of course influenced by his father and
by two of his uncles during his formative period, and he was also
doubtless influenced by George Henry Lewes and George Eliot, Huxley and
Hooker in later years--as who could help being--but in the main he was a
strong, self-sufficient, self-made Ishmaelite. Similarly as regards
authors, he was influenced by Lamarck's transformist theory, by
Laplace's nebular hypothesis, by Malthus's theory of population, by
Milne-Edwards' idea of the physiological division of labour, by von
Baer's formula, by Hamilton and Mansel, by Grove's correlation of the
physical forces, by Darwin's _Origin of Species_, and so on, but his own
thought was always far more to him than anything he ever read.

Just as independence may become a vice, so with criticism, and Spencer
had certainly the defect of this quality. Like his grandfather and his
father before him, he was perpetually criticising, and he developed a
hypersensitiveness to mistakes and shortcomings. For while sound
criticism is an intellectual saving grace, it defeats its own end when
the critic is constantly looking for reasons for disagreement, rather
than for supplementary construction. Comte was assuredly right in saying
that one only destroys when one replaces. Morever, Spencer's dominant
tendency greatly interfered with his power of admiration. He was so
keenly alive to "the many mistakes in _chiaroscuro_ which characterise
various paintings of the old masters" that he found little pleasure in
them. When looking at Greek sculpture he constantly discovered unnatural
drapery. When he went to the opera with George Eliot he remarked "how
much analysis of the effects produced deducts from enjoyment of the
effects." He could not even look at a beautiful woman without his
"phrenological diagnosis" discovering something which took the edge off
his admiration. "It seems probable," he quaintly remarks, "that this
abnormal tendency to criticise has been a chief factor in the
continuance of my celibate life."

_Development of Spencer's Mind._--Spencer has himself given us an
account of his mental development.

     As a boy his mind was always set upon discovering natural causes,
     and under his father's influence there grew up in him "a tacit
     belief that whatever occurred had its assignable cause of a
     comprehensible kind." Insensibly he relinquished the current creed
     of supernaturalism and its associated story of creation.

     The doctrine of the universality of natural causation has for its
     inevitable corollary the doctrine that the Universe and all things
     in it have reached their present forms through successive stages
     physically necessitated. But no such corollary suggested itself
     definitely until Spencer was twenty when he read Lyell's
     _Principles of Geology_, and was led by Lyell's arguments against
     Lamarck to a partial acceptance of Lamarck's evolutionist point of

     Two years afterwards, in _The proper Sphere of Government_, "there
     was shown an unhesitating belief that the phenomena of both
     individual life and social life conform to law"; and eight years
     later in _Social Statics_, the social organism was discussed in the
     same sort of way as the individual organism; a physiological view
     of social actions was taken, and the same mode of progress was
     shown to be common to all changing phenomena.

     In 1852 the essay on the "Development Hypothesis" was an open
     avowal of evolutionism; and other essays on population and
     over-legislation "assumed that social arrangements and institutions
     are products of natural causes, and that they have a normal order
     of growth."

     An acquaintance with von Baer's description of individual
     development gave definiteness to Spencer's conception of progress,
     and the idea of change from homogeneity to heterogeneity became his
     formula of evolution, applicable to style, to manners and fashions,
     to science itself, and to the growing mind of the child, as was
     shown in a succession of essays on these themes.

     The next great step was in the _Principles of Psychology_ which
     sought to trace out the genesis of mind in all its forms, sub-human
     and human, as produced by the organised and inherited effects of
     mental actions. Increase of faculty by exercise, hereditary
     entailment of gains, and consequent progressive adaptation, were
     prominent ideas in this treatise. "Progressive adaptation became
     increasing adjustment of inner subjective relations to outer
     objective relations--increasing correspondence between the two."

     So far, then, Spencer had recognised throughout a vast field of
     phenomena the increase of heterogeneity, of speciality, of
     integration--as traits of progress of all kinds; and thus arose the
     question: Why is this increasing heterogeneity universal? "A
     transition from the inductive stage to the deductive stage was
     shown in the answer--the transformation results from the unceasing
     multiplication of effects. When, shortly after, there came the
     perception that the condition of homogeneity is an unstable
     condition, yet another step towards the completely deductive stage
     was made." "The theorem passed into the region of physical

     "The advance towards a complete conception of evolution was itself
     a process of evolution. At first there was simply an unshaped
     belief in the development of living things; including, in a vague
     way, social development. The extension of von Baer's formula
     expressing the development of each organism, first to one and then
     to another group of phenomena, until all were taken in as parts of
     a whole, exemplified the process of integration. With advancing
     integration there went that advancing heterogeneity implied by
     inclusion of the several classes of inorganic phenomena and the
     several classes of super-organic phenomena in the same category
     with organic phenomena. And then the indefinite idea of progress
     passed into the definite idea of evolution, when there was
     recognised the essential nature of the change, as a physically
     determined transformation conforming to ultimate laws of force."

     It is difficult to state with any certainty what led Spencer in
     1857 to a coherent body of beliefs--to the first sketch of his
     system. In the main the unification was probably a natural
     maturation and integration of his thoughts, but it was perhaps
     helped by the immediate task of revising and publishing a
     collection of essays, and also by the fact that "the time was one
     at which certain all-embracing scientific truths of a simple order
     were being revealed." Notably the doctrine of the conservation and
     transformability of energy was beginning to possess scientific
     minds, and the doctrine of evolution was beginning to make its grip

     Furthermore, in trying to understand Spencer, we must recognise
     that he was the flower of a nonconformist dissenting stock, that
     his mind matured in contact with engines and other mechanisms, and
     that he was almost forced to exclude new influences after he
     settled down with his system at the age of forty.

_Methods of Work._--While there was nothing remarkable in Spencer's
methods of work, it may be of interest to indicate certain general
features which the _Autobiography_ discloses.

In the first place, after a few disastrous experiments, he abandoned any
attempt at what is usually called working hard. Like many an artist who
will only paint when he feels in the mood and in good form, Spencer
would never write or dictate under pressure, or when he felt that his
brain was not working smoothly. When he was writing the _Principles of
Psychology_ (1854-5), he began between nine and ten and continued till
one; he then paused for a few minutes to take some slight refreshment,
usually a little fruit, and resumed till three, altogether about five
hours at a stretch. He then went for a walk, returned in time for dinner
between five and six, and did considerable proof-correcting thereafter.
But, as we have seen, the result of this strenuousness--which would be
quite normal to many students--was his first serious breakdown,
involving a loss of eighteen months. Thereafter, it was his custom to
work for short spells at a time, to sandwich work and exercise, and to
take a holiday whenever he began to feel tired.

His output of work was so large even for a long life that one naturally
thinks of him as a hard worker. But the reverse would be nearer the
truth. Partly as a self-justification of his "constitutional idleness,"
and partly as a precaution against his hereditary tendency to nervous
breakdown, he was a strong advocate of the proposition that "Life is not
for work, but work is for life." "The progress of mankind is, under one
aspect, a means of liberating more and more life from mere toil and
leaving more and more life available for relaxation--for pleasurable
culture, for æsthetic gratification, for travels, for games." Industry
is not a virtue in itself; over-work is blameworthy.

In the second place, Spencer made it a rule never to force his thinking.
If a problem was not clear to him, he let it simmer. "On one occasion
George Eliot expressed her surprise that the author of _Social Statics_
had no lines on his forehead, to which he answered, 'I suppose it is
because I am never puzzled.' This called forth the exclamation: 'O!
that's the most arrogant thing I ever heard uttered.' To which I
rejoined: 'Not at all, when you know what I mean.' And I then proceeded
to explain that my mode of thinking did not involve that concentrated
effort which is commonly accompanied by wrinkling of the brows"
(_Autobiography_, i. p. 399).

Spencer did not set himself a problem and try to puzzle out an answer.
"The conclusions at which I have from time to time arrived, have not
been arrived at as solutions of questions raised; but have been arrived
at unawares--each as the ultimate outcome of a body of thoughts which
slowly grew from a germ."

He had "an instinctive interest in those facts which have general
meanings"; he let these accumulate and simmer, thinking them over and
over again at intervals. "When accumulation of instances had given body
to a generalisation, reflexion would reduce the vague conception at
first framed to a more definite conception; and perhaps difficulties or
anomalies at first passed over for a while, but eventually forcing
themselves on attention, might cause a needful qualification and a truer
shaping of the thought. Eventually the growing generalisation, thus far
inductive, might take deductive form: being all at once recognised as a
necessary consequence of some physical principle--some established law.
And thus, little by little, in unobtrusive ways, without conscious
intention or appreciable effort, there would grow up a coherent and
organised theory" (_Autobiography_, i. 400, 401). In short, Spencer
gave his thinking machine time to do its work, or in other words he let
his thoughts grow. He distrusted strain and all forcing. Like a good
golfer, he would not "press." "The determined effort causes perversion
of thought."

A third feature in his work has been already alluded to--his practical
indifference to the literature of the subject at which he was working.
For this characteristic there were doubtless several reasons, though
none of them justified it. He was not fond of hard reading, and
conserved his energy for his own production; he had abundant
thought-material of his own, and no lack of confidence in its value.
Furthermore, he explains, "It has always been out of the question for me
to go on reading a book the fundamental principles of which I entirely
dissent from. Tacitly giving an author credit for consistency, I,
without thinking much about the matter, take it for granted that if the
fundamental principles are wrong, the rest cannot be right, and
thereupon cease reading--being, I suspect, rather glad of an excuse for
doing so" (i. p. 253). "All through my life," he says, "Locke's 'Essay'
had been before me on my father's shelves, but I had never taken it
down; or at any rate I have no recollection of having read a page of
it." More than once he tackled Kant's _Critique of Pure Reason_, but was
baulked at the start by the doctrine that time and space are merely
subjective forms. Nor did Mill's _Logic_ interest him.

At the same time it is not to be supposed that Spencer wove his system
out of himself as a spider its web. He had a wonderful aptitude for
collecting data by a strange sort of skimming reading.

     "Though by some I am characterised as an _a priori_ thinker, it
     will be manifest to any one who does not set out with an _a priori_
     conception of me, that my beliefs, when not suggested _a
     posteriori_, are habitually verified _a posteriori_. My first book,
     _Social Statics_, shows this in common with my later books. I have
     sometimes been half-amused, half-irritated, by one who speaks of me
     as typically deductive, and whose own conclusions, nevertheless,
     are not supported by facts anything like so numerous as those
     brought in support of mine. But we meet with men who are such
     fanatical adherents of the inductive method, that immediately an
     induction, otherwise well established, is shown to admit of
     deductive establishment, they lose faith in it" (_Autobiography_,
     i. pp. 304-5).

No one who studies Spencer's works can fail to be impressed with the
logical orderliness and lucidity of his method. Thus, in beginning _The
Principles of Biology_, for instance, we are first asked to consider
what truths the biologist takes for granted; _e.g._, the conservation of
energy and the indestructibility of matter; then we are asked to notice
the inductions in regard to the phenomena of life which biologists agree
in accepting as well-established; and only then do we pass to Spencer's
particular interpretation of the facts in the light of his evolutionist
ideas. The same logical method is illustrated in his treatment of
psychology, sociology and ethics.

Like most men who get through much work, Spencer was very methodical and
orderly. In reference to his _Sociology_, he tells us how he classified
and reclassified his materials in fasciculi, placing them in a
semi-circle on the floor round his chair, inserting new "covers" where
there seemed need for them, and gradually filling these. As the plan
became clear, the materials for a chapter were raised to his large desk,
and then began a grouping into sections, and a grouping within each

He did not begin to compose until he had thought out his subject to the
best of his ability. He then wrote or dictated a little at a time,
criticising every sentence with especial reference to clearness and
force. Except for his first book, which he revised, copied out, and
revised afresh, the original copy was always sent to press "sprinkled
with erasures and interlineations." He was more interested in vigour and
lucidity of style than in its beauty, and it was characteristic of him
to try to correlate effectiveness of style with the doctrine of the
conservation of energy. The main thesis in the essay on "The Philosophy
of Style" may be briefly stated. The reader has only a limited amount of
nervous energy, and it is important that this should not be dissipated
before he comes to the ideas of which the style is the vehicle. "In
proportion as there is less energy absorbed in interpreting the symbols,
there is more left for representing the idea, and, consequently, greater
vividness of the idea." "Every resistance met with in the progress from
the antecedent idea to the consequent idea, entails a deduction from the
force with which the consequent idea arises in consciousness."

It is common to speak of Spencer's works as "hard reading," but those
who say so must have a strange scale of hardness. He may be difficult to
agree with, but he is rarely difficult to understand; he deals with
difficult themes, but he is singularly clear in his expression of his
convictions. When he discusses less abstract questions, as in his
_Study of Sociology_ or _Education_, his style has almost every good
quality except beauty. And when he occasionally "lets himself go" a
little, as in the famous passage in the _First Principles_ at the end of
the discussion of the Unknowable, there is a ring of nobility in his

Sometimes he sums up with epigrammatic terseness, and we submit a few of
his utterances which we have noted down as illustrating various

     "Life is not for learning nor is life for working, but learning and
     working are for life."

     "It is best to recognise the facts as they are, and not try to prop
     up rectitude by fictions."

     "Beliefs, like creatures, must have fit environments before they
     can live and grow."

     "Mind is not as deep as the brain only, but is, in a sense, as deep
     as the viscera."

     "Melody is an idealised form of the natural cadences of emotion."

     "Logic is a science of objective phenomena."

     "In proportion as intellect is active, emotion is rendered

     "Inherited constitution must ever be the chief factor in
     determining character."

     "Each nature is a bundle of potentialities of which only some are
     allowed by the conditions to become actualities."

     "Considering that the ordinary citizen has no excess of
     individuality to boast of, it seems strange that he should be so
     anxious to hide what little he has."

     "Englishmen are averse to conclusions of wide generality."

     "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is
     to fill the world with fools."

     "A nation which fosters its good-for-nothings will end by becoming
     a good-for-nothing nation."

     "I don't mean to get on. I don't think getting on is worth the

_Genius._--It doubtless requires genius to define genius, and until
that is done, the question of awarding or refusing this supreme title to
our hero need not be very seriously discussed. All will agree that
genius is more than unusually great talent; that it is neither "une
patience suivie" nor "an infinite capacity for taking pains"; that it is
not to be judged by its effectiveness; and that it may never receive the
unwithering laurels of immortality. Spencer poured contempt on Carlyle's
assertion that genius "means transcendent capacity of taking trouble
first of all"; the truth being, he said, that genius may be rightly
defined quite oppositely, as an ability to do with little trouble that
which cannot be done by the ordinary man with any amount of trouble.

Another of Spencer's remarks about genius is worth citing. Speaking of
Huxley's wonderful versatility as a thinker, he said that it lent "some
colour to the dictum--quite untenable, however--that genius is a unit,
and, where it exists, can manifest itself equally in all directions." As
it seems to us, there is much truth in the dictum which Spencer
dismissed as "quite untenable." The genius is a new variation of high
potential and is as such a unity, capable of expressing itself in many
diverse ways, and always with originality. The expression of genius may
be intellectual, emotional, or practical, according to the mood which is
constitutionally dominant and according to the opportunities afforded by
education and circumstances; but there seems much to be said, both on
general grounds and from a study of historical examples, for the view
that genius means something distinctive in the whole mental pattern or
personality, and is potentially at least many-sided.

Biologically regarded, a genius is a transilient variation on the
up-grade of psychical evolution, of such magnitude that it stands apart
as a new mental pattern, as a peculiar combination of moods at a high
potential, as a secret amalgam. Whether it be intellectual, emotional,
or practical, it sees or feels or does things in a new way. It makes
what it touches new; it affords a new outlook. "God said: Let Newton be!
and there was light"--that is genius.

In this sense we venture to think that Spencer was not far from the
kingdom of genius. He saw all things in the light of the evolution-idea;
he had a fresh vision of the unity of nature and the unity of science,
and the light that was in him was so clear that it radiated into other
minds. Had his emotional nature been stronger, had he been more than
luminiferous, he might have set the world aflame.


[1] Herbert Spencer: A Character Study, "Fortnightly Review," 1904.



     _Emotional--The Genius Loci--Poetry--Science and
     Relations--Fundamental Motives_

_Emotional._--Spencer found great delight in scenery and sunsets; he
enjoyed music within certain limits; he was very fond of children, but
he was essentially a man of thought, not of feeling or of action. The
scientific mood dominated him, the artistic and practical moods were in
abeyance. Although he delighted in imaginative construction, he does not
seem to have had much imaginative life. Although he pondered over the
great mysteries of the universe, there was no mystical element in his
composition. Of course no Englishman wears his heart on his sleeve, but
Spencer was more than usually callous, and our sketch would be far from
true if it ignored his emotional limitations.

_The Genius Loci._--To begin with, let us refer to his indifference to
places which are rich in human associations. On his many holidays he
visited not a few of these, and yet he seems to have been rarely touched
or impressed by their significance. He frankly confessed that he took
but little interest in what are called histories, but was interested
only in sociology, and therefore his appreciation of the genius loci
was always limited. He could not people the palaces, the cathedrals, the
castles, the ancient cities that he visited. "When I go to see a ruined
abbey or the remains of a castle, I do not care to learn when it was
built, who lived or died there, or what catastrophes it witnessed. I
never yet went to a battle-field, although often near to one--not having
the slightest curiosity to see a place where many men were killed and a
victory achieved." He had few historical associations even in Rome, and
when at Florence he did not go three miles to Fiesole. The forms and
colours of time-worn walls and arches excited pleasant sentiments, he
said, but that seems to have been all. It was a sort of conchological
interest that he had.

One is unfortunately familiar with the cosmic preoccupation which the
dominant scientific mood is apt to engender, as also with historical
erudition which loses the wood in the trees or leaves Nature out
altogether. These are the defects of our limited mental capacities and
our ill-organised education; but that a man of Spencer's powers could be
so complacent with his limitations is extraordinary. And that he could
write, "It is always the poetry rather than the history of a place that
appeals to me," is more extraordinary still; as if the history were not
half the poetry.

_Poetry._--Spencer's attitude to poetry was characteristic; he took it
all too intellectually and was usually bored. He did not find enough
thought in it, and it may be doubted if he ever surrendered himself to
the artistic mood. At one time he regarded Shelley as "by far the
finest poet of his era," and of "Prometheus Unbound" he said, "It is the
only poem over which I have ever become enthusiastic." It satisfied one
of his organic needs--variety; "I say organic, because I perceive that
it runs throughout my constitution, beginning with likings for food."
Another requirement of poetry for Spencer was intensity. "The matter
embodied is idealised emotion, the vehicle is the idealised language of
emotion." For this reason he was in but small measure attracted to
Wordsworth. "Admitting, though I do, that throughout his works there are
sprinkled many poems of great beauty, my feeling is that most of his
writing is not wine but beer" (i. p. 263). Similarly, he found the
"Iliad" "tedious" and Dante "too continuously rich"... "a gorgeous dress
ill made up."

"About others' requirements I cannot of course speak; but my own
requirement is--little poetry and of the best. Even the true poets are
far too productive." More will agree with him when he says: "The poetry
commonly produced does not bubble up as a spring, but is simply pumped
up; and pumped-up poetry is not worth reading. No one should write verse
if he can help it. Let him suppress it if possible; but if it bursts
forth in spite of him, it may be of value."

In reference to the supposed antagonism between Science and Poetry,
Spencer refers to the story that Keats once proposed after dinner, some
such sentiment as "Confusion to Newton," for having by his analysis
destroyed the wonder of the rainbow. "In so doing," Spencer says, "Keats
did but give more than usually definite expression to the current
belief that science and poetry are antagonistic. Doubtless it is true
that while consciousness is occupied in the scientific interpretation of
a thing, which is now and again "a thing of beauty," it is not occupied
in the æsthetic appreciation of it. But it is no less true that the same
consciousness may at another time be so wholly possessed by the æsthetic
appreciation as to exclude all thought of the scientific interpretation.
The inability of a man of science to take the poetic view simply shows
his mental limitation; as the mental limitation of a poet is shown by
his inability to take the scientific view. The broader mind can take
both. Those who allege this antagonism forget that Goethe, predominantly
a poet, was also a scientific inquirer" (_Autobiography_, i. p. 419).
This is sound sense, and is the excuse for Spencer's own limitations in
regard to poetry; he usually found it too difficult to lay aside the
intellectual preoccupation that gave part of the point to Huxley's jest
in the course of a talk on tragedy: "Oh! you know, Spencer's idea of a
tragedy is a deduction killed by a fact."

The same sort of desperately serious intellectual attitude is seen in
Spencer's remarks on the Opera. His "intolerance of gross breaches of
probability" spoilt his enjoyment of the music. "That serving-men and
waiting-maids should be made poetical and prompted to speak in
_recitative_, because their masters and mistresses happened to be in
love, was too conspicuous an absurdity; and the consciousness of this
absurdity went far towards destroying what pleasure I might otherwise
have derived from the work. It is with music as with painting--a great
divergence from the naturalness in any part so distracts my attention
from the meaning or intention of the whole, as almost to cancel

     In connection with Spencer's relative lack of interest in poetry
     and the drama, or in the works of men like Carlyle and Ruskin, we
     have simply to deplore the fact and remember that his mind was
     preoccupied with big problems and was dominated by the scientific
     mood. From his boyhood he was "thinking about only one thing at a
     time," and he had to husband his energies. This is well illustrated
     by his note on Carlyle's _Cromwell_: "If, after a thorough
     examination of the subject, Carlyle tells us that Cromwell was a
     sincere man, I reply that I am heartily glad to hear it, and that I
     am content to take his word for it; not thinking it worth while to
     investigate all the evidence which has led him to that conclusion."
     This might seem to betray a somewhat Philistinish contempt for
     historical study and complacence therewith, but the real state of
     the case is revealed in the sentence that follows the above: "I
     find so many things to think about in this world of ours, that I
     cannot afford to spend a week in estimating the character of a man
     who lived two centuries ago." What he somewhat strangely calls
     "interests of an entirely unlike kind" were at that time strongly
     attracting him to Humboldt's _Kosmos_. His outlook was
     characteristically cosmic, not human.

_Art._--One of Spencer's heresies concerned the old masters of painting,
whose works he regarded as highly over-rated. On the one hand, he
detected insincerity in the conventional veneration in which the works
of Raphael and Michael Angelo, to name no smaller names, are held.
Subject is not dissociated from execution, and "the judicial faculty has
been mesmerised by the confused halo of piety which surrounds them."
There is an æsthetic orthodoxy from which few are bold enough to
dissent. On the other hand, Spencer detected in the works themselves
"fundamental vices," "the grossest absurdities," "gratuitous
contradictions of Nature," impossible light and shade, and no end of
technical defects in what he was pleased to call "physioscopy."

Art-criticism is probably now more emancipated from authority than it
was when Spencer promulgated his heresies and Ruskin wrote his _Modern
Painters_, and doubtless many experts will admit that some of the
philosopher's strictures are justified. More will probably maintain that
in his intellectual criticism Spencer was blind to artistic genius. In
his criticism, for instance, of Guido's "Phoebus and Aurora," to which
he allowed beauty in composition and grace in drawing, he applied
commonplace physical criteria to show that "absurdity was piled upon
absurdity." "The entire group--the chariot and horses, the hours and
their draperies, and even Phoebus himself--are represented as
illuminated from without: are made visible by some unknown source of
light--some other sun! Stranger still is the next thing to be noted. The
only source of light indicated in the composition--the torch carried by
the flying boy--radiates no light whatever. Not even the face of its
bearer immediately behind it is illumined by it! Nay, this is not all.
The crowning absurdity is that the non-luminous flames of this torch are
themselves illuminated from elsewhere!" And so on.

All this is dismally intellectual, and reminds us of the medical man's
discovery that Botticelli's "Venus," in the Uffizi at Florence, is
suffering from consumption, and should not be riding across the sea in
an open shell, clad so scantily.

_Humour._--Prof. Hudson speaks of Spencer's capital sense of humour, but
it is difficult for a reader of the _Autobiography_ to believe this. The
ponderous way in which he analyses his own little jokes, for instance,
is too quaint to be consistent with much sense of humour. Thus he tells
us that it was only the sudden access of moderately good health that
enabled him to remark to G. H. Lewes, on a little tour they had, that
the Isle of Wight produced very large chops for so small an island. The
fact is that he always took himself and other people very seriously in
little things as well as great. With what physiological seriousness does
he discuss the experience he had coming down Ben Nevis after some wine
on the top of whisky: "I found myself possessed of a quite unusual
amount of agility; being able to leap from rock to rock with rapidity,
ease, and safety; so that I quite astonished myself. There was evidently
an exaltation of the perceptive and motor powers."... "Long-continued
exertion having caused unusually great action of the lungs, the
exaltation produced by stimulation of the brain was not cancelled by the
diminished oxygenation of the blood. The oxygenation had been so much in
excess, that deduction from it did not appreciably diminish the vital

_Callousness._--In his extreme sang-froid, Spencer sometimes did
violence to the unity of the human spirit. We venture to give one
example. In referring to a ramble in France (_Autobiography_, ii. p.
236), he wrote as follows: "We passed a wayside shrine, at the foot of
which were numerous offerings, each formed of two bits of lath nailed
one across the other. The sight suggested to me the behaviour of an
intelligent and amiable retriever, a great pet at Ardtornish. On coming
up to salute one after a few hours' or a day's absence, wagging her tail
and drawing back her lips so as to simulate a grinning smile, she would
seek around to find a stick, or a bit of paper, or a dead leaf, and
bring it in her mouth; so expressing her desire to propitiate. The dead
leaf or bit of paper was symbolic, in much the same way as was the
valueless cross. Probably, in respect of sincerity of feeling, the
advantage was on the side of the retriever." The animal psychology here
expressed seems pretty bad, and the human psychology much worse.

Turning, however, to pleasanter subjects and correcting any unduly harsh
judgment, we would remind the reader that Spencer was genuinely fond of
music and of scenery, two loves which cover a multitude of sins.

     "The often-quoted remark of Kant that two things excited his
     awe--the starry heavens and the conscience of man--is not one which
     I should make of myself. In me the sentiment has been more
     especially produced by three things--the sea, a great mountain, and
     fine music in a cathedral. Of these the first has, from familiarity
     I suppose, lost much of the effect it originally had, but not the

_Nature._--One of the lasting pleasures of Spencer's life was a simple
delight in the beauty of Nature, especially in varied scenery. Thus he
writes (in 1844) to his friend Lott, regarding a journey into South
Wales: "I wish you had been with me. Your poetical feelings would have
had great gratification. A day's journey through a constantly changing
scene of cloud-capped hills with here and there a sparkling and
romantic river winding perhaps round the base of some ruined castle is a
treat not often equalled. I enjoyed it much. When I reached the seaside,
however, and found myself once again within sound of the breakers, I
almost danced with pleasure. To me there is no place so delightful as
the beach. It is the place where, more than anywhere else, philosophy
and poetry meet--where in fact you are presented by Nature with a
never-ending feast of knowledge and beauty. There is no place where I
can so palpably realise Emerson's remark that 'Nature is the
circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance.'"

     One evening in August 1861 Spencer stood looking over the Sound of
     Mull from Ardtornish house. "The gorgeous colours of clouds and
     sky, splendid enough even by themselves to be long remembered, were
     reflected from the surface of the sound, at the same time that both
     of its sides, along with the mountains of Mull, were lighted up by
     the setting sun; and, while I was leaning out of the window gazing
     at this scene, music from the piano behind me served as a
     commentary. The exaltation of feeling produced was unparalleled in
     my experience; and never since has pleasurable emotion risen in me
     to the same intensity" (_Autobiography_, ii. p. 69).

Spencer's feeling for Nature was for the most part limited to scenic
effects. Occasionally, when he was at leisure, he felt some "admiration
of the beauties and graces" of flowers, but this was so unusual that it
surprised him, "for, certainly," he says, "intellectual analysis is at
variance with æsthetic appreciation." This does not of course mean that
there is any opposition between scientific interpretation and artistic
enjoyment; it simply means that the scientific mood is quite different
from the artistic mood, and that for most people only one can be
dominant at a time. There are many naturalists of undoubted analytic
skill who have a "love exceeding a simple love of the things that glide
in grasses and rubble of woody wreck"; the modern botanist may still see
the Dryad in the tree; and if the scientific mood is not allowed by
over-specialisation to over-ride all others, increase in knowledge may
mean not increase of sorrow, but a deepening of the joy of life.

_Human Relations._--That Spencer lacked emotional warmth and
expansiveness not only in regard to nature and art, literature and
history, but in his human relations, will be admitted by all, but when a
great man has an obvious limitation there is often a tendency to make
too much of it. We think that Mr Gribble has done this in his
interesting comparison of Spencer and Carlyle,[2] whom he contrasts as
philosopher and sage. We condense his comparison. Both were big men,
both were egotists, both were dyspeptics. Neither suffered fools gladly,
and each tended to be an outspoken judge of all the earth. But while
Carlyle loved and hated intensely, Spencer judged callously. Carlyle was
more like a human being, Spencer "made his heart wait on his
judgment--indefinitely." "What is almost uncanny about Herbert Spencer
is his triumphant superiority to natural instincts." "It is difficult
for the average man to believe that Spencer was a human being of like
passions with himself." In reference to love he said, "Physical beauty
is a _sine qua non_ with me"; "in every walk of life," Mr Gribble says,
"it seems, some _sine qua non_ stood like an angel with a flaming sword
between Herbert Spencer and his emotions." "In the main, he suggests
abstract intellect performing in a morality play, exhibiting no emotion
but intellectual pride." But this tends to suggest that Spencer was a
sort of synthetic ogre, which he certainly was not.

Emotion is distinctively impulsive, and it was Spencer's nature and
deliberate purpose not to yield to the strain of impulse. Yet we must
not misunderstand his reserve and restraint for cold-bloodedness. Some
have referred to the cold impersonal way in which he refers to his
father in the _Autobiography_, but when we consider facts not words we
find that the relations of sympathy, companionship, and mutual
understanding between father and son were very perfect. The human male
is slow to learn that it is not only necessary to love, but to say that
one loves.

In his human relations, Spencer was loyal, if somewhat too candid, as a
friend; he was by no means non-social, but enjoyed conversation with
those who interested him, and was himself a good talker and raconteur;
he was fond of, and was a favourite with children, which is saying a
great deal. One of his friends has called him a thoroughly "clubbable"
man, which is probably going too far, but it was only in later years
that he became an almost monastic recluse and used ear-stoppers. Many
who met him for a short time thought him cold and difficult of access,
with reserved chilly talk "like a book," rather restrained, scrupulous
and severe; but those who knew him well speak of his large, simple, and
eminently sympathetic nature. George Eliot said, "He is a good,
delightful creature, and I always feel better for being with him." Prof.
Hudson writes: "The better one knew him the more one grew to understand
and admire his quiet strength, steadiness of ethical purpose, and
unflinching courage, the purity of his motives, his rigid adherence to
righteousness and truth, and his exquisite sense of justice in all
things." He was often terribly provoked by unjust criticisms and stupid
or wilful misunderstandings of his positions, but "in controversy he was
scrupulously fair, aiming at truth, and not at the barren victories of

Besides his love of truth and justice, besides his courage and
self-sacrificing altruism, Spencer reveals a strength of purpose which
has rarely been surpassed. In fact it is difficult to over-estimate the
resolution with which he effected his life-work. Apart from the inherent
difficulty of his task, apart from the long delay of public
appreciation, and apart from ill-health, the pecuniary obstacles were
very serious. Had it not been for the £80 which came to him in 1850
under the Railway Winding-up Act, he would have been unable to publish
_Social Statics_; a bequest from his uncle Thomas made the publication
of the _Principles of Psychology_ possible; he would have been forced to
desist before the completion of _First Principles_ had it not been for a
bequest from his uncle William; at a later stage an American testimonial
and his father's death just saved the situation. Well might he say:--

     "It was almost a miracle that I did not sink before success was
     reached." When we read the detailed story of his preparation, his
     endeavour, his struggle, his achievement, we cannot but feel that
     his resolute strenuousness was not far from heroism.

As a nervous subject, Spencer was naturally at times irritable, as
others can be without his excuse, and even petulant, severe in his
utterances, and a little intolerant. But normally he was habitually just
and tried to understand people, if not as persons, at least as
phenomena. What he said of Carlyle was much more just than what Carlyle
said of him, though it may have been what we call less "human." In his
own way Spencer felt that "tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner," but
it has been truly said that "the natural man would rather be
passionately denounced than treated as a phenomenon to be
co-ordinated."[4] But this was just Spencer's way, and he applied it
equally to himself.

     In speaking of his seven years' experience as a committee-man in
     connection with the Athenæum, he notes certain traits of nature
     which were manifest to himself at least. "The most conspicuous is
     want of tact. This is an inherited deficiency. The Spencers of the
     preceding generation were all characterised by lack of
     reticence.... I tended habitually to undisguised utterance of ideas
     and feelings; the result being that while I often excited
     opposition from not remembering what others were likely to feel, I,
     at the same time, disclosed my own intentions in cases where
     concealment of them was needful as a means to success"
     (_Autobiography_, ii. p. 280).

It must be admitted that there was little out of the common in Herbert
Spencer's daily walk and conversation; in fact, there was a fair share
of common-placeness. Spencer himself was rather amused at those who
came expecting extraordinary intellectual manifestations or traits of
character greatly transcending ordinary ones. There was the pretty
poetess and heiress, whom two of his friends (Chapman and Miss Evans)
selected as a suitable wife for the philosopher, and who seems to have
been as little favourably impressed with him as he was with her.
"Probably she came with high anticipations and was disappointed." There
was the Frenchman who found Spencer playing billiards at the Athenæum
Club, and "lifted up his hands with an exclamation to the effect that
had he not seen it he could not have believed it." And there was the
American millionaire, Mr Andrew Carnegie, who was so greatly astonished
to hear Spencer say at the dinner-table on the _Servia_, "Waiter, I did
not ask for Cheshire; I asked for Cheddar." To think that a philosopher
should be so fastidious about his cheese!

Spencer seems never to have fallen in love, and his early utterances on
marriage savour somewhat of the non-mammalian type of bachelor. "If as
somebody said (Socrates, was it not?)--marrying is a thing which whether
you do it or do it not you will repent, it is pretty clear that you may
as well decide by a toss up. It's a choice of evils, and the two sides
are pretty nearly balanced." He was too wise to marry out of a sense of
duty, and too preoccupied to marry by inclination. "As for marrying
under existing circumstances, that is out of the question; and as for
twisting circumstances into better shape, I think it is too much
trouble."... "On the whole I am quite decided not to be a drudge; and as
I see no probability of being able to marry without being a drudge,
why, I have pretty well given up the idea." As a matter of fact,
however, he was not altogether so callous as his words suggest. Indeed
when balancing the alternatives of emigrating to New Zealand or staying
in England, he gave 110 marks to the latter and 301 to the former,
allowing no less than 100 for the marriage which emigration would render

In short Spencer could not marry when he would, and would not when he
could. He had a great admiration for women, especially beautiful women;
he had a natural fondness for children and got on well with them; but in
his struggling years he could not have supported a wife and family, and
besides he was very hard to please. On the one hand there was the
economic difficulty, for he felt assured that his friend was right in
saying "Had you married there would have been no system of philosophy."
It does not seem to have occurred to him that there might have been a
better one! On the other hand, there was his eternally critical
attitude. "Physical beauty is a _sine quâ non_ with me; as was once
unhappily proved where the intellectual traits and the emotional traits
were of the highest." From the point of view of the race it seems a pity
that his _sine quâ non_ was so stringent; an emotional graft on the
Spencerian stock might have given us for instance a new religious
genius. But Spencer's own conclusion was:--

     "I am not by nature adapted to a relation in which perpetual
     compromise and great forbearance are needful. That extreme critical
     tendency which I have above described, joined with a lack of
     reticence no less pronounced, would, I fear, have caused perpetual
     domestic differences. After all my celibate life has probably been
     the best for me, as well as the best for some unknown other."

A critical yet appreciative estimate of Spencer has been given by Prof.
A. S. Pringle-Pattison, which we venture to quote to correct our own

"Paradoxical as the statement may seem in view of Spencer's achievement,
the mind here pourtrayed, save for the command of scientific facts and
the wonderful faculty of generalisation, is commonplace in the range of
its ideas; neither intellectually nor morally is the nature sensitive to
the finest issues. Almost uneducated except for a fair acquaintance with
mathematics and the scientific knowledge which his own tastes led him to
acquire, with the prejudices and limitations of middle-class English
Nonconformity, but untouched by its religion, Spencer appears in the
early part of his life as a somewhat ordinary young man. His ideals and
habits did not differ perceptibly from those of hundreds of intelligent
and straight-living Englishmen of his class. And to the end, in spite of
his cosmic outlook, there remains this strong admixture of the British
Philistine, giving a touch almost of banality to some of his sayings and
doings. But, just because the picture is so faithfully drawn, giving us
the man in his habit as he lived, with all his limitations and
prejudices (and his own consciousness of these limitations, expressed
sometimes with a passing regret, but oftener with a childish pride),
with all his irritating pedantries and the shallowness of his emotional
nature, we can balance against these defects his high integrity and
unflinching moral courage, his boundless faith in knowledge and his
power of conceiving a great ideal and carrying it through countless
difficulties to ultimate realisation, and a certain boyish simplicity of
character as well as other gentler human traits, such as his fondness
for children, his dependence upon the society of his kind, and his
capacity to form and maintain some life-long friendships. A kindly
feeling for the narrator grows as we proceed; and most unprejudiced
readers will close the book with a genuine respect and esteem for the
philosopher in his human aspect."

_Fundamental Motives._--There seems something approaching
self-vivisection in Spencer's analysis of the motives prompting his
career, and the reader who is not moved by it must be callous indeed. We
shall not do more than refer to the general results arrived at.

     "So deep down is the gratification which results from the
     consciousness of efficiency, and the further consciousness of the
     applause which recognised efficiency brings, that it is impossible
     for any one to exclude it. Certainly, in my own case, the desire
     for such recognition has not been absent. Yet, so far as I can
     remember, ambition was not the primary motive of my first efforts,
     nor has it been the primary motive of my larger and later
     efforts."... "Still, as I have said, the desire for achievement and
     the honour which achievement brings, have doubtless been large
     factors."... "Though from the outset I have had in view the effects
     to be wrought on men's beliefs and courses of action--especially in
     respect of social affairs and governmental functions; yet the
     sentiment of ambition has all along been operative."

The other prompters were the pleasure of intellectual hunting and "the
architectonic instinct." On the one hand, "It has been with me a source
of continual pleasure, distinct from other pleasures, to evolve new
thoughts, and to be in some sort a spectator of the way in which, under
persistent contemplation, they gradually unfolded into completeness." On
the other hand, "during thirty years it has been a source of frequent
elation to see each division, and each part of a division, working out
into congruity with the rest--to see each component fitting into its
place, and helping to make a harmonious whole." "Once having become
possessed by the conception of Evolution in its comprehensive form, the
desire to elaborate and set it forth was so strong that to have passed
life in doing something else would, I think, have been almost
intolerable." Like an architect he was restless till his edifice was
completed, and on working towards this there was æsthetic as well as
intellectual gratification. "There appears to be in me a dash of the
artist, which has all along made the achievement of beauty a stimulus;
not, of course, beauty as commonly conceived, but such beauty as may
exist in a philosophical structure."

     Spencer had a high sense of his responsibility to deliver the truth
     that was in him, and he had a strong faith in human progress. It is
     in the light of these two sentiments, perhaps, that we best
     understand the heroism of his strenuous life. "Not only is it
     rational to infer that changes like those which have been going on
     during civilisation will continue to go on, but it is irrational to
     do otherwise. Not he who believes that adaptation will increase is
     absurd, but he who doubts that it will increase is absurd. Lack of
     faith in such further evolution of humanity as shall harmonise with
     its conditions adds but another to the countless illustrations of
     inadequate consciousness of causation. One who, leaving behind both
     primitive dogmas and primitive ways of looking at them, has, while
     accepting scientific conclusions, acquired those habits of thought
     which science generates, will regard the conclusion above drawn as
     inevitable" (_Data of Ethics_, chap. x.).

     "Whoever hesitates to utter that which he thinks the highest truth,
     lest it should be too much in advance of the time, may reassure
     himself by looking at his acts from an impersonal point of view.
     Let him duly realise the fact that opinion is the agency through
     which character adapts external arrangements to itself--that his
     opinion rightly forms part of this agency--is a unit of forces,
     constituting, with other such units, the general power which works
     out social changes; and he will perceive that he may properly give
     full utterance to his innermost conviction, leaving it to produce
     what effect it may. It is not for nothing that he has in him these
     sympathies with some principles and repugnance to others. He with
     all his capacities, and aspirations, and beliefs, is not an
     accident, but a product of his time. He must remember that while he
     is a descendant of the past, he is a parent of the future; and that
     his thoughts are as children born to him, which he may not
     carelessly let die. He, like every other man, may properly consider
     himself as one of the myriad agencies through whom works the
     Unknown Cause; and when the Unknown produces in him a certain
     belief, he is thereby authorised to profess and act out that
     belief" (_First Principles_, p. 123).


[2] Francis Gribble: "Fortnightly Review," 1904, p. 984.

[3] Gribble, _op. cit._

[4] Gribble, _op. cit._



     _The Principles of Biology--Organic Matter--Metabolism--Definition
     of Life--The Dynamic Element in Life--Life and Mechanism_

_The Principles of Biology._--If there is any book that will save a
naturalist from being easy-going it is Spencer's _Principles of
Biology_. It is a biological classic, which, in its range and intensity,
finds no parallel except in Haeckel's greatest and least known work, the
_Generelle Morphologie_, which was published in 1866 about the same time
as the _Principles_. As one of our foremost biologists, Prof. Lloyd
Morgan has said[5]: "What strikes one most forcibly is the extraordinary
range and grasp of its author, the piercing keenness of his eye for
essentials, his fertility in invention, and the bold sweep of his
logical method. In these days of increasingly straitened specialism, it
is well that we should feel the influence of a thinker whose powers of
generalisation have seldom been equalled and perhaps never surpassed."

Much that is in _The Principles of Biology_ has now become common
biological property; much has been absorbed or independently reached by
others; consciously or unconsciously we are now, as it were, standing
on Spencer's shoulders, but this should not blind us to the magnitude of
Spencer's achievement. The book was more than a careful balance-sheet of
the facts of life at a time when that was much needed; it meant
orientation and systematisation; it was the introduction of order,
clearness, and breadth of view. It gave biology a fresh start by
displaying the facts of life and the inductions from these for the first
time clearly in the light of evolution. For if the evolution idea is an
adequate modal formula of the great process of Becoming, then we need to
think of growth, development, differentiation, integration,
reproduction, heredity, death--all the big facts--in the light of this.
And this is what the _Principles of Biology_ helps us to do. It is of
course saturated with the theory of the transmissibility of acquired
characters--an idea integral to much of Spencer's thinking--which had
hardly begun to be questioned when the work was published, which is now,
however, a very moot point indeed. For this and other reasons, we doubt
whether Spencer was wise in making a re-edition of what might well have
remained as a historical document, especially as the re-edition is not
so satisfactory for 1898 as the original was for 1864.

The chief purpose of _The Principles of Biology_ was to interpret the
general facts of organic life as results of evolution. Manifestly, as a
preliminary step, "it was needful to specify and illustrate these
general facts; and needful also to set forth those physical and chemical
properties of organic matter which are implied in the interpretation."
"What are the antecedent truths taken for granted in Biology, and what
are the biological truths, which, apart from theory, may be regarded as
established by observation?" Thus Part I. deals with organic matter and
its activity or metabolism, the action and reaction between organisms
and their environment, the correspondence between organisms and their
circumstances, and similar general data. Part II. states the big
inductions regarding growth, development, adaptation, heredity,
variation, and so on. Part III. deals with the arguments suggestive of
organic evolution and with the factors in the process. Part IV. is a
detailed interpretation of the evolution of organic structure, and Part
V. an analogous interpretation of the evolution of functions. Part VI.
deals with the laws of multiplication.

Before illustrating Spencer's workmanship in dealing with these great
themes, we cannot but ask what preparation he had for a task so
ambitious. He had an inborn interest in Natural History; he had dabbled
in Entomology and done a little microscopic work; he had attended
lectures by Owen and had enjoyed many a talk with Huxley; he had been
influenced by Lamarck, Milne-Edwards, and von Baer; he had read hither
and thither in medical and biological literature; but it is manifest
that his own admission was true that he was "inadequately equipped for
the task." That he succeeded in producing a biological classic is a
signal proof of his intellectual strength. He was kept right by his
power of laying hold of cardinal facts and by his grip of the
Evolution-clue. Not to be forgotten, moreover, was the generous help
rendered by Professor Huxley and Sir Joseph Hooker, who checked his
proofs. Spencer made but one biological investigation (1865-6), and
that of little moment--on the circulation in plants--but his contact
with the facts of organic life was by no means superficial. His
intelligence was such that he got further into them than most concrete
workers have ever done. And in some measure it was an advantage to him
in his task that he was no specialist, that he did not know too much. It
enabled him to approach the facts with a fresh mind, and to see more
clearly the general facts of Biology which lie behind the details of
Botany and Natural History. He was in no danger of not seeing the wood
for the trees.

_Organic Matter._--"In the substances of which organisms are composed,
the conditions necessary to that redistribution of Matter and Motion
which constitutes Evolution, are fulfilled in a far higher degree than
at first appears." Thus the most complex compounds into which Carbon,
Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen enter, together with small proportions of
two other elements (Sulphur and Phosphorus) which very readily oxidise,
"have an instability so great that decomposition ensues under ordinary
atmospheric conditions"; the component elements have an unusual tendency
to unite in different modes of aggregation though in the same
proportions, thus forming analogous substances with different
properties; the colloid character of the most complex compounds that are
instrumental to vital actions gives them great molecular mobility--a
plastic quality fitting them for organisation; "while the relatively
great inertia of the large and complex organic molecules renders them
comparatively incapable of being set in motion by the ethereal
undulations, and so reduced to less coherent forms of aggregation, this
same inertia facilitates changes of arrangement among their constituent
molecules or atoms, since, in proportion as an incident force impresses
but little motion on a mass, it is the better able to impress motion on
the parts of the mass in relation to one another"; "lastly, the great
difference in diffusibility between colloids and crystalloids makes
possible in the tissues of organisms a specially rapid redistribution of
matter and motion; both because colloids, being easily permeable by
crystalloids, can be chemically acted on throughout their whole masses,
instead of only on their surfaces; and because the products of
decomposition, being also crystalloids, can escape as fast as they are
produced, leaving room for further transformations." In short, organic
matter is chemically and physically well-suited to be the physical basis
of life.

     The colloid character of organic matter facilitates modification by
     arrested momentum or by continuous strain. There is often strong
     capillary affinity and rapid osmosis. Heat is an important agent of
     redistribution in the animal organism, and light is an
     all-important agent of molecular changes in organic substances. But
     the extreme modifiability of organic matter by chemical agencies is
     the chief cause of that active molecular rearrangement which
     organisms, and especially animal organisms, display. In short, the
     substances of which organisms are built up are specially sensitive
     to the varied environing influences; "in consequence of its extreme
     instability organic matter undergoes extensive molecular
     rearrangements on very slight changes of conditions."

     The correlative general fact is that during these extensive
     molecular rearrangements, there are evolved large amounts of
     energy, in the form of motion, heat, and even light and
     electricity. On the one hand the components of organic matter are
     regarded as falling from positions of unstable equilibrium to
     positions of stable equilibrium; on the other hand, "they give out
     in their falls certain momenta--momenta that may be manifested as
     heat, light, electricity, nerve-force, or mechanical motion,
     according as the conditions determine." It follows from the law of
     the Conservation of Energy that "whatever amount of power an
     organism expends in any shape, is the correlate and equivalent of a
     power which was taken into it from without."

_Metabolism._--"The materials forming the tissues of plants as well as
the materials contained in them, are progressively elaborated from the
inorganic substances; and the resulting compounds, eaten, and some of
them assimilated by animals, pass through successive changes which are,
on the average, of an opposite character: the two sets being
constructive and destructive. To express changes of both these natures
the term 'metabolism' is used; and such of the metabolic changes as
result in building up from simple to compound are distinguished as
'anabolic,' while those which result in the falling down from compound
to simple are distinguished as 'katabolic.'"

     "Regarded as a whole, metabolism includes, in the first place,
     those anabolic or building-up processes specially characterising
     plants, during which the impacts of ethereal undulations are stored
     up in compound molecules of unstable kinds; and it includes, in the
     second place, those katabolic or tumbling-down changes specially
     characterising animals, during which this accumulated molecular
     motion (contained in the food directly or indirectly supplied by
     plants) is in large measure changed into those molar motions
     constituting animal activities. There are multitudinous metabolic
     changes of minor kinds which are ancillary to these--many katabolic
     changes in plants and many anabolic changes in animals--but these
     are the essential ones."

_Definition of Life._--Spencer's first definition of life (_Theory of
Population_, 1852) was simply "the co-ordination of actions." But he
soon saw that this was too wide. "It may be said of the Solar System,
with its regularly-recurring movements and its self-balancing
perturbations, that it, also, exhibits co-ordination of actions." "A
true idea of Life must be an idea of some kind of change or changes."
Therefore he carefully considered assimilation on the one hand, as an
example of bodily life, and reasoning on the other hand, as an example
of that life known as intelligence, and inquired into the common
features of these two processes of change. Thus there emerged the
formula that life is _the definite combination of heterogeneous changes,
both simultaneous and successive_. But this formula also fails, as he
said, by omitting the most distinctive peculiarity. It is universally
recognised that living creatures continually exhibit _effective_
response to external stimuli. To be able to do this is the very essence
of life, distinguishing its responses from non-vital responses. Thus a
clause must be added to the proximate conception, and the formula reads:
"Life is the definite combination of heterogeneous changes, both
simultaneous and successive, _in correspondence with external
co-existences and sequences_." There are internal relations, namely,
"definite combinations of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and
successive," and there are external relations, "external co-existences
and sequences," and life is the connexion of correspondence between
them. Thus under its most abstract form, Spencer's conception of Life
is:--"_The continuous adjustment of internal relations to external

In an appendix to the revised edition of the _Principles of Biology_,
Spencer admits that he had not sufficiently emphasised the fact of
_co-ordination_. "The idea of co-ordination is so cardinal a one that it
should be expressed not by implication but overtly." The formula
defining the phenomenon of life thus reads: "_The definite combination
of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive, co-ordinated
into correspondence with external co-existences and sequences._" It may
be needful to remark that this was not intended to define Life in its
essence, but Life as manifested to us. "The ultimate mystery is as great
as ever: seeing that there remains unsolved the question: What
_determines_ the co-ordination of actions?"

If life be correspondence between internal and external relations, then
"allowing a margin for perturbations, the life will continue only while
the correspondence continues; the completeness of the life will be
proportionate to the completeness of the correspondence; and the life
will be perfect only when the correspondence is perfect." As organisms
become more differentiated they enter into more complex relations with
their environment, and as the environment becomes more complex organisms
become more differentiated. The internal and external relations increase
in number and intricacy _pari passu_, and the correspondences between
them become more complex, numerous, and persistent. "The highest life is
that which, like our own, shows great complexity in the correspondences,
great rapidity in the succession of them, and great length in the series
of them." "The highest Life is reached when there is some inner relation
of actions fitted to meet every outer relation of actions by which the
organism can be affected." "This continuous correspondence between
inner and outer relations which constitutes Life, and the perfection of
which is the perfection of Life, answers completely to that state of
organic moving equilibrium which arises in the course of Evolution and
tends ever to become more complete."

_The Dynamic Element in Life._--But Spencer was not satisfied with his
formula of Life. He recognised that there were vital phenomena which
were not covered by it. The growth of a gall on a plant, due to irritant
substances produced by an insect, shows no internal relations adjusted
to external relations; the heart of a frog will live and beat for a long
time after excision; the segmentation of an egg shows no correspondence
with co-existences and sequences in its environment; when rudimentary
organs are partly formed and then absorbed, no adjustment can be alleged
between the inner relations which these present and any outer relations:
the outer relations they refer to ceased millions of years ago; no
correspondence, or part of a correspondence, by which inner actions are
made to balance outer actions, can be seen in the dairymaid's laugh or
the workman's whistle; the struggles of a boy in an epileptic fit show
no correspondence with the co-existences and sequences around him, but
they betray vitality as much as do the changing movements of a hawk
pursuing a pigeon; "both exhibit that principle of activity which
constitutes the essential element in our conception of life."

     "When it is said that Life is the definite combination of
     heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive, in
     correspondence with external co-existences and sequences, there
     arises the question--Changes of what?... Still more clearly do we
     see this insufficiency when we take the more abstract
     definition--"the continuous adjustment of internal relations to
     external relations." Relations between what things? is the question
     to be asked. A relation of which the terms are unspecified does not
     connote a thought but merely the blank form of a thought. Its value
     is comparable to that of a cheque on which no amount is written."

This self-criticism led Spencer to the conclusion that "that which gives
substance to our idea of Life is a certain unspecified principle of
activity. The dynamic element in life is its essential element."

But how are we to conceive of this dynamic element? "Is this principle
of activity inherent in organic matter, or is it something superadded?"
Spencer at once rejected the second alternative, because the hypothesis
of an independent vital principle has a bad pedigree, carrying us back
to the ghost-theory of the savage, and because it is an unrepresentable
'pseud-idea,' which cannot even be imagined.

But the alternative of regarding Life as inherent in the substances of
the organisms displaying it is also full of difficulties. "The processes
which go on in living things are incomprehensible as results of any
physical actions known to us." "We are obliged to confess that Life in
its essence cannot be conceived in physico-chemical terms. The required
principle of activity, which we found cannot be represented as an
independent vital principle, we now find cannot be represented as a
principle inherent in living matter. If, by assuming its inherence, we
think the facts are accounted for, we do but cheat ourselves with

"What then are we to say--what are we to think? Simply that in this
direction, as in all other directions, our explanations finally bring us
face to face with the inexplicable. The Ultimate Reality behind this
manifestation, as behind all other manifestations, transcends

"Life as a principle of activity is unknown and unknowable--while its
phenomena are accessible in thought the implied noumenon is
inaccessible--only the manifestations come within the range of our
intelligence, while that which is manifested lies beyond it."

But "our surface knowledge continues to be a knowledge valid of its
kind, after recognising the truth that it is only surface knowledge."

The chapter on "The Dynamic Element in Life," which concludes the
section of the book called _The Data of Biology_, was interpolated in
the revised edition (1898). It indicates, as it seems to us, that
Spencer's point of view had changed considerably since he stereotyped
his _First Principles_. We must pause to consider what this change was.

In his _First Principles_ Spencer wrote: "The task before us is that of
exhibiting the phenomena of Evolution in synthetic order. Setting out
from an established ultimate principle [the Persistence of Force] it has
to be shown that the course of transformation among all kinds of
existences cannot but be that which we have seen it to be." [This refers
to the formula: Evolution is an integration of matter and concomitant
dissipation of motion during which the matter passes from an indefinite,
incoherent homogeneity to a definite, coherent heterogeneity; and during
which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation.] "It has
to be shown that the redistribution of matter and motion must everywhere
take place in those ways and produce those traits, which celestial
bodies, organisms, societies alike display. And it has to be shown that
this universality of process results from the same necessity which
determines each simplest movement around us, down to the accelerated
fall of a stone or the recurrent beat of a harp string. In other words,
the phenomena of Evolution have to be deduced from the Persistence of
Force. As before said, 'to this an ultimate analysis brings us down; and
on this a rational synthesis must build up.'" And again he wrote: "The
interpretation of all phenomena in terms of Matter, Motion, and Force,
is nothing more than the reduction of our complex symbols of thought to
the simplest symbols."

These were brave words, and if we understand them aright it is, to say
the least, surprising to be told when we come to the life of organisms
that "the processes which go on in living things are incomprehensible as
results of any physical actions known to us."

On the first page of the _Principles of Biology_ we read: "The
properties of substances, though destroyed to sense by combination, are
not destroyed in reality. It follows from the persistence of force, that
the properties of a compound are _resultants_ of the properties of its
components--_resultants_ in which the properties of the components are
severally in full action, though mutually obscured." But on p. 122 it is
written: "We find it impossible to conceive Life as emerging from the
co-operation of the components."

In the frankest possible way Spencer admitted that his definition of
Life did not cover the facts, that it did not recognise the essential or
dynamic element, that "Life in its essence cannot be conceived in
physico-chemical terms." But if so, it can only be by great faith or
great credulity that we can believe that an Evolution-formula in terms
of "Matter, Motion, and Force" is adequate to describe its genesis.

At an earlier part of the _Data of Biology_ Spencer assumed the origin
of active protoplasm from a combination of inert proteids during the
time of the earth's slow cooling, and did not suggest that there was any
particular difficulty in the assumption; yet in the end we are told that
it is "impossible even to imagine those processes going on in organic
matter out of which emerges the dynamic element in Life."

     "One can picture," Prof. C. Lloyd Morgan writes,[6] "how certain
     folk will gloat and 'chortle in their joy' over this confession,
     for such it will almost inevitably be regarded. But it is not
     likely that Mr Spencer is here, in so vital a matter, false to the
     evolution he has done so much to elucidate. The two seemingly
     contradictory statements are not really contradictory; they are
     made in different connections; the one in reference to phenomenal
     causation, the other to noumenal causation--to an underlying
     'principle of activity.' The simple statement of fact is that the
     phenomena of life are data _sui generis_, and must as such be
     accepted by science. Just as when oxygen and hydrogen combine to
     form water, new data for science emerge; so, when protoplasm was
     evolved, new data emerged which it is the business of science to
     study. In both cases we believe that the results are due to the
     operation of natural laws, that is to say, can, with adequate
     knowledge, be described in terms of antecedence and sequence. But
     in both cases the results, which we endeavour thus to formulate,
     are the outcome of principles of activity, the mode of operation of
     which is inexplicable. We formulate the laws of evolution in terms
     of antecedence and sequence; we also refer these laws to an
     underlying cause, the noumenal mode of action of which is
     inexplicable. This, if I interpret him rightly, is Mr Spencer's

Our own impression is that Spencer was guilty of "wobbling" between two
modes of interpretation, between scientific description and
philosophical explanation, a confusion incident on the fact that his
_Principles of Biology_ was also part of his _Synthetic Philosophy_.
Biology as such has of course nothing to do with "the Ultimate Reality
behind manifestations" or with the "implied noumenon." And when Spencer
says "it is impossible even to imagine those processes going on in
organic matter out of which emerges the dynamic element in Life," or
when he illustrates his difficulty by pointing out how impossible it is
to give a physico-chemical interpretation of the way a plant cell makes
its wall, or a coccolith its imbricated covering, or a sponge its
spicules, or a hen eats broken egg-shells, we do not believe he was
thinking of anything but "phenomenal causation." When he says "The
processes which go on in living things are incomprehensible as results
of any physical actions known to us," we see no reason to take the edge
off this truth by saying that Spencer simply meant that the Ultimate
Reality is inaccessible.

In any case, whether Spencer meant that we cannot give any scientific
analysis in physico-chemical terms of the unified behaviour of even the
simplest organism, or whether he simply meant that the _raison d'être_,
the ultimate reality of life, was an inaccessible noumenon, he
confesses that we have "only a surface knowledge"; "only the
manifestations come within the range of our intelligence while that
which is manifested lies beyond it"; "the order existing among the
actions which living things exhibit remains the same whether we know or
do not know the nature of that from which the actions originate." This
seems to us to sound a more modest note than is heard in the sentence:
"The interpretation of all phenomena in terms of Matter, Motion and
Force, is nothing more than the reduction of our complex symbols of
thought to the simplest symbols."

_Life and Mechanism._--But are not all biologists confronted with the
difficulty that gave Herbert Spencer pause? Physiological analysis has
done much in revealing chains of sequence within the organism, but no
vital phenomenon has as yet been redescribed in terms of chemistry and
physics. Again and again some success in discovering physico-chemical
chains of sequence has awakened the expectation that the dawn of a
mechanical theory of life was drawing nigh, but the dawn seems further
off than ever. The residual phenomena left uninterpreted by mechanical
categories loom out more persistently than they did a century ago. As
Bunge once said "the more thoroughly and conscientiously we endeavour to
study biological problems, the more are we convinced that even those
processes which we have already regarded as explicable by chemical and
physical laws, are in reality infinitely more complex, and at present
defy any attempt at a mechanical explanation." As Dr J. S. Haldane puts
it: "If we look at the phenomena which are capable of being stated, or
explained in physico-chemical terms, we see at once that there is
nothing in them characteristic of life.... The action of each bodily
mechanism, the composition and structure of each organ, are all mutually
determined and connected with one another in such a way as at once to
distinguish a living organism from anything else. As this mutual
determination is the characteristic mark of what is living, it cannot be
ignored in the framing of fundamental working hypotheses."

The fact is that we have to regard the living organism as a new
synthesis which we cannot at present analyse, and life as an activity
which cannot at present be redescribed in terms of the present physical
conceptions of matter and energy. And even if a living organism were
artificially made, the problem would not be altered; though our
conception of what we at present call inanimate might be.

Prof. Karl Pearson states the position from another point of view.

For the biologist as a scientific inquirer "the problem of whether life
is or is not a mechanism is not a question of whether the same things,
'matter' and 'force,' are or are not at the back of organic and
inorganic phenomena--of what is at the back of either class of
sense-impressions we know absolutely nothing--but of whether the
conceptual shorthand of the physicist, his ideal world of ether, atom,
and molecule, will or will not also suffice to describe the biologist's
perceptions." That it does not at present seems the conviction of the
majority of physiologists; if it ever should it would be "purely an
economy of thought; it would provide the great advantages which flow
from the use of one instead of two conceptual shorthands, but it would
not 'explain' life any more than the law of gravitation explains the
elliptic path of a planet."

"Atom" and "molecule" and the rest are scientific concepts, not
phenomenal existences, therefore even if the physicist's formulæ should
fit vital phenomena--which they seem very far from doing--there would be
no explanation forthcoming, for "mechanism does not explain anything."

Thus, like Spencer, we find the secret of the organism irresoluble in
terms of lower categories. But we differ from him inasmuch as we believe
that this admission is fatal to his formula of evolution, to his
definition of life, and to the coherence of his _Synthetic Philosophy_.


[5] Mr Herbert Spencer's Biology, "Natural Science," xiii. (1898) pp.

[6] "Natural Science," xiii., December 1898, p. 380.



     _Growth--Development--Structure and Function--Waste and
     Repair--Adaptation--Cell-Life--Genesis--Nutrition and
     Reproduction--The Germ-Cells_

_Growth._--Perhaps the widest and most familiar induction of Biology, is
that organisms grow. But there is growth in crystals, in terrestrial
deposits, in celestial bodies; in fact, growth, as being an integration
of matter, is the primary trait of evolution; it is universal, in the
sense that all aggregates display it in some way at some period. "The
essential community of nature between organic growth and inorganic
growth is, however, most clearly seen on observing that they both result
in the same way. The segregation of different kinds of detritus from
each other, as well as from the water carrying them, and their
aggregation into distinct strata, is but an instance of a universal
tendency towards the union of like units and the parting of unlike units
(_First Principles_, § 163). The deposit of a crystal from a solution is
a differentiation of the previously mixed molecules; and an integration
of one class of molecules into a solid body, and the other class into a
liquid solvent. Is not the growth of an organism an essentially similar
process? Around a plant there exist certain elements like the elements
which form its substance; and its increase in size is effected by
continually integrating these surrounding like elements with itself."
And so on.

Passing over the far-fetched statement that the deposit of sediment in
distinct strata illustrates the universal tendency towards the union of
like units and the parting of unlike units, we must point out that
Spencer begins his discussion of organic growth by describing it in such
general terms that its essential characteristic is lost sight of. A
minute crystal of alum is dropped into a saturated solution of alum, and
it grows rapidly under our eyes out of material the same as its own, but
the living creature grows larger at the expense of material _different_
from its own. The grass grows at the expense of air, water, and salts,
and the lamb grows at the expense of the grass. Though the living
creature cannot, of course, transform one element into another, and must
have carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., in its food, it utilises
materials chemically very different from its own complex compounds.

Spencer's inductions as to growth were the following:--

     (1) The growth of an organism is dependent on the available supply
     of such environing materials as are of like natures with the
     matters composing the organism.

     (2) Other things being equal, the degree of growth varies according
     to the surplus of nutrition over expenditure.

     (3) In the same organism the surplus of nutrition over expenditure
     differs at different stages, and growth is unlimited or has a
     definite limit, according as the surplus does or does not rapidly
     decrease. There is almost unceasing growth in organisms that expend
     relatively little energy and definitely limited growth in
     organisms that expend much energy. [There are many difficulties
     here, _e.g._, the apparent absence of a limit of growth in many
     very energetic fishes.]

     (4) Among organisms which are large expenders of force, the size
     ultimately attained is, other things equal, determined by the
     initial size. [By initial size Spencer means the bulk of the
     organism when it begins to feed for itself.] A calf and a lamb
     commence their physiological transactions on widely different
     scales; their first increments of growth are similarly contrasted
     in their amounts; and the two diminishing series of such increments
     end at similarly-contrasted limits.

     [But the further we penetrate into details, the more inevitable
     seems the conclusion that adult size is _an adaptive phenomenon_;
     in other words that growth has been punctuated by natural

     (5) Where the likeness of other circumstances permits a comparison,
     the possible extent of growth depends on the degree of
     organization; an inference testified to by the larger forms among
     the various divisions and sub-divisions of organisms.

In connection with growth and its limit Spencer made a simple but shrewd
observation, which seems also to have occurred to Prof. Leuckart and to
Dr Alexander James. He pointed out, that in the growth of similarly
shaped bodies the increase of volume continually tends to outrun the
increase of surface. The volume of living matter must grow more than the
surface through which it is kept alive, if the surface remain regular in
contour. In spherical and all other regular units the volume increases
as the cube of the radius, the surface only as the square of the radius.
Thus a cell, for instance, as it grows, must get into physiological
difficulties, for the nutritive necessities of the increasing volume are
ever less adequately supplied by the less rapidly increasing absorbent
surface. There is less and less opportunity for nutrition, respiration,
and excretion. A nemesis of growth sets in, for waste gains upon,
overtakes, balances, and threatens to exceed repair. Growth may cease at
this limit, and a balance be struck; or the form of the unit may be
altered and surface gained by flattening out, or very frequently by
ramifying processes; or--and this the most frequent solution--the cell
may divide, halving its volume, gaining new surface, and restoring the
balance. In more general terms, growth expresses the preponderance of
constructive processes or anabolism; increase of volume with less rapid
increase of nutritive, respiratory, and excretory surface involves a
relative predominance of katabolism; the limit of growth occurs when
further increase of volume would prejudicially increase the ratio of
katabolism to anabolism; at that point the cell restores the balance by
dividing. And what is true of the unit applies also in a general way to
organs, such as leaves which increase their surface by becoming much
divided, and even to organisms which exhibit many adaptations for
increasing their nutritive, respiratory, and excretory surfaces.

_Development._--Growth is increase in bulk, development is increase in
structure, and Spencer's chief induction in regard to development is
that we see a change from an incoherent, indefinite homogeneity to a
coherent, definite heterogeneity. "The originally like units called
cells become unlike in various ways, and in ways more numerous and
marked as the development goes on. The several tissues which these
several classes of cells form by aggregation, grow little by little
distinct from each other; and little by little put on those structural
complexities that arise from differentiations among their component
units. In the shoot, as in the limb, the external form, originally very
simple, and having much in common with simple forms in general,
gradually acquires an increasing complexity and an increasing unlikeness
to other forms. Meanwhile, the remaining parts of the organism to which
the shoot or limb belongs, having been severally assuming structures
divergent from one another and from that of this particular shoot or
limb, there has arisen a greater heterogeneity in the organism as a
whole." Moreover, "whereas the germs of organisms are extremely similar,
they gradually diverge widely in modes now regular and now irregular,
until in place of a multitude of forms practically alike we finally have
a multitude of forms most of which are extremely unlike." In other
words, there is in individual development (ontogeny) some condensed
recapitulation of the steps in racial evolution (phylogeny).
Furthermore, in the progressing differentiation of each organism there
is a progressing differentiation of it from its environment; it becomes
freer from the environmental grip and more master of its fate. Here
again there is an individual progress parallel to that seen in the
course of historic evolution.

A general criticism must be made, that Spencer thought of the germ-cell
much too simply. It is a microcosm full of intricacy; the nucleus is
often exceedingly definite and coherent; the early cells are often from
the first defined, with prospective values which do not change. The
fertilised ovum has only apparent simplicity; it has a complex
individualised organisation--often visible. No one can doubt that
development is progressive differentiation, but it is rather a
realisation of a complex inheritance of materialised potentialities than
a change from an incoherent, indefinite homogeneity to a coherent,
definite heterogeneity.

_Structure and Function._--To the question, does Life produce
Organisation, or does Organisation produce Life? Spencer answered that
"structure and function must have advanced _pari passu_: some difference
of function, primarily determined by some difference of relation to the
environment, initiating a slight difference of structure, and this again
leading to a more pronounced difference of function; and so on through
continuous actions and reactions." As structure progresses from the
homogeneous, indefinite, and incoherent, so does function, illustrating
progressive division of labour. From an evolutionist point of view,
Spencer argued that life necessarily comes before organisation; "organic
matter in a state of homogeneous aggregation must precede organic matter
in a stage of heterogeneous aggregation. But since the passing from a
structureless state to a structured state is itself a vital process, it
follows that vital activity must have existed while there was yet no
structure: structure could not else arise. That function takes
precedence of structure, seems also implied in the definition of Life.
If Life is shown by inner actions so adjusted as to balance outer
actions--if the implied energy is the _substance_ of Life while the
adjustment of the actions constitutes its _form_; then may we not say
that the actions to be formed must come before that which forms
them--that the continuous change which is the basis of function, must
come before the structure which brings function into shape?"

But all such discussions of "structure" and "function" in the abstract
tend to verbal quibbling. We cannot have activity without something to
act, we cannot have metabolism without stuff. No one can tell what the
first thing that lived on the earth was like, what organisation it had,
or what it was able to do, but we may be sure that vital organisation
and vital activity are only static and kinetic aspects of the same
thing. It is quite probable, however, that there is no one thing that
can be called protoplasm, for vital function may depend upon the
inter-relations or inter-actions of several complex substances, none of
which could by itself be called alive; which are, however, held together
in that unity which makes an organism what it is. Just as the secret of
a firm's success may depend upon a particularly fortunate association of
partners, so it may be with vitality.[7]

_Waste and Repair._--Organisms are systems for transforming matter and
energy and the law of conservation holds good. "Each portion of
mechanical or other energy which an organism exerts implies the
transformation of as much organic matter as contained this energy in a
latent state," and the waste must be made good by repair. We thus see
why plants with an enormous income of energy and little expenditure of
energy have no difficulty in sustaining the balance between waste and
repair; we understand the relation between small waste, small activity,
and low temperature in many of the lower animals; we understand
conversely the rapid waste of energetic, hot-blooded animals. The
deductive interpretation of waste is easy, but it is different with
repair, for here the analogy between the organism and an inanimate
engine breaks down. The living creature is a self-stoking,
self-repairing, and also--it may be noted in passing--a self-reproducing
engine. Spencer did not do more than restate the difficulty when he said
that the component units of organisms have the power of moulding fit
materials into other units of the same order.

In passing to consider the ability which an organism often has of
recompleting itself when one of its parts has been cut off, just as an
injured crystal recompletes itself, Spencer was led to the hypothesis
that "the form of each species of organism is determined by a
peculiarity in the constitution of its units--that these have a special
structure in which they tend to arrange themselves; just as have the
simpler units of inorganic matter." "This organic polarity (as we might
figuratively call this proclivity towards a specific structural
arrangement) can be possessed neither by the chemical units nor the
morphological units, we must conceive it as possessed by certain
intermediate units, which we may term _physiological_." But if in each
organism the physiological units which result from the compounding of
highly compound molecules have a more or less distinctive character, the
germ-cell is not so very _indefinite_ after all.

Many of the facts of regeneration are very striking. A crab may regrow
its complex claw, a starfish arm may regrow an entire body. A snail has
been known to regenerate an amputated eye-bearing horn twenty times in
succession, a newt can replace a lost lens, a lizard can regrow its tail
and part of its leg, a stork can regrow the greater part of its bill. In
many cases, the surrender of parts which are afterwards regrown is
exceedingly common, as in some worms and Echinoderms, and is a
life-saving adaptation. Organically, though not consciously, the
brainless starfish has learned that it is better that one member should
perish than that the whole life should be lost. This regenerative
capacity no doubt implies certain properties in the living matter and in
the organism, but we are far from being able to picture how it comes
about. What does seem clear is that the distribution and mode of
occurrence of the regenerative capacity--in external organs often, but
in internal organs very rarely; in most lizard's tails, but not in the
chamæleon's; in the stork's bill but not in its toes--are _adaptive_,
being related to the normal risks of life, as Réaumur, Lessona, Darwin,
and Weismann have pointed out. According to Lessona's Law, which
Weismann has elaborated, regeneration tends to occur in those organisms
and in those parts of organisms which are in the ordinary course
of nature most liable to injury. To which we must add two
saving-clauses--(_a_) provided that the lost part is of some vital
importance, and (_b_) provided that the wound or breakage is not in
itself very likely to be fatal. In Weismann's words, the theory is, that
"the power of regeneration possessed by an animal or by a part of an
animal is regulated by adaptation to the frequency of loss and to the
extent of the damage done by the loss."

_Adaptation._--Wherever we look in the world of organisms we find
examples of adaptation; we see form suited for different kinds of
motion, organs suited for their uses, constitution suited to
circumstances in such external features as colouring and in such
internal adjustments as the regulation of temperature; we find effective
weapons and effective armour, flowers adapted to insect visitors and
insect visitors adapted to flowers, one sex adapted in relation to the
other, the mother adapted to bearing and rearing offspring, the embryo
adapted to its pre-natal life; everywhere there is adaptation in varying
degrees of perfection. The adaptation is a fact, in regard to which all
naturalists are agreed; difference of opinion arises when we ask how
these adaptations have come to be.

In the chapter "Adaptation" Spencer practically restricted his attention
to a certain kind of adaptation, namely the direct modifications which
result from use or disuse, or from environmental influence. The
blacksmith's arm, the dancer's legs, the jockey's crural adductors,
illustrate direct results of practice; "à force de forger on devient
forgeron." The skin forms protective callosities where it is much
pressed or rubbed, as on the schoolboy's hands or the old man's
toothless gums. The blood-vessels may respond by enlargement to
increased demands made on them; the fingers of the blind become
extraordinarily sensitive.

Spencer points to the general truth that extra function is followed by
extra growth, but that a limit is soon reached beyond which very little,
if any, further modification can be produced. Moreover, the limited
increase of size produced in any organ by a limited increase of its
function, is not maintained unless the increase of function is
permanent. When the modifying influence is removed, the organism
rebounds or tends to rebound. A lasting change of importance involves a
re-organisation, a new state of equilibrium.

On inductive and deductive grounds, Spencer summed up in four

     (1) An adaptive change of structure will soon reach a point beyond
     which further adaptation will be slow.

     (2) When the modifying cause has been but for a short time in
     action, the modification generated will be evanescent.

     (3) A modifying cause acting even for many generations will do
     little towards permanently altering the organic equilibrium of a

     (4) On the cessation of such cause, its effects will become
     unapparent in the course of a few generations.

But two cautions must be emphasised (_a_) that Spencer, in this
discussion, dealt only with those direct adjustments which are referable
to the action of use or disuse, or of surrounding influences; and (_b_)
that we have no security in regarding these as being as such

By adaptations biologists usually mean permanent adjustments, and there
are two theories of the origin of these: (_a_) by the action of natural
selection on inborn variations, or (_b_) by the inheritance of the
directly acquired bodily modifications.

_Cell-Life._--In this chapter, interpolated in the revised edition,
Spencer summed up the main results of the study of the structural units
or cells which build up a body. "Nature everywhere presents us with
complexities within complexities, which go on revealing themselves as we
investigate smaller and smaller objects." Thus protoplasm itself has a
complicated structure; the nucleus of the cell is a little world in
itself; and the cell-firm has other partners, such as the centrosome.
When a cell divides, the readily stainable bodies or chromosomes,
present in definite number within the nucleus, are divided, usually by a
most intricate process, in such a manner that equal amounts are
bequeathed by the mother-cell to each of the two daughter-cells. Spencer
favoured the view that the chromatin, which "consists of an organic acid
(nucleic acid) rich in phosphorus, combined with an albuminous
substance, probably a combination of various proteids" may be peculiarly
unstable and active.

     "From the chromatin, units of which are thus ever falling into
     stabler states, there are ever being diffused waves of molecular
     motion, setting up molecular changes in the cytoplasm. The
     chromatin stands towards the other contents of the cell in the same
     relation that a nerve-element stands to any element of an organism
     which it excites." "We may infer that cell-evolution was, under one
     of its aspects, a change from a stage in which the exciting
     substance and the substance excited were mingled with approximate
     uniformity, to a stage in which the exciting substance was gathered
     together into the nucleus and finally into the chromosomes, leaving
     behind the substance excited, now distinguished as cytoplasm."

     But the suggestion that chromosomes may be stimulating,
     change-exciting elements, does not, Spencer goes on to say,
     conflict with the conclusion that the chromosomes are the vehicles
     conveying hereditary traits. "While the unstable units of
     chromatin, ever undergoing changes, diffuse energy around, they may
     also be units which, under the conditions furnished by
     fertilisation, gravitate towards the organisation of the species.
     Possibly it may be that the complex combination of proteids, common
     to chromatin and cytoplasm, is that part in which constitutional
     characters inhere; while the phosphorised component, falling from
     its unstable union and decomposing, evolves the energy which,
     ordinarily the cause of changes, now excites the more active
     changes following fertilisation."

     From this speculation Spencer passes to a brief consideration of
     what occurs before and during the fertilisation of the ovum. Before
     fertilisation is accomplished the nucleus of the ovum normally
     divides twice in rapid succession, and gives off two abortive
     cells--known as polar bodies--which come to nothing. The usual
     result of this "maturation," as it is called, is that the number of
     chromosomes in the ovum is reduced to a half of the normal number
     characteristic of the cells of the species to which it belongs. In
     the history of the male element or spermatozoon, there is an
     analogous reduction, so that when spermatozoon and ovum unite in
     fertilisation the normal number is restored. It is now recognised
     that the maturation-divisions are useful in obviating the doubling
     of the number of chromosomes which fertilisation would otherwise
     involve, and it has also been suggested that this continually
     recurrent elimination of chromosomes may be one of the causes of

     Spencer suggested another interpretation. He pointed out the
     general fact that sexual reproduction (gamogenesis) commonly occurs
     when asexual reproduction (agamogenesis) is arrested by
     unfavourable conditions, that failing asexual reproduction
     initiates sexual reproduction. Now as egg-cells and sperm-cells are
     the outcome of often long series of cell divisions (asexual
     multiplication), may not the polar bodies, which are aborted cells,
     indicate that asexual multiplication can no longer go on, and that
     the conditions leading to sexual multiplication have set in? "As
     the cells which become spermatozoa are _left_ with half the number
     of chromosomes possessed by preceding cells, there is actually that
     impoverishment and declining vigour here suggested as the
     antecedent of fertilisation." In short, the germ-cells, separately
     considered, are cells in which the power of further asexual
     multiplication is exhausted, as it is known to become exhausted in
     Infusorians and such body-cells as nerve-cells; there arises a
     state which initiates a sexual union or amphimixis of the two kinds
     of germ-cells, and the decrease in the chromatin is an initial
     cause of that state.

     We quote this speculation as a good instance of Spencer's continual
     endeavour to rationalise puzzling and exceptional facts by showing
     that there is a general principle underlying them. But the
     objections to his hypothesis are numerous. Mature ova or
     spermatozoa will not normally divide if left to themselves, but
     that is because they are specialised to secure amphimixis, not
     because their powers are in any way declining or impoverished. A
     parthenogenetic ovum gives off one polar body--though without
     reduction in the number of chromosomes--and then proceeds by
     asexual multiplication or ordinary cell division to build up a
     body. The spore of a fern or a moss has only half the number of
     chromosomes that the cells of its producer have, yet it proceeds by
     asexual multiplication or ordinary cell-division to build up the
     gametophyte or sexual generation.

_Genesis._--Spencer attempted a classification of the various modes of
reproduction that occur among organisms--asexual reproduction
(agamogenesis) by fission and budding, sexual reproduction (gamogenesis)
by specialised germ-cells usually involving fertilisation or amphimixis,
and all the complications involved in "alternation of generations"
(metagenesis), the development of eggs without fertilisation
(parthenogenesis), and so on. But what gives particular importance to
the chapter on genesis is not the discussion of the modes of
reproduction, but the general conclusion that nutrition and reproduction
are antithetic processes--a very fruitful idea in biology.

Where there is alternation of generation, sexual and asexual, we find
that asexual reproduction continues as long as the forces which result
in growth are greatly in excess of the antagonistic forces. Conversely
the recurrence of sexual reproduction occurs when the conditions are no
longer so favourable to growth. Similarly, where there is no
alternation, "new individuals are usually not formed while the preceding
individuals are still rapidly growing--that is, while the forces
producing growth exceed the opposing forces to a great extent; but the
formation of new individuals begins when nutrition is nearly equalled by

In illustration Spencer points to facts like the following: "Uniaxial
plants begin to produce their lateral, flowering axes, only after the
main axis has developed the great mass of its leaves, and is showing its
diminished nutrition by smaller leaves, or shorter internodes, or both";
"root-pruning" and "ringing," which diminish the nutritive supply,
promote the formation of flower-shoots; high nutrition in plants
prevents or arrests flowering.

Similarly, the aphides or green-flies, hatched from eggs in the spring,
multiply by parthenogenesis throughout the summer; with extraordinary
rapidity one generation follows on another; but when the weather becomes
cold and plants no longer afford abundant sap, males reappear and sexual
reproduction sets in. It has been shown that in the artificial summer of
a green-house, parthenogenesis may continue for four years. In a large
number of cases of ordinary reproduction, _e.g._ in birds, the connexion
between cessation of growth and commencement of reproduction is very

It is not difficult to see the advantages in the postponement of sexual
reproduction until the rate of growth begins to decline. "For so long as
the rate of growth continues rapid, there is proof that the organism
gets food with facility--that expenditure does not seriously check
assimilation; and that the size reached is as yet not disadvantageous:
or rather, indeed, that it is advantageous. But when the rate of growth
is much decreased by the increase of expenditure--when the excess of
assimilative power is diminishing so fast as to indicate its approaching
disappearance--it becomes needful, for the maintenance of the species,
that this excess shall be turned to the production of new individuals;
since, did growth continue until there was a complete balancing of
assimilation and expenditure, the production of new individuals would be
either impossible or fatal to the parent. And it is clear that 'natural
selection' will continually tend to determine the period at which
gamogenesis commences, in such a way as most favours the maintenance of
the race."

That natural selection punctuates the life to advantage does not
imply that it works directly towards such a remote goal as
species-maintaining; it means that the arrangements which do secure this
end most effectively are those which tend to establish themselves. Those
that do not secure this end are eliminated.

_Nutrition and Reproduction._--Spencer's doctrine of the antithesis
between Nutrition and Reproduction is of great importance in biology,
and we must dwell on it a little longer.

The life of organisms is rhythmic. Plants have their long period of
vegetative growth, and then suddenly burst into flower. Animals in their
young stages grow rapidly, and as the growth ceases reproduction
normally begins; or again, just as perennial plants are strictly
vegetative through a great part of the year or for many successive
years, but have their periodic recurrence of flowers and fruit, so it is
with many animals which after remaining virtually asexual for prolonged
periods, exhibit periodic returns of a reproductive or sexual tide.
Foliage and fruiting, periods of nutrition and crises of reproduction,
hunger and love, must be interpreted as life-tides, punctuated by the
seasons and other circumstances through the agency of Natural Selection,
but none the less as expressions of the fundamental organic rhythm
between rest and work, upbuilding and expenditure, repair and waste,
which on the protoplasmic plane are known as anabolism and

Anabolism and katabolism are the two sides of protoplasmic life, and the
major rhythms of the respective preponderance of these give the
antitheses of growth and multiplication, asexual and sexual
reproduction. The contrasts of metabolism represent the swings of the
organic see-saw; the periodic contrasts correspond to alternate
weightings or lightenings of the two sides.

Spencer's induction that "an approach towards equilibrium between the
forces which cause growth and the forces which oppose growth, is the
chief condition to the recurrence of sexual reproduction," is an
approximate answer to the question--_When_ does sexual reproduction
recur? But there remains, he says, the more difficult question--_Why_
does sexual reproduction recur? _Why_ cannot multiplication be carried
on in all cases, as it is in many cases, by asexual reproduction?

As yet, he says, biology is not advanced enough to give a reply, but a
certain hypothetical answer may be suggested. "Seeing, on the one hand,
that gamogenesis recurs only in individuals which are approaching a
state of organic equilibrium; and seeing, on the other hand, that the
sperm-cells and germ-cells thrown off by such individuals are cells in
which developmental changes have ended in quiescence, but in which,
after their union, there arises a process of active cell-formation; we
may suspect that the approach towards a state of general equilibrium in
such gamogenetic individuals is accompanied by an approach towards
molecular equilibrium in them; and that the need for this union of
sperm-cell and germ-cell is the need for overthrowing this equilibrium,
and re-establishing active molecular change in the detached germ--a
result probably effected by mixing the slightly different physiological
units of slightly different individuals."

Now, while Spencer was probably right in saying that fertilisation
promotes change, we cannot think that he succeeded in finding what he
was seeking, namely a primary physiological reason why sexual
reproduction should occur. It may be pointed out that it is only in a
limited sense that sperm-cells or egg-cells can be spoken of as in a
state of "quiescence," and that it is only in a limited sense that the
organism which has finished growing and is beginning to be sexual can be
spoken of as in a state of general or molecular equilibrium. An egg-cell
is quiescent, as a seed lying in the ground is quiescent, awaiting its
stimulus of warmth and moisture; a sperm-cell is quiescent, as a spore
floating in the air is quiescent, awaiting its appropriate soil. The
egg-cells and sperm-cells cannot be very quiescent since they do so much
when they unite. Moreover, we have simply to recall the facts of natural
parthenogenesis on the one hand or of artificial parthenogenesis on the
other, to see that the quiescence of the egg is a secondary restriction
adapted to secure amphimixis. Moreover, the familiar external and
internal changes which occur in the bodies of organisms when they are
approaching sexual maturity suggest the very opposite of general or
molecular equilibrium.

It may be pointed out that although asexual multiplication persists in
many organisms both large and small, and is sometimes the only method of
multiplication, yet it is apt to be a somewhat expensive process and
would be difficult to arrange for in highly differentiated animals. On
the other hand, asexual multiplication succeeds admirably in many cases;
it does not imply degeneration; it is not inconsistent with the
occurrence of variations; and it is _conceivable_ that it might have
been arranged for even in the highest animals. What other reason can
there be why the circuitous process of sexual reproduction has been
preferred? It may be said that the arrangement by which multiplication
is secured through special germ-cells, more or less apart from the cells
which build up the body, may be justified as an arrangement which
prevents or tends to prevent the transmission of bodily modifications,
many of which are detrimental. But as this cuts both ways, preventing or
tending to prevent the transmission of useful modifications, there must
be some other reason why the circuitous process of sexual reproduction
has been preferred. We believe the answer to be that sexual reproduction
is an adaptive process securing the benefits of amphimixis, for in
amphimixis and in the changes preparatory to it, there is an important
_source of variation_. In one of his essays Weismann wrote as follows:--

     "Sexual reproduction is well known to consist in the fusion of two
     contrasted reproductive cells, or perhaps even in the fusion of
     their nuclei alone. These reproductive cells contain the germinal
     material or germ-plasm, and this again, in its specific molecular
     structure, is the bearer of the hereditary tendencies of the
     organisms from which the reproductive cells originate. Thus in
     sexual reproduction two hereditary tendencies are in a sense
     intermingled. In this mingling, I see the cause of the hereditary
     individual characteristics; and in the production of these
     characters, the task of sexual reproduction. It has to supply the
     material for the individual differences from which selection
     produces new species."

     When we inquire into the reasons for the occurrence of a process
     such as sexual reproduction, there are four different questions
     which may be put: (1) We may inquire into the historical evolution
     of the process, so far as that can be legitimately imagined or
     inferred from still persistent grades. (2) We may try to discover
     what factors may have operated in the course of evolution in
     raising the process from one step of differentiation to another.
     (3) We may also try to show how the process is justified by its
     advantages either self-regarding or species-maintaining. (4) We may
     inquire into the physiological sequences in the internal economy of
     the individual organism which lead up to the process in question.
     There is no doubt always an immediate necessity for the occurrence
     of an organic process, but we are in many cases quite unable at
     present to do more than describe the series of events without
     understanding their causal nexus. The reason for this is apparent,
     since the organism is much more than a detached inanimate engine;
     it is a system which has summed up in it the long results of time,
     the history of ages. Its rhythms and periodicities and crises
     puzzle us because they originated under conditions which obtained
     untold millennia ago. Thus some processes in higher animals may
     have had originally a reference to tides from the reach of which
     their present possessors are far withdrawn.

     We have entered on this digression partly for clearness sake, and
     partly to explain why Spencer had, as we think, very limited
     success in his answer to the question: Why does sexual reproduction
     occur? The curious reader may be referred to the discussion of
     these problems in _The Evolution of Sex_, Contemporary Science
     Series, Revised Edition, 1901.

_The Germ-Cells._--But we cannot leave the interesting chapter on
genesis without referring to another of Spencer's conclusions, which
does not seem to us to be quite consistent with facts.

"The marvellous phenomena initiated by the meeting of sperm-cell and
germ-cell, or rather of their nuclei, naturally suggest the conception
of some quite special and peculiar properties possessed by these cells.
It seems obvious that this mysterious power which they display of
originating a new and complex organism, distinguishes them in the
broadest way from portions of organic substance in general.
Nevertheless, the more we study the evidence the more are we led towards
the conclusion that these cells are not fundamentally different from
other cells." The evidence he gives is: (1) that small fragments of
tissue in many plants and inferior animals may develop into entire
organisms; (2) that the reproductive organs producing eggs and sperms
are organs of low organisation, with no specialities of structure "which
might be looked for, did sperm-cells and germ-cells need endowing with
properties unlike those of all other organic agents." "Thus, there is no
warrant for the assumption that sperm-cells and germ-cells possess
powers fundamentally unlike those of other cells."

To this it must be answered: (1) though sperm-cells and egg-cells, being
living units, cannot be "_fundamentally_ unlike" other living units,
such as ordinary body-cells, yet they may be very unlike them; (2) that
the germ-cells are very unlike ordinary body-cells is shown by the fact
that they can do what no single body-cell can do, build up a whole
organism; (3) so specific are germ-cells that in certain cases and in
favourable conditions a small fraction of an egg, bereft of its own
nucleus, may, if fertilised, develop into an entire and normal larva;
(4) it is quite consistent with the idea of evolution that in lower
organisms the contrast between body-cells and germ-cells should be less
pronounced than in higher forms. But the fundamental answer is found
when we inquire into the history of the germ-cells. In many cases, and
the list is being added to, the future reproductive cells are segregated
off at an early stage in embryonic development. Even before
differentiation sets in, the future reproductive cells may be set apart
from the body-forming cells. The latter develop in manifold variety into
skin and nerve, muscle and blood, gut and gland; they differentiate, and
may lose almost all protoplasmic likeness to the mother ovum. But the
reproductive cells are set apart; they take no share in the
differentiation, but remain virtually unchanged, continuing unaltered
the protoplasmic tradition of the original fertilised ovum. After a
while their division-products will be liberated as functional
reproductive cells or germ-cells, handing on the tradition intact to the
next generation.

An early isolation of the reproductive cells has been observed in the
harlequin fly (_Chironomus_) and in some other insects, in the aberrant
worm-type _Sagitta_, in leeches, in thread-worms, in some Polyzoa, in
some small Crustaceans known as Cladocera, in the water-flea _Moina_, in
some Arachnoids (Phalangidæ), in the bony fish _Micrometrus aggregatus_,
and in other cases. In the development of the threadworm of the horse
according to Boveri, the very first cleavage of the ovum establishes a
distinction between somatic and reproductive cells. One of the first two
cells is the ancestor of all the cells of the body; the other is the
ancestor of all the germ-cells. "Moreover, from the outset the
progenitor of the germ-cells _differs from the somatic cells not only in
the greater size and richness of the chromatin of its nucleus, but also
in its mode of mitosis_ (_division_), for in all those blastomeres
(segmentation-cells) destined to produce somatic cells a portion of the
chromatin is cast out into the cytoplasm, where it degenerates, and
_only in the germ-cells is the sum-total of the chromatin retained_" (E.
B. Wilson, _The Cell in Development and Inheritance_, 1896, p. 111).

In the majority of cases, we admit, the reproductive cells _are not to
be seen_ in early segregation, and the continuous lineage from the
fertilised ovum cannot be traced. In the majority of cases, the
germ-cells are seen as such after considerable differentiation has gone
on, and although they are linear descendants of the ovum, their special
lineage cannot be traced. But it seems legitimate to argue from the
clear cases to the obscure cases, and to say that the germ-cells are
those cells which retain the complete complement of heritable qualities.
Adopting the conception of the germ-plasm as the material within the
nucleus which bears all the properties transmitted in inheritance, we
may still say, in Weismann's words, "In every development a portion of
this specific germ-plasm, which the parental ovum contains, is unused in
the upbuilding of the offspring's body, and is reserved unchanged to
form the germ-cells of the next generation.... The germ-cells no longer
appear as products of the body, at least not in their more essential
part--the specific germ-plasm; they appear rather as something opposed
to the sum-total of body-cells; and the germ-cells of successive
generations are related to one another like generations of Protozoa." In
terms of this conception, which fits many facts, we may say that in
plants and lower animals the distinction between germ-plasm and
somato-plasm has not been much accentuated, and that in some organisms
the body-cells retain enough undifferentiated germ-plasm to enable them
in small or large companies to regrow an entire organism.

It may be said that Spencer must also have regarded the germ-cells as
containing the whole complement of hereditary qualities. _It must be
so._ The point is that he rejected the theory which gives a rational
account of how the germ-cells have this content and their power of
developing into an organism, like from like. The sentence in which he
points out that the reproductive organs have "none of the specialities
of structure which might be looked for, did the sperm-cells and
germ-cells need _endowing with properties_ unlike those of all other
organic agents," shows how far he deliberately stood from the conception
we have outlined.

     Here we may note that the "Inductions" regarding Heredity are
     discussed in our eleventh chapter, and those regarding Variation in
     our twelfth chapter. We have not dealt with the suggestive concrete
     sections which deal with structural and functional evolution,
     partly because they are too concrete to be dealt with briefly, and
     partly because they are saturated with the hypothesis of the
     transmission of acquired characters. Spencer's most important
     conclusion in regard to the Laws of Multiplication is referred to
     under the heading Population.


[7] See J. Arthur Thomson's _Progress of Science in the Nineteenth
Century_, 1903, p. 317, and E. B. Wilson's _The Cell in Development and
Inheritance_, 1900.

[8] P. Geddes and J. Arthur Thomson, _The Evolution of Sex_, revised
edition, 1901, p. 238.



     _The Evolution-Idea--Spencer's Historical Position--Von Baer's
     Law--Evolution and Creation--Arguments for the Evolution-Doctrine_

Spencer has been called "the philosopher of the Evolution-movement," but
the appropriateness of this description depends on what is meant by
philosopher. What is certain is that he championed the evolutionist
interpretation at a time when it was as much tabooed as it is now
fashionable; that he showed its applicability to all orders of
facts--inorganic, organic, and super-organic; that he threw some light
on various factors in the evolution-process, and that he attempted to
sum up in a universal formula what he believed to be the common
principle of all evolutionary change. In judging of what he did it must
be remembered that he was pre-Darwinian, and that chemistry and physics,
biology and psychology have made enormous strides since he wrote his
_First Principles_ in 1861-2.

_The Evolution-Idea._--The general idea of evolution, like many other
great ideas, is essentially simple--that the present is the child of the
past and the parent of the future. It is the idea of development writ
large and historically applied. It is the same as the scientific
conception of human history. In general terms, a process of Becoming
everywhere leads, through the interaction of inherent potentialities and
environmental conditions, to a new phase of Being. The study of
Evolution is a study of _Werden und Vergehen und Weiterwerden_.

Stated concretely in regard to living creatures, the general doctrine of
organic evolution suggests, as we all know, that the plants and animals
now around us--with all their fascinating complexities of structure and
function, of life-history, behaviour, and inter-relations--are the
natural and necessary results of long processes of growth and change, of
elimination and survival, operative throughout practically countless
ages; that the forms we know and admire are the lineal descendants of
ancestors on the whole somewhat simpler except when we have to deal with
retrogressive or degenerative series; that these ancestors are descended
from yet simpler forms, and so on backwards, till we lose our clue in
the unknown, but doubtless momentous vital events of pre-Cambrian ages,
or, in other words, in the thick mist of life's beginnings. Though the
general idea of organic evolution is simple, it has been slowly evolved
both as regards concreteness and clarity; it has gradually gained
content as research furnished fuller illustration, and clearness as
criticism forced it to keep in touch with facts. It has slowly developed
from the stage of suggestion to that of verification; from being an _a
priori_ anticipation it has become an interpretation of nature; and from
being a modal interpretation of the animate world it is advancing to
the rank of a causal interpretation.

The evolution-idea is perhaps as old as clear thinking, which we may
date from the (unknown) time when man discovered the year--with its
marvellous object-lesson of recurrent sequences--and realised that his
race had a history. Whatever may have been its origin, the idea was
familiar to several of the ancient Greek philosophers, as it was to Hume
and Kant; it fired the imagination of Lucretius and linked him to
another poet of evolution--Goethe; it persisted, like a latent germ,
through the centuries of other than scientific preoccupation; it was
made actual by the pioneers of modern biology--men like Buffon, Lamarck,
Erasmus Darwin and Treviranus;--and it became current intellectual coin
when Spencer, Darwin, Wallace, Haeckel and Huxley, with united but
varied achievements, won the conviction of the majority of thoughtful

_Spencer's historical position in regard to the Evolution-Idea._--In
1840, when Herbert Spencer was twenty, he bought Lyell's _Principles of
Geology_--then recently published. His reading of Lyell was a fortunate
incident, for one of the chapters, devoted to a refutation of Lamarck's
views concerning the origin of species, had the effect of giving Spencer
a decided leaning to them.

"Why Lyell's arguments produced the opposite effect to that intended, I
cannot say. Probably it was that the discussion presented, more clearly
than had been done previously, the natural genesis of organic forms. The
question whether it was or was not true was more distinctly raised. My
inclination to accept it as true in spite of Lyell's adverse criticisms,
was, doubtless, chiefly due to its harmony with that general idea of the
order of Nature towards which I had, throughout life, been growing.
Super-naturalism, in whatever form, had never commended itself. From
boyhood there was in me a need to see, in a more or less distinct way,
how phenomena, no matter of what kind, are to be naturally explained.
Hence, when my attention was drawn to the question whether organic forms
have been specially created, or whether they have arisen by progressive
modifications, physically caused and inherited, I adopted the last
supposition; inadequate as was the evidence, and great as were the
difficulties in the way. Its congruity with the course of procedure
throughout things at large gave it an irresistible attraction; and my
belief in it never afterwards wavered, much as I was in after years
ridiculed for entertaining it" (_Autobiography_, i. p. 176).

Thus early convinced, Spencer did not remain a mute evolutionist. The
idea was a seed-thought in his mind, and eventually it became the
dominant one, bearing much fruit. In his early letters to the
"Nonconformist" in 1842 on "The Proper Sphere of Government," "the only
point of community with the general doctrine of Evolution is a belief in
the modifiability of human nature through adaptation to conditions, and
a consequent belief in human progression." But in his _Social Statics_
(1850) there "may be seen the first step toward the general doctrine of
Evolution." Thus he says, "The development of society as well as the
development of man and the development of life generally, may be
described as a tendency to individuate--_to become a thing_. And rightly
interpreted, the manifold forms of progress going on around us are
uniformly significant of this tendency."

It was a great moment in Herbert Spencer's intellectual life when in
1851 (_ætat._ 31) he first came across von Baer's formula "expressing
the course of development through which every plant and animal
passes--the change from homogeneity to heterogeneity." At the close of
his _Social Statics_ Spencer had indicated that progress from low to
high types of society or organism implied an advance "from uniformity of
composition to multiformity of composition." "Yet this phrase of von
Baer, expressing the law of individual development, awakened my
attention to the fact that the law which holds of the ascending stages
of each individual organism is also the law which holds of the ascending
grades of organisms of all kinds. And it had the further advantage that
it presented in brief form, a more graphic image of the transformation,
and thus facilitated further thought. Important consequences eventually

Von Baer's formula of embryonic development, which he regarded as a
progress from the apparently simple to the obviously complex, and as the
individual's condensed and modified recapitulation of racial history,
accentuated and stimulated a thought already existing in Spencer's mind,
and in part expressed. It gave objective vividness to the concept of
development which Spencer had already realised in regard to societary
forms. In 1864 he wrote to G. H. Lewis, "If anyone says that had von
Baer never written I should not be doing that which I now am, I have
nothing to say to the contrary--I should reply it is highly probable."

Herbert Spencer spoke of his early recognition of von Baer's law as one
of the moments in his intellectual development. He realised objectively
and vividly that out of an apparently simple and homogeneous stage of
development, there is developed by division of labour and other
processes, a wondrous complexity of nervous, muscular, glandular,
skeletal, and connective tissues or organs, as the case may be. Organic
development is not like crystallisation; it is heteromorphic
crystallisation, so to speak. From a group of apparently similar cells,
heterogeneous tissues and organs are developed. Thus von Baer as an
embryologist gave Spencer as a general evolutionist a concrete basis for
the concept of development which was simmering in his mind.

_Von Baer's Law._--It does not appear, however, that Spencer ever read
von Baer's embryological memoirs, else he might have been less
well-satisfied with summing up individual development as a progress from
homogeneity to heterogeneity. Von Baer was much more cautious than some
of his followers and expositors, and subsequent research has justified
his caution. The once popular "Recapitulation Doctrine" that a
developing organism "climbs up its own genealogical tree," that
"ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," is now seen to be true only in a
very general way, and with many saving clauses. The germ is now known as
a unified mosaic of ancestral contributions, as a multiplex of
potentialities; it is even visibly very complex and anything but
homogeneous or "simple"; and the individual recapitulation of racial
history is verifiable rather in the stages of organogenesis than in the
history of the embryo as a whole. Thus while all are agreed that there
is a gradual emergence of the obviously complex from the apparently
simple, that development means progressive differentiation and
integration, and that past history is _in some measure_ resumed in
present development, it must also be allowed that germ-cells are
microcosms of complexity, that development is the realisation of a
composite inheritance, the cashing of ancestral cheques, and that the
"minting and coining of the chick out of the egg" is not adequately
summed up as "a progress from homogeneity to heterogeneity."

But although embryology does not appear to us to give unequivocal
support to Spencer's formula of progress from the homogeneous to the
heterogeneous, it seemed all plain sailing to him, and he proceeded to
illustrate the utility of his formula by applying it to all orders of
facts. In a famous passage in the essay on "Progress: its Law and Cause"
(_Essays_, vol. i., 1883, p. 30) he wrote as follows:--

     "We believe we have shown beyond question that that which the
     German physiologists (von Baer, Wolff, and others) have found to be
     the law of organic development (as of a seed into a tree and of an
     egg into an animal) is the law of all development. The advance from
     the simple to the complex, through a process of successive
     differentiations (i.e. the appearance of differences in the parts
     of a seemingly like substance), is seen alike in the earliest
     changes of the Universe to which we can reason our way back; and
     in the earlier changes which we can inductively establish; it is
     seen in the geologic and climatic evolution of the Earth, and of
     every simple organism on its surface; it is seen in the evolution
     of Humanity, whether contemplated in the civilised individual, or
     in the aggregation of races; it is seen in the evolution of Society
     in respect alike of its political, its religious, and its
     economical organisation; and it is seen in the evolution of all
     those endless concrete and abstract products of human activity
     which constitute the environment of our daily life. From the
     remotest past which Science can fathom up to the novelties of
     yesterday, that in which Progress essentially consists is the
     transformation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous." This was
     written in 1857.

     As far back as 1852 Spencer contributed to the 'Leader' an essay on
     the 'Development Hypothesis' which is one of the most noteworthy of
     the pre-Darwinian presentations of the general idea of evolution.
     Supposing that there are some ten millions of species, extant and
     extinct, he asks "which is the most rational theory about these ten
     millions of species? Is it most likely that there have been ten
     millions of special creations? or is it most likely that by
     continual modifications, due to change of circumstances, ten
     millions of varieties have been produced, as varieties are being
     produced still?... Even could the supporters of the Development
     Hypothesis merely show that the origination of species by the
     process of modification is conceivable, they would be in a better
     position than their opponents. But they can do much more than this.
     They can show that the process of modification has effected, and is
     effecting, decided changes in all organisms subject to modifying
     influences.... They can show that in successive generations these
     changes continue, until ultimately the new conditions become the
     natural ones. They can show that in cultivated plants, domesticated
     animals, and in the several races of men, such alterations have
     taken place. They can show that the degrees of difference so
     produced are often, as in dogs, greater than those on which
     distinctions of species are in other cases founded. They can show,
     too, that the changes daily taking place in ourselves--the facility
     that attends long practice, and the loss of aptitude that begins
     when practice ceases--the strengthening of passions habitually
     gratified, and the weakening of those habitually curbed--the
     development of every faculty, bodily, moral, or intellectual
     according to the use made of it--are all explicable on this same
     principle. And thus they can show that throughout all organic
     nature there _is_ at work a modifying influence of the kind they
     assign as the cause of these specific differences; an influence
     which, though slow in its action, does, in time, if the
     circumstances demand it, produce marked changes--an influence
     which, to all appearance, would produce in the millions of years,
     and under the great varieties of condition which geological records
     imply, any amount of change."

While Spencer did not discern the modifying influence of Natural
Selection, which it was reserved for Darwin and Wallace to disclose, his
clear presentation of the general doctrine of evolution seven years
before the publication of the "Origin of Species" (1859) should not be

In other essays before 1858 and in his _Principles of Psychology_
(1855), Spencer championed the evolutionist position, and the first
programme of his "Synthetic Philosophy" was drawn up in January 1858.

_Arguments for the Evolution-Doctrine._--The idea that the present is
the child of the past and the parent of the future, that what we see
around us is the long result of time, that there has been age-long
progress from relatively simple beginnings--the evolution-formula in
short--is now part of the intellectual framework of most educated men
with a free mind. We no longer trouble to argue about it; like wisdom it
is justified of its children. It has afforded a modal interpretation of
the world's history, an interpretation that works well, which no facts
are known to contradict. It has been the most effective organon of
thought that the world has known; it is becoming organic in all our

We cannot indeed give an evolutionary account of the origin of life, or
of consciousness, or of human reason; we cannot read the precise
pedigree of many of the forms of life; we are in great doubt as to the
_modus operandi_ by which familiar results have been brought about, but
all this ignorance does not diminish our confidence in the scientific
value of the general evolution-idea. It may be that there are some
primary facts, such as life and consciousness, which we must be content
to postulate as at present irresoluble data, but it is also certain that
our inquiry into the _factors of evolution_ is still very young. So much
has been done in half a century, since serious ætiology began, that it
is premature to say _ignorabimus_ where we must confess _ignoramus_.

It seems possible to give a provisional evolutionist account of so many
of "the wonders of life," as Haeckel calls them, that there are few
nowadays who will maintain that, given certain postulates, a scientific
interpretation of nature is impossible. This is what the doctrine of
special creation or creations implies; it means an abandonment of the
scientific interpretation of nature as a hopeless task.

If the evolution key failed to open the doors to which we apply it, then
there would be justification for a rehabilitation of the creationist
doctrine, but the reverse is the case. To some minds, notably Mr Alfred
Russel Wallace, the problems of the origin of life, of consciousness,
and of man's higher qualities seem so hopelessly far from scientific
interpretation, that a combination of evolutionism with a moiety of
creationism appears necessary. But as we are only beginning to know the
scope and efficacy of the factors of evolution, and are not without hope
of discovering other factors, this dualism seems premature.

_Evolution and Creation._--But while the Evolution-Doctrine is now
admitted as a valid and useful genetic formula, it was far otherwise
when Spencer was writing his _Principles of Biology_ (1864-6). Then the
doctrine of descent was struggling for existence against principalities
and powers both temporal and spiritual, and then it was still relevant
to pit it against the theory of special creations. Yet for a younger
generation it is difficult to appreciate the warmth of Spencer's chapter
on the Special-Creation hypothesis (§ 109-§ 115 of vol. i. of the
original edition of _The Principles of Biology_).

     "The belief in special creations of organisms is a belief that
     arose among men during the era of profoundest darkness; and it
     belongs to a family of beliefs which have nearly all died out as
     enlightenment has increased. It is without a solitary established
     fact on which to stand; and when the attempt is made to put it into
     definite shape in the mind, it turns out to be only a pseud-idea.
     This mere verbal hypothesis, which men idly accept as a real or
     thinkable hypothesis, is of the same nature as would be one, based
     on a day's observation of human life, that each man and woman was
     specially created--an hypothesis not suggested by evidence, but by
     lack of evidence--an hypothesis which formulates absolute ignorance
     into a semblance of positive knowledge."...

     "Thus, however regarded, the hypothesis of special creations turns
     out to be worthless--worthless by its derivation; worthless in its
     intrinsic incoherence; worthless as absolutely without evidence;
     worthless as not supplying an intellectual need; worthless as not
     satisfying a moral want. We must therefore consider it as counting
     for nothing, in opposition to any other hypothesis respecting the
     origin of organic beings."

The appreciation of the evolution-formula in the minds of thoughtful men
has been greatly modified--for the better--since the early Darwinian
days of hot-blooded controversy, when Spencer was a prominent champion
of the new way of looking at things. The special-creation hypothesis has
almost ceased to find advocates who know enough about the facts to bring
forward arguments worthy of consideration, and by a legitimate change of
front on the part of theologians it has come to be recognised that the
evolution-formula is not antithetic to any essential transcendental
formula. Naturalists, on the other hand, recognise that the
Evolution-formula is no more than a genetic description, that it does
not pretend to give any ultimate explanations, that as such it has
nothing whatever to do with such transcendental concepts as almighty
volition, and that it has no quarrel with the modern theological view of
creation as the institution of the primary order of nature--the
possibility of natural evolution included. Thus Spencer's destructive
attack on the Special-Creation hypothesis has now little more than
historical interest. And for this result, we have in part to thank
Spencer himself, who made the precise point at issue so definitely

The general theory of organic evolution--the theory of Descent--tacitly
makes the assumption, which is the basal hope of all biology, that it is
not only legitimate but promiseful to try to interpret scientifically
the history of life upon the earth. It formulates the idea that the
present phase of being is the natural and necessary outcome of a
previous, on the whole, simpler phase of being, and so on, backwards and
forwards in time, under the operation of more or less clearly
discernible natural factors and conditions--notably variation and
heredity, selection and isolation. Tested a thousand times, the general
evolution-formula seems to cover the facts, it gives them a new
rationality, it applies to minutiose details as well as to the general
progress of life, it even affords a basis for verified prophecy. The
formula is a key that fits all locks, though it has not yet, because of
our fumbling fingers, opened all.

But just here, as Spencer pointed out, there is a parting of the ways,
and there is no _via media_, no compromise. Is there no hopefulness in
trying to give a scientific account of the nature and history and
genesis of the confessedly vast and perplexing orders of facts which we
call Physical Nature, Animate Nature, and Human Nature?--then let us
become agnostics pure and simple, or let us remain philosophers or
theologians, poets or artists, and sigh over an impetuous science which
started so much in debt that its bankruptcy was a foregone conclusion!

On the other hand, if the scientific attempt at interpretation is
legitimate, and if it has already made good progress (considering its
youth), and if its results, achieved piecemeal, always make for greater
intelligibility, then let us give the scientific, _i.e._, evolutionist
formulation its due; let us rigidly exclude from our science all other
than scientific interpretations; let us cease from juggling with words
in attempting a mongrel mixture of scientific and transcendental
formulation; let us stop trying to eke out demonstrable factors, such as
variation and selection, by assuming alongside of these,
"ultra-scientific causes," "spiritual influxes," _et hoc genus omne_;
let us cease writing or reading books such as _God or Natural
Selection_, whose titular false antinomy is an index of the bathos of
their misunderstanding. To place scientific formulæ in opposition to
transcendental formulæ is to oppose "incommensurables," and to display
an ignorance of what the aim of science really is.

Logically, the antithesis is between the possibility or the
impossibility of giving a scientific interpretation of the world around
us (and ourselves). The hypothesis of special creations is irrelevant
until the scientific interpretation is shown to be inadequate or

_Arguments for the Evolution-Doctrine._--But what, it may be asked, is
the evidence substantiating the formula of organic evolution, and
compelling us to accept it? To this question, we propose to give in
brief resumé Spencer's answer, but it is impossible to refrain from
observing that the question involves some measure of misunderstanding.
The evolution theory, as a modal formula, is just a particular way of
looking at things; it is justified wherever it is applied; it makes for
progress whenever it is utilised; but it cannot be proved by induction
or experiment like the law of gravitation or the doctrine of the
conservation of energy. Fritz Müller said that he would be content to
stake the evolution theory on a study of butterflies alone, and he was
right. The formula is justified by its detailed applicability; there are
not any special evidences of evolution; any set of facts in regard to
organisms well worked-out illustrates the general thesis. At the same
time, it is possible to classify the different ways in which the
Evolution-Idea fits the facts, and this is what Spencer did in his
presentation of the "arguments for evolution"--a presentation which has
never been surpassed in clearness, though every illustration has been
multiplied many times since 1866.

I. The Arguments from Classification. Spencer started with the fact that
naturalists have utilised resemblances in structure and development as a
basis for the orderly classification of organisms in groups within
groups--varieties, species, genera, families, races, and so on. But
"this is the arrangement which we see arises by descent, alike in
individual families and among races of men." "Where it is known to take
place evolution actually produces these feebly-distinguished small
groups and these strongly-distinguished great groups." "The impression
made by these two parallelisms, which add meaning to each other, is
deepened by the third parallelism, which enforces the meaning of
both--the parallelism, namely, that as, between the species, genera,
orders, classes, etc., which naturalists have formed, there are
transitional types; so between the groups, sub-groups, and
sub-sub-groups, which we know to have been evolved, types of
intermediate values exist. And these three correspondences between the
known results of evolution (as in human races, domesticated animals, and
cultivated plants) and the results here ascribed to evolution have
further weight given to them by the fact, that the kinship of groups
through their lowest members is just the kinship which the hypothesis
of evolution implies." Even in the absence of these specific
agreements, the broad fact of unity amid multiformity, which organisms
so strikingly display, is strongly suggestive of evolution. Freeing
ourselves from pre-conceptions, we shall see good reason to think with
Mr Darwin, "that propinquity of descent--the only known cause of the
similarity of organic beings--is the bond, hidden as it is by various
degrees of modification, which is partly revealed to us by our
classifications" (_Principles of Biology_, Rev. Ed. vol. i. p. 448).

II. Arguments from Embryology. Organisms may be arranged on a tree which
symbolises their structural affinities and divergences. On the
evolutionist interpretation this is an adumbration of the actual
genealogical tree or _Stammbaum_. But when we consider the facts of
embryology we find that the developing organism advances from stage to
stage by steps which are more or less comparable to the various levels
and branchings of the classificatory tree. There is a resemblance,
sometimes a parallelism, between individual development and the grades
of organisation which have or have had persistent stability as living
creatures. "On the hypothesis of evolution this parallelism has a
meaning--indicates that primordial kinship of all organisms, and that
progressive differentiation of them which the hypothesis alleges. On any
other hypothesis the parallelism is meaningless." It is true that there
are nonconformities to the general law that individual development tends
to recapitulate racial history, or that ontogeny tends to recapitulate
phylogeny. There may be in the individual development condensations or
telescopings of the presumed ancestral stages, and there may be an
interpolation of developmental stages which are adaptive to peculiar
conditions of juvenile life and have no historical import, but the
deviations are such as may be readily interpreted on the
evolution-hypothesis (_Principles of Biology_, i. pp. 450-467).

III. Arguments from Morphology. In back-boned animals from frog to man
there is a great variety of fore-limb, adapted for running, swimming,
flying, grasping, and so forth, but throughout there is a unity of
structure and development. There are the same fundamental bones and
muscles, nerves and blood vessels, and the early stages are closely
similar. So it is throughout organic nature; there is unity of type,
maintained under extreme dissimilarities of form and mode of life. This
is "explicable as resulting from descent with modification; but it is
otherwise inexplicable." "The likenesses disguised by unlikenesses,
which the comparative anatomist discovers between various organs in the
same organism, are worse than meaningless if it be supposed that
organisms were severally framed as we now see them; but they fit in
quite harmoniously with the belief that each kind of organism is a
product of accumulated modifications upon modifications. And the
presence, in all kinds of animals and plants, of functionally-useless
parts corresponding to parts that are functionally-useful in allied
animals and plants, while it is totally incongruous with the belief in a
construction of each organism by miraculous interposition, is just what
we are led to expect by the belief that organisms have arisen by

IV. Arguments from Distribution.--"Given that pressure which species
exercise on one another, in consequence of the universal overfilling of
their respective habitats--given the resulting tendency to thrust
themselves into one another's areas, and media, and modes of life, along
such lines of least resistance as from time to time are found--given
besides the changes in modes of life, hence arising, those other changes
which physical alterations of habitats necessitate--given the structural
modifications directly or indirectly produced in organisms by modified
conditions; and the facts of distribution in space and time are
accounted for. That divergence and re-divergence of organic forms, which
we saw to be shadowed forth by the truths of classification and the
truths of embryology, we see to be also shadowed forth by the truths of
distribution. If that aptitude to multiply, to spread, to separate, and
to differentiate, which the human races have in all times shown, be a
tendency common to races in general, as we have ample reason to assume;
then there will result those kinds of spacial relations and
chronological relations among the species, and genera, and orders,
peopling the Earth's surface, which we find exist. The remarkable
identities of type discovered between organisms inhabitating one medium,
and strangely modified organisms inhabiting another medium, are at the
same time rendered comprehensible. And the appearances and
disappearances of species which the geological record shows us, as well
as the connections between successive groups of species from early eras
down to our own, cease to be inexplicable" (_Principles of Biology_, i.
p. 489).

"Thus," Spencer concludes, "of these four groups each furnished several
arguments which point to the same conclusion; and the conclusion pointed
to by the arguments of any one group, is that pointed to by the
arguments of every other group. This coincidence of coincidences would
give to the induction a very high degree of probability, even were it
not enforced by deduction. But the conclusion deductively reached is in
harmony with the inductive conclusion."


[9] See J. Arthur Thomson, _The Science of Life_ (1899), chapter xvi.,
"Evolution of Evolution Theory"; and _The Study of Animal Life_ (1892),
chapter xviii., "The Evolution of Evolution Theories."



     _Problems of Heredity--Physiological Units--A Digression--The
     Germ-Cells--Transmission of Acquired
     Characters--Inconceivability--A Priori Argument--Practical

Heredity is the relation of genetic continuity which links generation to
generation. An inheritance is all that the organism is or has to start
with on its life-journey in virtue of the hereditary relation to parents
and ancestors. In all ordinary cases, the inheritance has its initial
material basis in the egg-cell and the sperm-cell which unite in
fertilisation at the beginning of a new life, and these two kinds of
germ-cells, which bear the maternal and the paternal contributions, have
their peculiar virtue of reproducing like from like, just because they
are the unchanged or very slightly changed cell-descendants of the
fertilised ova from which the parents arose. A bud or a cutting
separated off from a living creature--tiger-lily or potato, polyp or
worm--reproduces an entire organism like the parent, if the appropriate
nurture-conditions are available; and it can do so because it is a fair
sample of the parental organisation. Similarly a germ-cell or two
germ-cells in conjunction can develop into a creature like the parent or
parents, in virtue of being the condensed essence of the parental
organisation. And the germ-cell is this because of its direct
continuity through undifferentiating cell-divisions with the original
germ-cell from which the parental body developed.

Even in ancient times men pondered over the resemblances and differences
between children and their parents--for like only _tends_ to beget
like--and wondered as to the nature of the bond which links generation
to generation. But although the problems are old, the precise study of
them is altogether modern. The first great step towards clearness was
the formulation of the cell-theory by Schwann and Schleiden (1838-9), by
Goodsir and Virchow, which made it clear that all but the simplest
organisms are built up of cells or modifications of cells, and that the
individual life usually begins as a fertilised egg-cell which proceeds
by division and re-division, by differentiation and integration, to
develop a more or less complex "body." It has become gradually clear
that while the fertilised egg-cell gives rise to body-cells which become
specialised, it also gives rise to unspecialised descendant-cells, which
take no share in body-making, but become the germ-cells--the potential
starting-points of another generation. A second great step was the
accumulation of facts of inheritance showing that all sorts of qualities
innate or inborn in the parents, essential and trivial, normal and
abnormal, bodily and mental, may be transmitted to the offspring as part
of the organic heritage. A third great step was implied in the
acceptance which Darwin in particular won for the general idea of
descent, for it is hardly too much to say that the scientific study of
the problems of heredity began when it was recognised that heredity is a
fundamental condition of evolution.

_Problems of Heredity._--In regard to Heredity there are three large
problems which tower above the crowd of more detailed problems. The
_first_ is: In what way are the germ-cells peculiar, how do they differ
from ordinary cells, what gives them their unique reproductive power,
how do they come to be such marvellous units that their development
results in a new organism? Only two answers have been suggested: (1)
that the germ-cells become receptacles of representative samples from
the different parts of the body (the pangenetic theory), and (2) that
the germ-cells owe their unique character to the fact that they are,
along lines of undifferentiated cell-lineage, the direct descendants of
the fertilised ova of the parents (the theory of germinal continuity).
Thanks, largely, to Weismann, the second view has prevailed over the
first, for which there is little factual basis.

The _second_ large problem is as to the way in which it may be supposed
that the hereditary qualities are represented in the germ-cell. Is the
germ-cell an extremely complex chemical mixture without pre-formed
architecture, which, as it lives and grows, gradually gives rise to
heterogeneous elements, differentiating along diverse lines according to
their diverse relations to one another and to their surrounding
conditions? Or is it from the first a complex architecture, an intricate
organisation of a large number of items representing particular
qualities, a mosaic of inheritance-bearers?

The _third_ large problem is as to the modes in which the inheritance,
normally bi-parental, and in some sense always a mingling of ancestral
contributions, can express itself. Sometimes the expression is
one-sided, sometimes it is a blend. The mother may look out of one eye,
and the father out of another, or the grandfather may be re-incarnated.
By inter-breeding hybrids pure types may be got, _or_ reversions, _or_
"an epidemic of variations." This is the problem of the diverse modes of
hereditary transmission, which we know in some cases to be expressible
in a formula, such as Mendel's law or Galton's law, and for which we can
sometimes hazard a hypothetical physiological interpretation.

_Physiological Units._--To each of these three problems Spencer made a
contribution. He started with the legitimate and fertile hypothesis of
"physiological units"--the ultimate life-bearing elements, intermediate
between the chemical molecules and the cell. Just as the same kinds and
even the same number of atoms compose by different arrangements numerous
quite different chemical molecules, _e.g._ in the protein-group, so out
of similar molecules diversely grouped an immense variety of
"physiological units" may be evolved. Out of the same pieces of coloured
glass one may get in the kaleidoscope a very large number of distinct
patterns, so in the course of nature similar molecules, grouping
themselves differently, have formed a very large number of distinct
"physiological units." The grouping is not merely positional and static
as in the kaleidoscope; it is dynamic and vital. Since Spencer sketched
his idea in 1864 many biologists have thought of units intermediate
between the chemical molecules and the cell, and the number of different
names which have been bestowed upon them is extraordinary, each voyager
re-naming his discovery, ignorant of or ignoring those who had
previously sailed the same seas. This recognition of "physiological
units" was a natural step in analysis as soon as it began to be
recognised that the cell was a little world in itself, a "firm" with
many partners. While we cannot agree with Delage that "Spencer est le
vrai père de la conception initiale," since Brücke expressed the same
idea in 1861, Spencer's exposition in 1864 was quite independent, and it
has not found the recognition it deserved.

It should be noted that the "gemmules" which Darwin assumed in his
provisional hypothesis of pangenesis to be given off by the various
cells of the body, were supposed to be of innumerable unlike kinds,
whereas in Spencer's argument "the implication everywhere is that the
physiological units are all of one kind."

It is admitted that the molecules of a crystallisable substance have
more or less mysterious relations to one another--"polarities" as we
call them--which result in definite crystalline forms appearing in
definite conditions, with a certain amount of diversity as everyone may
see in snow-crystals, and as is more precisely known in the case of
certain substances which have several forms of crystallisation. But just
as chemical molecules have in virtue of their organisation (always
dynamic as well as static) certain prescribed modes of relating
themselves to others like themselves, and building up a beautiful
integrate, a crystal, so, as Spencer pointed out, the "physiological
units" have their "polarities," _i.e._ their inherent constitutional
tendencies to build up forms along with their fellows. Here we have two
useful suggestions, (1) that development is like an elaborate organic
crystallisation, only much more energetically dynamic, and (2) that the
big fact of heredity--that like tends to beget like--has its parallel in
the way in which a minute fragment of a crystal can in the appropriate
environment of a solution of the same substance build up a crystal like
the original form from which it was separated. Germ-cells are potential
samples of the organisation which is expressed in the parent, but
Spencer did not advance to the more distinctively modern position which
recognises that they are separated off rather from the fertilised ovum
which gave rise to the parent's body than from that body itself. The
parental body is the trustee rather than the producer of the germ-cells.

_A Digression._--Here we must digress a little to compare Spencer's
conception of physiological or constitutional units with Weismann's
conception of the Germ-Plasm. According to Weismann, there is in the
nuclei of the germ-cells a distinctive physical basis of inheritance,
the germ-plasm. It is the vehicle of the hereditary qualities, the
architectural substance which enables the germ-cell to build up an
organism; it has an extremely complex and at the same time persistent
structure. Following a hypothesis of De Vries, he supposed that the
readily stainable nuclear bodies (the chromosomes or idants) consist of
a colony of invisible self-propagating vital units or _biophors_, each
of which has the power of expressing in development some particular
quality. He supposed that these biophors are aggregated into units of a
higher order, known as _determinants_, one for each structure of the
body which is capable of independent variation. These determinants are
supposed to be grouped together in _ids_, each of which is supposed to
possess a complete complement of the specific characters of the organism
and also to have an individual character. The _ids_ are arranged in
linear series to form the visible _idants_ or chromosomes, which will be
slightly different from one another according to the individualities of
the component ids. When the fertilised egg-cell develops, it gives rise
(1) to _somatic_ cells which carry with them part of the germ-plasm, and
differentiate to form the body, and (2) to the _germ_ cells which
reserve part of the germ-plasm in an unchanged state, and eventually
give rise in appropriate conditions to new individuals _and their

Spencer refused to accept the contrast between _body_-cells and
_germ_-cells as expressing a fact, and referred for his reasons to the
numerous cases in which small pieces of a plant or polyp may grow into
an entire organism. But when he represented Weismann as maintaining that
the "soma contains in its components none of those latent powers
possessed by those of the germ-plasm," he did not do justice to the
comprehensive theory of the "Germ-plasm." For Weismann assumes that in
certain cases the body-cells, even though differentiated, may carry with
them some residual unused-up germ-plasm.

When a lizard regrows a lost tail--effectively responding to a casualty
which has been common for untold generations--Weismann interprets the
mechanism of this as due to a reserve of tail-determinants resident at
or near the place of breakage, and localised there as the result of a
long-continued process of selection. A chamæleon does not regenerate
its tail, and this may be interpreted in terms of the selection-theory,
since the chamæleon with its tail coiled up or embracing a branch has
not been, in the course of its evolution, subjected to the frequently
recurrent casualty which has beset most other lizards. Spencer said, "We
cannot arbitrarily assume that wherever a missing organ has to be
reproduced there exists the needful supply of determinants representing
that organ," but Weismann made no such arbitrary assumption. Many organs
are lost which are not regenerated, even when, as far as materials or
differentiation are concerned, it would be easy to replace them. Why the
everywhere present uniform physiological units that Spencer believed in
should not replace them, we do not know; but if the distribution of
regenerative determinants has been wrought out by selection, we
understand the facts.

Spencer said that the hypothesis of a supply of determinants lying
latent at or near the seat of injury, and able to reproduce the missing
part in all its details, and to do this several times over, was "a
strong supposition." We venture to think that the hypothesis that the
same result is achieved by the "physiological units," which are all of
the same kind, is a weak supposition. Spencer said: "Reproduction of the
lost part would seem to be a normal result of the proclivity towards the
form of the entire organism." But it is difficult to see why "proclivity
of the physiological units towards the form of the entire organism"
should bring about the regeneration of a tail here and a head there, a
claw here and an eye there. But Spencer was too acute a thinker not to
feel that if the theory of regenerative determinants was "incompetent,"
his own theory, which interpreted regeneration as due to the activity of
physiological units, "with a proclivity towards the organic form of the
species," did not cover the facts; _e.g._ the establishment of
"false-joints," where the ends of a broken bone failing to unite remain
movable one upon the other. Therefore he suggested a qualification of
his hypothesis.

In "the social organism," it is often seen that the components of an
aggregate "have their activities and arrangements mainly settled by
local conditions." "A local group of units, determined by circumstances
towards a certain structure, coerces its individual units into that
structure." In an emigrant settlement, "individuals are led into
occupations and official posts, often quite new to them, by the wants of
those around--are now influenced and now coerced into social
arrangements which, as shown perhaps by gambling saloons, by shootings
at sight, and by lynchings, are scarcely at all affected by the central
government. Now the physiological units in each species appear to have a
similar combination of capacities. Besides their general proclivity
towards specific organisation, they show us abilities to organise
themselves locally; and these abilities are in some cases displayed in
defiance of the general control, as in the supernumerary finger or the
false joint. Apparently each physiological unit, while having in a
manner the whole organism as the structure which, along with the rest,
it tends to form, has also an aptitude to take part in forming any local
structure, and to assume its place in that structure under the
influence of adjacent physiological units" (_Principles of Biology_,
revised edition, i. p. 364).

The experiments of Born and others have shown that fragments of a young
tadpole may go on developing to some extent after they are cut off, and
that the undifferentiated rudiment of a limb may be successfully grafted
on to another tadpole. "In brief, we may say that each part is in chief
measure autogenous." "Though all parts are composed of physiological
units of the same nature, yet everywhere, in virtue of local conditions
and the influence of its neighbours, each unit joins in forming the
particular structure appropriate to its place." This conclusion is very
interesting when compared with that reached more inductively by many
embryologists (of the so-called epigenetic school), namely, that what a
blastomere or cleavage-cell of an egg does, is determined by its
intra-embryonic environment, by its relations, both statical and
dynamical, to the whole organisation of which it forms a part. As
Driesch puts it: "The relative position of a blastomere in the whole
determines in general what develops from it; if its position be changed,
it gives rise to something different; in other words, its prospective
value is a function of its position." But those who assume heterogeneous
determinants do not thereby exclude what truth there may be in this view
that what an early blastomere does is a function of its inter-relations.

But let us consider how much Spencer puts to the credit of his
"constitutional units." (1) They carry within them the traits of the
species and even some of the traits of the ancestors of the species,
the traits of the parents and even some of the traits of their
immediate ancestors, and the congenital idiosyncrasies of the individual
itself. In this they resemble the germ-plasm. (2) They "must be at once
in some respects fixed and in other respects plastic; while their
fundamental traits, expressing the structure of the type, must be
unchangeable, their superficial traits must admit of modification
without much difficulty; and the modified traits, expressing variations
in the parents and immediate ancestors, though unstable, must be
considered as capable of becoming stable in course of time." Again they
resemble the germ-plasm. (3) Once more, "we have to think of these
physiological units (or constitutional units as I would now re-name
them) as having such natures that while a minute modification,
representing some small change of local structure, is inoperative on the
proclivities of the units throughout the rest of the system, it becomes
operative in the units which fall into the locality where that change
occurs." Here they part company from the germ-plasm, except in so far as
it may be said that the development of the distributed determinants is
in part dependent on local conditions. (4) Finally, since Spencer
supposed "an unceasing circulation of protoplasm throughout an
organism," such that "in the course of days, weeks, months, years, each
portion of protoplasm visits every part of the body"--a wild
assumption--"we must conceive that the complex forces of which each
constitutional unit is the centre, and by which it acts on other units
while it is acted on by them, tend continually to re-mould each unit
into congruity with the structures around: superposing on it
modifications answering to the modifications which have arisen in these
structures. Whence is to be drawn the corollary that in the course of
time all the circulating units--physiological, or constitutional if we
prefer so to call them--visit all parts of the organism; are severally
bearers of traits expressing local modifications; and that those units
which are eventually gathered into sperm-cells and germ-cells also bear
these superposed traits."

This theory--which is not unlike a combination of Darwin's pangenesis
with De Vries's neo-pangenesis--is very significant, for it discloses
Spencer's hypothesis as to the _modus operandi_ of the transmission of
acquired characters. But there is unfortunately no factual warrant for
the assumption that the constitutional units visit one another in
various corners of the body, getting impressions as they go, or for the
assumption that they are eventually gathered into the germ-cells--an
assumption which shows how far Spencer deliberately stood from the
conception of the continuity of the germ-plasm. Even if we suppose an
organism to undergo numerous modifications in different parts of its
body, as a plant may do when it is transferred from the Alps to the
lowlands; even if we suppose the constitutional units--which are all of
one kind--to circulate and become bearers of the traits expressing local
modifications, we have to face other questions: do they all become
remoulded in relation to all the modifications? or do some become
remoulded in relation to one modification and some in relation to
another? or do all the modifications so hang together that one kind of
alteration impressed upon the constitutional units covers them all? The
difficulties of the conception of constitutional-units certainly do not
seem less than the difficulties of the conception of specific

Even to the general reader, who is not concerned with the problem of the
mechanism of inheritance and development, who has a shrewd suspicion
that it is one of those things no fellow can understand, our digression
should be interesting, for it illustrates Spencer's fertility of
invention and his adroitness in lugging in one hypothesis after another
to eke out a theory which in its first statement appears to be very
simple. It is instructive to observe how the constitutional units at
first so harmlessly simple, grow under the conjurer's hands until they
become more marvellous than Clerk Maxwell's "sorting demons."

But it is more instructive still to hear the conclusion of the whole
matter. "At last then we are obliged to admit that the actual organising
process transcends conception. It is not enough to say that we cannot
know it; we must say that we cannot even conceive it. And this is just
the conclusion which might have been drawn before contemplating the
facts. For if, as we saw in the chapter on "the Dynamic Element in
Life," it is impossible for us to understand the nature of this
element--if even the ordinary manifestations of it which a living body
yields from moment to moment are at bottom incomprehensible; then still
more incomprehensible must be that astonishing manifestation of it which
we have in the initiation and unfolding of a new organism." "Thus all we
can do is to find some way of symbolising the process so as to enable us
most conveniently to generalise its phenomena; and the only reason for
adopting the hypothesis is that it best serves this purpose."

But the hypothesis only serves the purpose because the constitutional
units are gradually invested with the powers of effective response,
co-ordination, and the like which remain the secret of the organism as a
whole--the secret of life, which many think will never be read until we
recognise that it is also the secret of mind.

_The Germ-Cells._--According to Spencer, "sperm-cells and germ-cells are
essentially nothing more than vehicles in which are contained small
groups of the physiological units in a fit state for obeying their
proclivity towards the structural arrangement of the species they belong
to," and "if the likeness of offspring to parents is thus determined, it
becomes manifest, _a priori_, that besides the transmission of generic
and specific peculiarities, there will be a transmission of those
individual peculiarities which, arising without assignable causes, are
classed as spontaneous." Not only are the main characters transmitted,
the same may be true of even minute details--varietal characters, like
the taillessness of Manx cats, and individual congenital peculiarities
such as a sixth finger; normal qualities such as swiftness in
race-horses, abnormal qualities such as nervousness in man. Here Spencer
was of course at one with all biologists.

_Transmission of Acquired Characters._--He went on, however, to try to
substantiate the proposition, which has been the subject of so much
discussion, that modifications or acquired bodily characters are also
transmissible, and we must follow his argument carefully.

He first points out that when a structure is altered by a change of
function the modification is often unobtrusive, and its transmission
consequently difficult to detect. "Moreover, such specialities of
structure as are due to specialities of function, are usually entangled
with specialities which are, or may be, due to selection, natural or
artificial. In most cases it is impossible to say that a structural
peculiarity which seems to have arisen in offspring from a functional
peculiarity in a parent, is wholly independent of some congenital
peculiarity of structure in the parent, whence this functional
peculiarity arose. We are restricted to cases with which natural or
artificial selection can have had nothing to do, and such cases are
difficult to find. Some, however, may be noted."

When a plant is transferred from one soil to another it undergoes "a
change of habit"; its leaves may become hairy, its stem woody, its
branches drooping. "These are modifications of structure consequent on
modifications of function that have been produced by modifications in
the actions of external forces. And as these modifications
reappear in succeeding generations, we have, in them, examples of
functionally-established variations that are hereditarily transmitted."
But this is a _non sequitur_, since the modifications may reappear
merely _because they are re-impressed directly_ on each successive

Spencer notes that in the domestic duck the bones of the wing weigh less
and the bones of the leg more in proportion to the whole skeleton than
do the same bones in the wild duck; that in cows and goats which are
habitually milked the udders are large; that moles and many
cave-animals have rudimentary eyes, and so on. But all these results may
be readily interpreted as due to selection of germinal variations.

The best examples of inherited modifications occur, he says, in mankind.
"Thus in the United States the descendants of the immigrant Irish lose
their Celtic aspect, and become Americanised.... To say that
'spontaneous variation' increased by natural selection can have produced
this effect is going too far." But if the vague statement as to the
Americanisation of the Irishman be correct, and if it be true that
intermarriage is rare, it remains probable that the Americanisation is a
modificational veneer impressed afresh on each successive generation.

"That large hands are inherited by those whose ancestors led laborious
lives, and that those descended from ancestors unused to manual labour
commonly have small hands, are established opinions." But if we accept
the fact, it is easy to interpret the size of the hands as a
stock-character correlated with a muscularity and vigour, and
established by selection. The prevalence of short-sightedness among the
"notoriously studious" Germans is a singularly unfortunate instance to
give in support of the inheritance of functional modifications, for
there is no reason to believe that short-sightedness is primarily an
acquired character. Nor is it confined to readers.

Spencer twits those who are sceptical as to the transmission of acquired
modifications, for assigning the most flimsy reasons for rejecting a
conclusion they are averse to; but when Spencer cites the inheritance of
musical talent and a liability to consumption as evidence of the
transmission of functional modifications, we are reminded of the pot
calling the kettle black.

Spencer made his position stronger by adducing what he calls _negative_
evidence, namely those "cases in which traits otherwise inexplicable are
explained if the structural effects of use and disuse are transmitted."

     (1) First he refers to the co-adaptation of co-operative parts.
     With the enormous antlers of a stag there is associated a large
     number of co-adaptations of different parts of the body, and
     similarly with the giraffe's long neck and the kangaroo's power of
     leaping. Spencer argued that the co-adaptation of numerous parts
     cannot have been effected by natural selection, but might be
     effected by the hereditary accumulation of the results of use. The
     difficulty is to discover how much deep-seated co-adjustment can be
     effected by exercise even in the course of a long time, and the
     theory requires such data before it can be more than a plausible
     interpretation, with certain _a priori_ difficulties against it. If
     an animal suddenly takes to leaping many individual adjustments to
     the new exercise will arise; if the animals of successive
     generations leap yet more freely, they will individually acquire
     more thorough adjustments up to a certain limit; meanwhile there
     may arise constitutional variations making towards adaptation to
     the new habit, and under the screen of the individual modifications
     these may increase from minute beginnings till they acquire
     selection-value. Professors Mark Baldwin, Lloyd Morgan, and Osborn,
     have all made the same useful suggestion that adaptive
     modifications acquired individually may act as the fostering nurses
     of constitutional variations in the same direction until these
     coincident variations are large enough in amount to be themselves

     (2) Secondly, Spencer dwelt upon the notably unlike powers of
     tactile discrimination possessed by the human skin, and sought to
     show that while these could not be interpreted on the hypothesis of
     natural selection or on the correlated hypothesis of panmixia, they
     could be interpreted readily if the effects of use are inherited.
     But the difficulty again is to get secure data. It is uncertain
     how much of the inequality in tactile sensitiveness is due to
     individual exercise and experience, though it is certain that
     tactility in little-used parts can be greatly increased by use. Nor
     is it certain how much of the apparent unlikeness in tactility is
     due to unequal distribution of peripheral nerve-endings and how
     much to specialised application of the power of central perception.
     As Prof. Lloyd Morgan says: "We do not yet know the limits within
     which education and practice may refine the application of central
     powers of discrimination within little-used areas. The facts which
     Mr Spencer adduces may be in large degree due to individual
     experience; discrimination being continually exercised in the
     tongue and finger-tips, but seldom on the back or breast. We need a
     broader basis of assured fact." Nor, it may be added, is the action
     of selection to be excluded.

     (3) Spencer's third set of negative evidences was based on
     rudimentary organs which, like the hind limbs of the whale, have
     nearly disappeared. Dwindling by natural selection is here out of
     the question; and dwindling by panmixia, i.e. the diminution of a
     structure when natural selection ceases to affect its degree of
     development, "would be incredible, even were the assumptions of the
     theory valid." But as a sequence of disuse the change is clearly
     explained. Prof. Lloyd Morgan replies: "Is there any evidence that
     a structure really dwindles through disuse in the course of
     individual life? Let us be sure of this before we accept the
     argument that vestigial organs afford evidence that this supposed
     dwindling is inherited. The assertion may be hazarded that, in the
     individual life, what the evidence shows is that, without due use,
     an organ does not reach its full functional or structural
     development. If this be so, the question follows: How is the mere
     absence of full development in the individual converted through
     heredity into a positive dwindling of the organ in question?"
     Moreover, the convinced Neo-Darwinian is not in the least prepared
     to abandon the theory of dwindling in the course of panmixia,
     especially in the light which Weismann's conception of Germinal
     Selection has thrown on this process.

The inductive evidence in support of the conclusion that bodily
modifications due to use or disuse or environmental influence can be as
such or in any representative degree transmitted, is very weak. The
so-called evidences are often anecdotal and vague, often irrelevant and
fallacious, and those Spencer adduced are by no means convincing. Let us
consider the question briefly from the _a priori_ side.

The general argument _against_ the hypothesis rests on a realisation of
the continuity of the germ-plasm. For if the germ-plasm, or the material
basis of inheritance within the germ-cells, be somewhat apart from the
general life of the body, often segregated at an early stage, and in any
case not directly sharing in the every day metabolism, then there is a
presumption against the likelihood of its being readily affected in a
specific manner by changes in the nature of the body-cells. The
germ-cell is in a sense so apart that it is difficult to conceive of the
mechanism by which it might be influenced in a specific or
representative manner by changes in the cells of the body.

On the other hand, in many plants and lower animals, the distinction
between body-cells and germ-cells is far from being demonstrably marked,
and even in higher animals we cannot think of the germ-cells as if they
led a charmed life uninfluenced by any of the accidents and incidents in
the daily life of the body which is their nurse, though not exactly
their parent. No one believes this, Weismann least of all, for he finds
one of the chief sources of germinal variation in the nutritive stimuli
exerted on the germ-plasm by the varying state of the body. The organism
is a unity; the blood and lymph and other body-fluids form a common
internal medium; various poisons may affect the whole system,
germ-cells included; and there are real though dimly understood
correlations between the reproductive system and the rest of the

There are some who pretend to find in this admission "a concealed
abandonment of the central position of Weismann," for if, they say, the
germ-plasm is affected by changes in nutrition in the body, and if
acquired characters affect changes in nutrition, then "acquired
characters or their consequences will be inherited." But it is a quite
illegitimate confusion of the issue to slump acquired characters and
their consequences as if the distinction was immaterial. The illustrious
author of the _Germ-Plasm_ has made it quite clear that there is a great
difference between admitting that the germ-plasm has no charmed life,
insulated from bodily influences, and admitting the transmissibility _of
a particular acquired character_, even in the faintest degree. The whole
point is this: Does a change in the body, induced by use or disuse or by
a change in surroundings, influence the germ-plasm in such a specific or
representative way that the offspring will exhibit the same modification
which the parent acquired, or even a tendency towards it? Even when we
fully recognise the unity of the organism, or recognise it as fully as
we know how, it is difficult to suggest any _modus operandi_ whereby a
particular modification in, say, the brain or the thumb can specifically
affect the germinal material in such a way that the modification or a
tendency towards it becomes part of the inheritance. Did we accept
Darwin's provisional hypothesis of pangenesis according to which the
parts of the body give off gemmules which are carried as samples to the
germ-cells, the possibility of transfer might seem more intelligible.
But Darwin's suggestion remains a pure hypothesis, and is admitted by
none except in extremely modified form. In fairness, however, we must
note how little we understand of the _modus operandi_ of influences
which certainly pass in the other direction, from the reproductive
organs to the body; we must recall Prof. Lloyd Morgan's warning that
although we cannot conceive how a modification might as such saturate
from body to germ-cells, this does not exclude the possibility that it
may actually do so.

As a matter of fact, Spencer has himself suggested a _modus
operandi_--as already outlined. The constitutional units are supposed to
circulate; when they come to a modified organ and visit its modified
constitutional units, they are supposed to be themselves impressed; they
are supposed to be "eventually gathered into sperm-cells and
germ-cells," which thus come to bear the "superposed traits" resulting
from modification. But, as we have seen, the difficulty is to find any
basis in fact on which these assumptions can rest. Indeed, they are
contradictory to well-established physiological facts.

_Inconceivability._--In reference to the difficulties which beset
theories of heredity, Spencer remarks:--

     "If it is said that the mode in which functionally-wrought changes,
     especially in small parts, so affect the reproductive elements as
     to repeat themselves in offspring, cannot be imagined--if it be
     held inconceivable that those minute changes in the organ of vision
     which cause myopia can be transmitted through the appropriately
     modified sperm-cells or germ-cells; then the reply is that the
     opposed hypothesis presents a corresponding inconceivability.
     Grant that the habit of a pointer was produced by selection of
     those in which an appropriate variation in the nervous system had
     occurred; it is impossible to imagine how a slightly different
     arrangement of a few nerve-cells and fibres could be conveyed by a
     spermatozoon. So too it is impossible to imagine how in a
     spermatozoon there can be conveyed the 480,000 independent
     variables required for the construction of a single peacock's
     feather, each having a proclivity towards its proper place. Clearly
     the ultimate process by which inheritance is effected in either
     case passes comprehension; and in this respect neither hypothesis
     has an advantage over the other."

     Let us consider what Spencer has said in regard to
     "inconceivability." Most ova are very minute cells, often
     microscopically minute, and a spermatozoon may be only 1/100,000th
     of the ovum's size--inconceivably minute, but yet exceedingly real
     and potent. We cannot conceive how a complex inheritance made up of
     numerous contributions is potentially contained in such small
     compass, and yet in some form it must be. Similarly, we cannot
     conceive how the pin-head like brain of the ant contains all the
     ant's "wisdom."

     Those who find it difficult to believe that items so minute as the
     germ-cells can have room for the complexity of hereditary
     organisation which seems to be a necessary postulate may be
     reminded of three things: (1) They should recall what students of
     physics have told us in regard to the fineness, or, from another
     point of view, the coarse-grainedness of matter. They tell us that
     the picture of a Great Eastern filled with framework as intricate
     as that of the daintiest watches does not exaggerate the
     possibilities of molecular complexity in a spermatozoon, whose
     actual size is usually very much less than the smallest dot on the
     watch's face.

     (2) It should be remembered that in development one step conditions
     the next, and one structure grows out of another, so that there is
     no need to think of the microscopic germ-cells as stocked with more
     than _initiatives_. (3) It should be remembered that every
     development implies an interaction between the growing organism and
     a complex environment without which the inheritance would remain
     unexpressed, and that the full-grown organism includes much that
     was not as such inherited, but has been individually acquired as
     the result of nurture or external influence.

     Now, returning to Spencer, we find that by an extraordinary
     argument he concludes that the number of determinants required for
     the development of a single feather in the peacock's tail must be
     480,000, and he points to the inconceivability of these being
     contained, along with much else of course, in the spermatozoon. We
     are not at present concerned with the precise number of
     determinants, but we can see no reason why a spermatozoon should
     not contain millions if they were needed. The inconceivability is a
     general one; it is due to the difficulty of imaging the complexity
     of matter.

     But the inconceivability of a particular modification of the nose
     affecting the germ-cells in a specific and representative way is a
     different kind of inconceivability. It is due to our being unable
     to imagine any reasonable _modus operandi_ consistent with our
     knowledge of the structure and metabolism of the organism. As we
     have seen and emphasised Spencer does himself suggest a _modus
     operandi_, but it seems to us to make unwarranted assumptions, and
     is for that reason to us "inconceivable."

_A Priori Argument._--But Spencer advanced an _a priori_ argument to
strengthen the position which he felt bound to hold--the
transmissibility of acquired characters. "That changes of structure
caused by changes of action must be transmitted, however obscurely,
appears to be a deduction from first principles--or if not a specific
deduction, still, a general implication. For if an organism A, has, by
any peculiar habit or condition of life, been modified into the form A',
it follows that all the functions of A', reproductive function included,
must be in some degree different from the functions of A." [This, we
venture to think, must depend on the nature and amount of the
modification.] "An organism being a combination of rhythmically-acting
parts in moving equilibrium, the action and structure of any one part
cannot be altered without causing alterations of action and structure in
all the rest." [The appreciability of the change will depend on the
amount and nature of the modification, and on the intimacy of the
correlation subsisting in the organism. Dislodging a rock may alter the
centre of gravity of the earth, but it does not do so appreciably.] "And
if the organism A, when changed to A', must be changed in all its
functions; then the offspring of A' cannot be the same as they would
have been had it retained the form A." [Assuming that is to say that the
change in the physiological units of the body affects the physiological
units in the germ-cells.] "That the change in the offspring must, other
things equal, be in the same direction as the change in the parent,
appears implied by the fact that the change propagated throughout the
parental system is a change towards a new state of equilibrium--a change
tending to bring the actions of all organs, reproductive included, into
harmony with these new actions." [It seems to us to pass the wit of man
to conceive how or why an improved equilibrium in the use of the hand
should involve any corresponding or representative change of equilibrium
in the germ-cells.]

Spencer seems to have seen the matter quite clearly. If the
physiological units in the germ-cell mould the aggregate organism, the
organism modified by incident actions will impress some corresponding
modifications on the structures and polarities of its units. And if the
physiological units are in any degree so remoulded as to bring their
polar forces towards equilibrium with the forces of the modified
aggregate, then, when separated in the shape of reproductive centres,
these units will tend to build themselves up into an aggregate modified
in the same direction.

The drawback to abstract biology based on first principles is that it
enables its devotee to develop arguments which seem plausible until they
are reduced to the concrete. Why had Herbert Spencer small hands?
Because his grandfather and father were schoolmasters who did little
from day to day but wield the pen and sharpen the pencil! Through disuse
of the sword and the spade their hands were directly equilibrated
towards smallness. But since Mr Spencer senior, was "a combination of
rhythmically-acting parts in moving equilibrium," the dwindling of the
hands and the moulding of the physiological units thereof reverberated
through the whole aggregate; a change towards a new state of equilibrium
"was propagated throughout the parental system--a change tending to
bring the actions of all organs, reproductive included, into harmony
with these new actions," or inactions. The modified aggregate impressed
some corresponding modification on the structures and polarities of the
germ-units. And this was why Herbert Spencer had small hands. At least
so he tells us, for the instance is his own.

_Practical Conclusion._--It is obvious that we have not in these pages
attempted to give an adequate discussion of an extremely difficult
problem. We have endeavoured to give a fair statement of Spencer's
position in regard to a question which appeared to him of "transcendent
importance." "A right answer to the question whether acquired
characters are or are not inherited, underlies right beliefs, not only
in Biology and Psychology, but also in Education, Ethics, and Politics."
"A grave responsibility rests on biologists in respect of the general
question; since wrong answers lead, among other effects, to wrong
beliefs about social affairs and to disastrous social actions."

It cannot be an easy question this, when we find Spencer on one side and
Weismann on the other, Haeckel on one side and Ray Lankester on the
other, Turner on one side and His on the other. Therefore while it seems
to us that the transmission of acquired characters as strictly defined
is non-proven, and while there seems to us to be a strong presumption
that they are not transmitted, the scientific position should remain one
of active scepticism--leading on to experiment.

And if there is little scientific warrant for our being other than
sceptical at present as to the transmission of acquired characters, this
scepticism lends greater importance than ever, on the one hand, to a
good "nature," to secure which is the business of careful mating; and,
on the other hand, to a good "nurture," to secure which for our children
is one of our most obvious duties, the hopefulness of the task resting
upon the fact that, unlike the beasts that perish, man has a lasting
external heritage, capable of endless modification for the better, a
heritage of ideas and ideals embodied in prose and verse, in statue and
painting, in Cathedral and University, in tradition and convention, and
above all in society itself.



     _Variation--Selection--Isolation--Spencer's Contribution--External
     Factors--Internal Factors--Direct Equilibration--Indirect

Darwin rendered three great services to evolution-doctrine, (1) By his
marshalling of the evidences which suggest the doctrine of descent, he
won the conviction of the biological world. (2) He applied the
evolution-idea to various sets of facts, not only to the origin of
species in general, but to the difficult case of Man; not only to the
origin of the countless adaptations with which organic nature is filled,
but to particular problems such as the expression of the emotions; and
in so doing he corroborated the evolution-formula by showing what a
powerful organon it is. (3) Along with Alfred Russel Wallace, he
elaborated the theory of natural selection, which disclosed one of the
factors in the evolution-process.

As we have seen, Herbert Spencer preceded Darwin in his championing of
the doctrine of descent, to which the natural mood of his mind, and the
influences of Lamarck and von Baer had led him to give his adhesion. He
also applied the evolution-formula to an even wider series of facts than
Darwin ventured to touch, viz., to the inorganic world and to
psychological and sociological facts. It remains to be seen what his
position was in regard to the Factors of Organic Evolution.

Spencer's position may be more clearly defined if we first sketch the
answer which most biologists would at present give to the question--What
are the factors of Organic Evolution?

_Variation._--Postulating the powers of growing and reproducing, of
acting on and reacting to the environment, postulating also heredity
without which no organic evolution is possible, biologists distinguish
two sets of factors in the evolution process. On the one hand there are
_originative factors_ which produce those changes in living creatures
which make them different from their fellows. These changes or observed
differences are of two kinds--(_a_) they may have their origin in the
arcana of the germ and be inborn _variations_ (germinal, constitutional,
endogenous, etc.), or (_b_) they may be acquired _modifications_ wrought
on the body of the individual by environmental influences or by use and
disuse (somatic, acquired, exogenous, etc.). Thus "modifications" or
"acquired characters" may be defined as structural changes in the body
of the individual organism, directly induced by changes in the
environment or in the function, and such that they transcend the limit
of organic elasticity and persist after the inducing causes have ceased
to operate. Merely transient changes which disappear soon after their
cause has ceased to operate may be conveniently called "adjustments."
Now when we subtract from the total of observed differences between
individuals of the same stock, all the modifications and adjustments
which we can distinguish as such by their being causally related to
some alteration in function or environment, we have a remainder which we
call "variations." We cannot causally relate them to differences in
habit or surroundings, they are often hinted at even before birth, and
they are not alike even among forms whose conditions of life seem
absolutely uniform. This distinction between _modifications_ and
_variations_, though clear in theory, is not always readily drawn in
practice, but it is of great importance, for while all innate
variations, except complete sterility, are transmissible, and thus may
form the raw materials of progress, there is no secure evidence that
acquired characters or somatic modifications are transmissible.
Therefore, the latter, though very important for the individual, and
indirectly important for the race, cannot be assumed (without further
proof) as directly important in the transmutation of species.

As to the nature and frequency of inborn variations, Biology has
recently begun to accumulate precise observations, and has renounced the
bad habit of simply postulating variability without statistically or
otherwise defining it. Life is so abundant and so Protean that
biologists have tended to draw cheques upon Nature as if they had
unlimited credit, scarce waiting in their impetuosity to see whether
these are honoured, but the very title--_Biometrika_--of a new journal
shows that the science is emerging from the slough of vagueness in
which, to the physicists' contempt, it has so long floundered. All
science begins with measurement, and one of the great steps that have
been made of recent years is in the tedious, but necessary task of
recording the variations which do actually occur. From these we can
argue with a clear intellectual conscience back to what may have been.
One result is plain, that variation is a very general fact of life;
whenever we settle down to measure we find that specific diagnoses are
averages, that specific characters require a curve of frequency for
their expression, that a living organism is usually like a Proteus.
There are no doubt long-lived, non-plastic, conservative types, such as
Lingula, where no visible variability can be detected (even in untold
ages if we consider the hard parts preservable as fossils), but to judge
from these as to the rate of evolutionary change is like estimating the
rush of a river from the eddies of a sheltered pool. Another result is
that it becomes possible to distinguish between _continuous_ variations,
which are just like stages in continuous growth, in which the descendant
has a little more or a little less of a given character than its parents
had, and _discontinuous_ variations in which a new combination appears
suddenly without gradational stages, and with no small degree of
perfection. Although there is truth in Lamarck's dictum that "Nature is
never brusque," although Jack-in-the-box phenomena are rare, the
evidence, _e.g._ of Bateson and De Vries, as to the frequent occurrence
of discontinuous variations appears conclusive. Such words as "freaks"
and "sports" express a truth, suggested by Mr Galton's phrase
"transilient variations," that organisms may pass with seeming
abruptness from one form of equilibrium to another. There is evidence
that these sudden and discontinuous variations--"mutations" many of them
are called--are often very heritable, that when they appear they come to
stay; and it seems likely, especially from facts of breeding and
cultivation, that these mutations, rather than the minute "fluctuating"
variations, have supplied the raw material on which selection has
chiefly operated in the evolution of species.

It also becomes more and more evident that the living creature may vary
as a unity, so that if there is more of one character there is less of
another, and so that one change brings another in its train. It seems as
if the organism as a whole--through its germinal organisation, of
course--may suddenly pass from one position of organic equilibrium to
another. Thus we are not shut up to the assumption of the piecemeal
variation of minute parts; there is greater definiteness and less
fortuitousness in variation than was previously supposed. We begin, from
actual data, to see the truth of the view which Goethe and Nägeli
suggested, that the evolution of organisms is pre-eminently a story of
self-differentiating and self-integrating growth,--cumulative,
selective, definite, and harmonious--like crystallisation. As to the
_origin_ of variations, it must be admitted that until we know the
actual facts better, we cannot expect to know much in regard to their
antecedents. Many suggestions have been made, some of which may be

There is something comparable to the First Law of Motion to be read out
of the persistence of characteristics from generation to generation.
Like tends to beget like. But while the relation of genetic continuity
which links generation to generation tends to ensure this persistence,
it presents no more than a curb to the occurrence of variation. While
complete and perfect inheritance and complete and perfect expression of
that inheritance in development would mean the absence of variation,
there are many reasons why this completeness of hereditary resemblance
is rare. For the inheritance seems to consist of sets of hereditary
qualities not in duplicate merely but in multiplicate; they are not all
of equal strength or of equal stability; there may be a struggle amongst
them; and they are subject to changes induced by the changes in the
complex nutritive supply which the parental body--their bearer--affords.

A variation, which makes its possessor different from the parents, is
often interpretable as due to some incompleteness of inheritance or in
the _expression_ of the inheritance. It seems as if the entail were
sometimes broken in regard to a particular characteristic. Oftener,
perhaps, as the third generation shows, the inheritance has been
complete enough potentially, but the young creature has been prevented
from realising its entire legacy. Contrariwise, it may be that the
novelty of the newborn is seen in an intensifying of the inheritance,
for the contributions from the two parents may, as it were, corroborate
one another.

But in many cases a variation turns up which we must call _novel_, some
peculiar mental pattern, it may be, which spells originality, some
structural change which suggests a new departure. We tentatively
interpret this as due to some fresh permutation or combination of the
complex substances which form the material basis of inheritance, and are
mingled from two sources at the outset of every life sexually
reproduced. It is not merely in an intermingling of maternal and
paternal contributions that a life begins, but of legacies through the
parents from remoter ancestors. The permutations and combinations may
be due to a struggle between the elements which are the bearers of the
heritable qualities, or they may be due to fluctuations in the nutritive
stream which the body supplies to its germ-cells. It must be remembered
that the hereditary material is very complex, and that it has a complex
environment within the parental body. In spite of its essential
architectural stability, it may have a tendency to instability as
regards minor details, and we may perhaps find the change-exciting
stimuli in the ceaseless nutritive oscillations within the body, while
the mode of restoring a disturbed equilibrium may be through a germinal
struggle among the different sets of minute elements which we may call
the heritage-bearers. The idea of germinal selection has been elaborated
with great subtlety by Prof. Weismann.

Nor does it seem to us legitimate to exclude the possibility that the
germ-cell, or the germ-plasm as the essential part of it, may _grow_
into a slightly more differentiated and integrated unity before it
begins its task of development. For the power of growth is
characteristic of everything living. Enough has been said, however, to
indicate how uncertain is the voice of biology in answering the
fundamental questions as to the nature and origin of variations.

_Selection._--The first and most important of the _directive factors_ is
natural selection, and the most distinctive contribution which Darwin
and Wallace made to ætiology was to show how selection works and what it
can effect. The process admits of brief statement.

Variability is a fact of life, the members of a family or species are
not born alike; some may have qualities which give an advantage both as
to hunger and love; others are relatively handicapped. But a struggle
for existence, as Malthus called it, is also a fact of life,
necessitated especially by two facts--first, that two parent organisms
usually produce many more than two children organisms, and that
population thus tends to outrun the means of subsistence; and, secondly,
that organisms are at the best only relatively well-adapted to the
complex and changeful conditions of their life. This struggle expresses
itself not merely as an elbowing and jostling around the platter of
subsistence, but at every point where the effectiveness of the response
which the living creature makes to the stimuli playing upon it, is of
critical moment. As Darwin said, though many seem to have forgotten, the
phrase "struggle for existence" must be used "in a wide and metaphorical
sense." It includes much more than an internecine scramble for the
necessities of life; it includes all endeavours for and all changes that
make towards preservation and welfare, not only of the individual, but
of the offspring as well. In many cases, indeed, the struggle for
existence both among men and beasts is fairly described as an endeavour
after well-being, and what may have been primarily self-regarding
impulses become replaced by others which are distinctively
species-maintaining, the self failing to find full realisation apart
from its kin and society.

Now, in this struggle for existence, which has so many expressions, the
relatively less fit to the present conditions tend to be eliminated.
Though the process may work out progress, as measured by degree of
differentiation and integration, by increasing freedom and fullness of
life, and has doubtless done so, yet until we come to its highest forms
in subjective and finally rational selection, it works not towards an
ideal but towards a relative fitness to present conditions. And this may
spell degeneration, as in parasites, when an extrinsic standard is used.
Tapeworms may be just as fit to survive as golden eagles. Again, the
process of elimination does not necessarily mean that the handicapped
variants come at once to a violent end, as when rat devours rat, or the
cold decimates a flock of birds in a single night; it often simply means
that the less fit die before the average time, and are less successful
than their neighbours as regards pairing and having offspring. Moreover,
although the selective process is primarily eliminative or destructive,
like thinning turnips or pruning fruit-trees, we cannot separate its
positive and negative aspects. That nothing succeeds like success is
continually verifiable in nature, the fit variant gets a start just as
surely as the unfit variant is handicapped; there is favouring and
fostering just because there is sifting and singling.

Given variations and given some mode of selection in the manifold
struggle for existence, the argument continues, then the result will be
in Spencer's phrase "the survival of the fittest." And since many
variations are transmitted from generation to generation, and may,
through the pairing of similar or suitable mates, be gradually increased
in amount and stability, the eliminative or selective process works
towards the establishment of new adaptations and the origin of new

Darwin thought chiefly of the struggle between individuals--either
between fellows of the same kin or between fellow-kin and foreign
foes--and of the struggle between organisms and the inanimate
environment. He also emphasised the sexual selection which occurs (_a_)
when rival males fight or otherwise compete for the possession of a
desired mate or mates, and in so doing reduce the leet, and (_b_) when
the females appear to choose their mates from amid a crowd of suitors.
While many now doubt if the range and effectiveness of preferential
mating is so great as Darwin believed, there seems no reason to doubt
that this mode of selection has been a factor in evolution. There are
facts which warrant us in saying that _das ewig weibliche_ plays a part
in the upward march of life, that Cupid's darts as well as Death's
arrows have evolutionary significance.

Even more important, however, are other extensions of the
selection-idea. There may be struggle between groups as well as between
individuals, as when one ant-colony goes to war with another, and there
may be struggle of the parts within the organism just as there is
struggle between organisms. There is struggle when one ovum survives in
an ovary by devouring all its sister-cells, as in the case of _Hydra_
and _Tubularia_, and, after allowing a wide margin for chance, there may
be some form of selection among the crowd of spermatozoa encompassing
the egg which only one will fertilise, just as there is some form of
selection among the many drones which pursue the queen-bee in her
nuptial flight. Weismann has carried the selection-idea to a logical
finesse in his theory that there may be a struggle between the different
sets of hereditary qualities in the germ-cell, or that there is a
process of "germinal selection" at the very beginning of the individual
life. There are, we admit, great differences between the struggle of
hereditary items and the struggle of large parts within the organism;
between intra-organismal and inter-organismal struggle; between the
competition of individuals and the struggle against physical nature;
between personal selection and the conflict of races; between objective
and subjective selection; but, as it seems to us, they may be all
expressed in the same formula if it is useful so to do.

_Isolation._--In organic evolution variation supplies the materials
which some form of selection sifts. But besides selection another
directive factor has been indicated in what is called the theory of
isolation. A formidable objection to the Darwinian doctrine, first
clearly stated by Professor Fleeming Jenkin, is that variations of small
amount and sparse occurrence would tend to be swamped out by
inter-crossing before they had time to accumulate and gain stability. In
artificial selection, the breeder takes measures to prevent this
swamping-out by deliberately pairing similar or suitable forms together,
or by deliberately removing unsuitable mateable forms; but what in
Nature corresponds to the breeder?

It may be that similar variations occur in many individuals at once and
many times over; it may be that many variations are not at first small
in amount, but express big steps in organisation, as in Bateson's
instances of Discontinuous Variation or in De Vries's instances of
Mutation; it may be that many variations are not from the first
unstable, but express changes of organic equilibrium which have come to
stay if they get a chance at all; and it may be that the supposed
swamping effects of inter-crossing are in part illusory, as is strongly
suggested by some of the facts summed up in Mendel's Law; but there
seems to be still room and need for the theory of Isolation worked out
by Romanes, Gulick, and others.

They point out the great variety of ways in which, in the course of
nature, the range of inter-crossing is restricted--_e.g._ by
geographical barriers, by differences in habit, by psychical likes and
dislikes, by reproductive variation causing mutual sterility between two
sections of a species living on a common area, and so on. According to
Romanes, "without isolation, or the prevention of free inter-crossing,
organic evolution is in no case possible." The supporting body of
illustrative facts is still unsatisfactorily small, but there seems
sound sense in the idea.

An interesting corollary has been recently indicated by Professor Cossar
Ewart. Breeding within a narrow range often occurs in nature, and often
in human kind, being necessitated by geographical and other barriers. In
artificial conditions, this in-breeding often results in the development
of what is called prepotency. This means that certain forms have an
unusual power of transmitting their peculiarities, even when mated with
dissimilar forms, or, in other words, that some variations have a strong
power of persistence. Therefore, wherever through in-breeding (which
implies some form of isolation) prepotency has developed, there is no
difficulty in understanding how even a small idiosyncrasy may come to
stay, even although the bridegroom does not meet a bride endowed with a
peculiarity like his own. Similarly, Dr A. Reibmayr has argued that the
establishment of a successful human tribe or race involves periods of
in-breeding (_i.e._, marriage within a limited range of relationship),
with the effect of "fixing" constitutional characteristics, and periods
of cross-breeding (_i.e._ marriage between members of distinct stocks),
with the effect of promoting a new crop of variations or initiatives.

_Spencer's contribution._--Spencer was led to become an evolutionist by
the workings of his own mind, influenced by Laplace's Nebular
Hypothesis, by the transformist theory of Lamarck, by von Baer's law of
individual development, and by Malthus's recognition of the struggle for
existence in mankind. On the whole, it may be said that he came to the
theory of organic evolution from above, rather than from below, from his
studies on the intellectual and social evolution of man rather than from
acquaintance with the biological data. Not unnaturally, therefore, he
was to begin with a Lamarckian, believing in the cumulative transmission
of the transforming results of use and disuse and of environmental

     In the essay on "a theory of Population" (1852) Spencer was within
     sight of one of the great doctrines of Darwinism. "From the
     beginning," he said, "pressure of population has been the proximate
     cause of progress." "The effect of pressure of population, in
     increasing the ability to maintain life, and decreasing the ability
     to multiply, is not a uniform effect, but an average one.... All
     mankind in turn subject themselves more or less to the discipline
     described; they either may or may not advance under it; but, in the
     nature of things, only those who _do_ advance under it eventually
     survive.... For as those prematurely carried off must, in the
     average of cases, be those in whom the power of self-preservation
     is the least, it unavoidably follows that those left behind to
     continue the race, are those in whom the power of self-preservation
     is the greatest--are the select of their generation."

     Here Spencer recognised the eliminative and selective effect of
     struggle in mankind. Why was he "blind to the fact," as he
     afterwards said, "that here was a universally-operative factor in
     the development of species"? In his _Autobiography_ he gives two
     reasons for his oversight, one was his Lamarckian preconception
     that the inheritance of functionally-produced modifications
     sufficed to explain the facts of evolution. The other was, that he
     "knew little or nothing about the phenomena of variation," that "he
     had failed to recognise the universal tendency to vary."

     Similarly, in his essay on "Progress: its Law and Cause" (1857), he
     still "ascribed all modifications to direct adaptations to changing
     conditions; and was unconscious that in the absence of that
     indirect adaptation effected by the natural selection of favourable
     variations, the explanation left the larger part of the facts
     unaccounted for" (_Autobiography_, i. p. 502).

     In his article "Transcendental Physiology" (1857), Spencer advanced
     a step beyond the position occupied in his essay on "Progress." He
     showed that with advance in the forms of life there is an
     increasing differentiation of them from their environments, that
     integration as well as differentiation is part of the developmental
     process, but the leading conception of the essay was "the
     instability of the homogeneous." This was recognised, like "the
     multiplication of effects," as a cause of progress, as "a principle
     holding not among organic phenomena only, but among inorganic and
     super-organic phenomena." It was in this essay also that he began
     to use the word "evolution" in place of the more teleological word

     In the same year (1857) Spencer again approached the idea of
     selection as a directive factor in evolution. In an essay on "State
     Tamperings with Money and Banks" he gave among other reasons for
     reprobating grandmotherly legislation, that "such a policy
     interferes with that normal process which brings benefit to the
     sagacious and disaster to the stupid." "The ultimate result of
     shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with
     fools." "This was a tacit assertion, recalling like assertions
     previously made, that the survival of the fittest operates
     beneficially in society."

     Darwin's _Origin of Species_ appeared in 1859, and marked another
     step in Spencer's evolutionism. Hitherto, though he had several
     times approached the idea of Natural Selection, he had "held that
     the sole cause of organic evolution is the inheritance of
     functionally-produced modifications"; now it became clear to him
     that he was wrong, and that the larger part of the facts cannot be
     due to any such cause (_Autobiography_, ii. 50).

     In 1864 Spencer definitely sought to assimilate the Darwinian idea
     of Natural Selection into his system. He had become convinced that
     the hereditary accumulation of functional modifications could not
     be the sole factor in organic evolution; he had recognised the
     importance and efficacy of Natural Selection as a directive agency
     thinning and "singling" the crop of variations which is always
     abundant; but he had not seen how to absorb "Natural Selection"
     into his general physical theory of evolution. It seemed "to stand
     apart as an unrelated process."

     "The search for congruity led first of all to perception of the
     fact that what Mr Darwin called 'natural selection,' might more
     literally be called survival of the fittest. But what is survival
     of the fittest, considered as an outcome of physical actions?"

     Spencer's answer was that the changes constituting evolution tend
     ever towards a state of equilibrium; on the way to this there are
     stages of "moving equilibrium"; some organisms have their moving
     equilibrium less easily overthrown than others; these are the
     fittest which survive; they are, in Darwin's language, the select
     which nature preserves; and thus "the survival and multiplication
     of the select becomes conceivable in purely physical terms, as an
     indirect outcome of a complex form of the universal redistribution
     of matter and motion" (_Autobiography_, ii. pp. 100-1). In short,
     natural selection is part of the universal process towards more
     stable equilibrium.

     When formulating his views on the classification of the sciences
     and his reasons for dissenting from the philosophy of Comte,
     Spencer pointed out that all the concrete sciences under their most
     general aspects give accounts of the redistributions of matter and
     motion; and he asked the question, What is the universal trait of
     all such redistributions? His answer was that "increasing
     integration of matter necessitates a concomitant dissipation of
     motion, and that increasing amount of motion implies a concomitant
     disintegration of matter." Thus Evolution and Dissolution appeared
     "under their primordial aspects," and differentiations, with
     resulting increase of heterogeneity, were seen to be secondary not
     primary traits of evolution. So he arrived at his famous definition
     of evolution:--"_Evolution is an integration of matter and
     concomitant dissipation of motion, during which the matter passes
     from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to a definite, coherent
     heterogeneity; and during which the retained motion undergoes a
     parallel transformation_" (_First Principles_, p. 396).

Having illustrated the evolution of the evolution-theory in Spencer's
mind, we pass to his final statement of the factors of organic

(1) _External Factors._--He begins by pointing out that living creatures
are in the grip of a complex environment, which acts on them and to
which they react. And whether we think of the seasons or the climate,
the soil or the sea, we find that this environment is intricately
variable. Every kind of plant and animal may be regarded as for ever
passing into a new environment, and with increasing fullness of life
there is additional complexity in the incidence of external forces.
Every increase of locomotive power, for instance, increases the
multiplicity and multiformity of action and reaction between organism
and environment. There are chemical, mechanical, dynamic, and animate
influences which modify organisms, and as the actions of these several
orders of factors are compounded, there is produced a geometric
progression of changes increasing with immense rapidity. All through the
ages living creatures have as it were been passing over a series of
anvils on which the hammers of external forces play, with tunes of
ever-increasing complexity.

(2) _Internal Factors._--Passing to internal factors, Spencer started
from the fact that organic matter is built up of very unstable complex
molecules. "But a substance which is beyond all others changeable by the
actions and reactions of the forces liberated from instant to instant
within its own mass, must be a substance which is beyond all others
changeable by the forces acting on it from without." In any aggregate
"the relations of outside and inside, and of comparative nearness to
neighbouring sources of influences, imply the reception of influences
that are unlike in quantity, or quality, or both; and it follows that
unlike changes will be produced in the parts thus dissimilarly acted
on." Thus arise differentiations of structure, a transition from a
uniform to a multiform state, a passage from homogeneity to
heterogeneity, and this must go on cumulatively. For "the more strongly
contrasted the parts of an aggregate become, the more different must be
their reactions on incident forces, and the more unlike must be the
secondary effects which these initiate. This multiplication of effects
conspires, with the instability of the homogeneous, to work an
increasing multiformity of structure in an organism." Thus, if the head
of a bison becomes much heavier, what a multiplication of
effects--mechanical and physiological--must ensue on muscles and bones
and blood-vessels. One modification brings another in its train; there
are secondary and tertiary effects. And as the increasing assemblage of
individuals arising from a common stock is thus liable to lose its
original uniformity and to grow more pronounced in its multiformity,
indirect effects follow from inter-crossing and from altered competitive
conditions. Moreover, as times and seasons and ages pass, the
environment goes on changing, and on previous complications wrought by
incident forces, new complications are continually superimposed by new
incident forces. Thus there is an almost continuous movement towards
heterogeneity. But how is that kind of heterogeneity insured which is
required to carry on life? How is the evolution directed?

(3) _Direct Equilibration._--How is it that action and reaction between
the organism and its environment bring about _effective adaptations_?
Spencer's answer is that every change is towards a balance of forces,
and can never cease until a balance of forces is reached. "Any
unequilibrated force to which an aggregate is subject, if not of a kind
to overthrow it altogether, must continue modifying its state until an
equilibrium is brought about." Thus "there go on in all organisms,
certain changes of function and structure that are directly consequent
on changes in the incident forces--inner changes by which the outer
changes are balanced, and the equilibrium restored." "That a new
external action may be met by a new internal action, it is needful that
it shall either continuously or frequently be borne by the individuals
of the species, without killing or seriously injuring them; and shall
act in such a way as to affect their functions." But as many of the
environing agencies to which organisms have to be adjusted, either do
not immediately affect the functions at all, or else affect them in ways
that prove fatal, there must be at work some other process which
equilibrates the actions of organisms with the actions they are exposed

(4) _Indirect Equilibration._--There are many very precise adaptations,
_e.g._ in the not-living hard parts of many animals, which no ingenuity
can interpret as the directly equilibrated results of incident forces.
To interpret mimicry as due to direct equilibration is hopeless.
Therefore, Spencer passed to what he called "indirect equilibration."

"Besides those perturbations produced in any organism by special
disturbing forces there are ever going on many others--the reverberating
effects of disturbing forces previously experienced by the individual,
or by ancestors; and the multiplied deviations of function so caused
implied multiplied deviations of structure." A directly induced
modification induces correlated secondary and tertiary perturbations,
and when two differently endowed parents are mated they will bequeath to
their joint offspring "compound perturbations of function and compound
deviations of structure, endlessly varied in their kinds and amounts."
In short, Spencer postulated variations as indirect results of the
action of incident forces.

As the individuals of a species are thus necessarily made unlike in
countless ways and degrees, then amongst them "some will be less liable
than others to have their equilibria overthrown by a particular incident
force previously unexperienced... Inevitably, some will be more stable
than others when exposed to this new or altered factor. That is to say,
those individuals whose functions are most out of equilibrium with the
modified aggregate of external forces, will be those to die; and those
will survive whose functions happen to be most nearly in equilibrium
with the modified aggregate of external forces. But this survival of the
fittest implies the multiplication of the fittest. Out of the fittest
thus multiplied there will, as before, be an overthrowing of the moving
equilibrium wherever it presents the least opposing force to the new
incident force. And by the continual destruction of the individuals
least capable of maintaining their equilibria in presence of this new
incident force, there must eventually be reached an altered type
completely in equilibrium with the altered conditions." In short,
Spencer incorporated the characteristic Darwinian idea of Natural
Selection operating upon a crop of variations, and thus securing by the
survival of the fittest an indirect equilibration.

In an ingenious way, to which we have already alluded, Spencer
assimilated the theory of Natural Selection with his own formula of
evolution. Let us recapitulate his argument. All the processes by which
organisms are refitted to their ever-changing environments must be
equilibrations of one kind or another, for change of every order is
towards equilibrium, and life itself is a moving equilibrium between
inner and outer actions--a continual adjustment of internal relations to
external relations. The process called Natural Selection is literally a
survival of the fittest; and "that is a maintenance of the moving
equilibrium of the functions in presence of outer actions; implying the
possession of an equilibrium which is relatively stable in contrast with
the unstable equilibria of those which do not survive." ... "The
conception of Natural Selection is manifestly one not known to physical
science: its terms are not of a kind physical science can take
cognisance of. But here we have found in what manner it may be brought
within the realm of physical science."

It is to be feared that Spencer deluded himself as to the success of his
_tour de force_. For he did not show that there is in inanimate nature
anything corresponding to the struggle for existence, nor did he give
any instances where the degree of effectiveness of response is of
critical value in determining the survival of competing inanimate

After pointing out that the various factors in organic evolution must be
thought of as co-operating, Spencer considered their respective shares
in producing the total result. Briefly stated, his conclusions were the

     At first, the direct action of the physical environment was the
     only cause of change. "But as, through the diffusion of organisms
     and consequent differential actions of inorganic forces, there
     arose unlikenesses among them, producing varieties, species,
     genera, orders, classes, the actions of organisms on one another
     became new sources of organic modifications." The mutual actions of
     organisms became more and more influential, and eventually became
     the chief factors.

     "Always there must have been, and always there must continue to be,
     a survival of the fittest: natural selection must have been in
     operation at the outset, and can never cease to operate! While
     organisms had small abilities of co-ordinating their actions and
     actively adjusting themselves, natural selection worked almost
     alone in moulding and remoulding organisms into fitness for their
     changing environments, but as activity increased and brains grew,
     the power of varying actions to fit varying requirements became
     considerable." "As fast as essential faculties multiply, and as
     fast as the number of organs which co-operate in any given function
     increases, indirect equilibration through natural selection becomes
     less and less capable of producing specific adaptations; and
     remains capable only of maintaining the general fitness of
     constitution to conditions. The production of adaptations by direct
     equilibration then takes the first place: indirect equilibration
     serving to facilitate it. Until at length, among the civilised
     human races, the equilibration becomes mainly direct: the action of
     natural selection being limited to the destruction of those who are
     too feeble to live, even with external aid."

Returning to our scheme of Originative and Directive Factors, let us
inquire into Spencer's views regarding Variation and Selection.

Spencer recognised three causes of variation. _First_ there is
heterogeneity among progenitors which "generates new deviations by
composition of forces"; in other words new patterns arise from the
mingling of diverse hereditary contributions in fertilisation.
_Secondly_, functional variation in the parents produces unlikeness in
the offspring; those begotten under different constitutional states are
different. In other words, fluctuations of nutrition in the parental
body may cause variations in the germ-plasm. [In mammals there are also
_modifications_ produced during the pre-natal life of the offspring
which are congenital in the sense that they are present at birth in
latent or patent form, which do not, however, really affect the
germ-plasm since they disappear in the third generation.] _Thirdly_, an
organism exposed to a marked change of external conditions, may have its
equilibrium altered, and the offspring may be influenced. "The larger
functional variations produced by greater external changes, are the
initiators of those structural variations which, when once commenced in
a species, lead by their combinations and antagonisms to multiform
results. Whether they are or are not the direct initiators, they must
still be the indirect initiators."

But Spencer admitted that there were numerous minor so-called
"spontaneous" variations, which could not be referred to the causes
noticed above. He attributed these to the fact that no two ova, no two
spermatozoa, can be identical, since the process of nutrition cannot be
absolutely alike. Minute initial differences in the proportions of the
physiological units will lead, during development, to a continual
multiplication of differences. "The insensible divergence at the outset
will generate sensible divergences at the conclusion." This is not
different from the general idea that nutritive fluctuations in the body
provoke variations in the complex germ-plasm, "still it may be fairly
objected that however the attributes of the two parents are variously
mingled in their offspring, they must in all of them fall between the
extremes displayed in the parents. In no characteristic could one of the
young exceed both parents, were there no cause of "spontaneous
variation" but the one alleged. Evidently, then, there is a cause yet

Spencer's further answer was that the sperm-cells or egg-cells which any
organism produces will differ from each other not quantitatively only
but qualitatively, because inheritance is multiple. In some the paternal
units, in another the maternal units, in another the grand-paternal or
the grand-maternal units will give the impress. "Here, then, we have a
clue to the multiplied variations, and sometimes extreme variations,
that arise in races which have once begun to vary. Amid countless
different combinations of units derived from parents, and through them
from ancestors, immediate and remote--and the various conflicts in their
slightly different organic polarities, opposing and conspiring with one
another in all ways and degrees, there will from time to time arise
special proportions causing special deviations. From the general law of
probabilities it may be concluded that while these involved influences,
derived from many progenitors, must, on the average of cases, obscure
and partially neutralise one another; there must occasionally result
such combinations of them as will produce considerable divergences from
average structures; and at rare intervals, such combinations as will
produce very marked divergences. There is thus a correspondence between
the inferable results and the results as habitually witnessed."

In conclusion, after his wonted manner, Spencer pointed out that
Variation, like everything else, is necessitated by the Persistence of
Force. "The members of a species inhabiting any area cannot be subject
to like sets of forces over the whole of that area. And if, in different
parts of the area, different kinds or amounts or combinations of forces
act on them, they cannot but become different in themselves and in their
progeny. To say otherwise, is to say that differences in the forces will
not produce differences in the effects; which is to deny the persistence
of force."

_Selection._--As we have seen, Spencer incorporated into his scheme the
Darwinian concept of Selection, and sought to show that it could be
included under the general concept of Evolution as "a continuous
redistribution of matter and motion." "That natural selection is, and
always has been, operative is incontestable.... The survival of the
fittest is a necessity, its negation is incontestable."

That he did not take a narrow view of the process of Selection, which
has so many forms and operates at so many levels, will be admitted; and
we may illustrate this by showing that he had a prevision of what Roux
called "intra-individual selection" or "intra-selection."

In his essay on "The Social Organism" (1860), he wrote:--

     "The different parts of a social organism, like the different parts
     of an individual organism, compete for nutriment; and severally
     obtain more or less of it according as they are discharging more or
     less duty." (See also _Essays_, i. 290.) And, again, in 1876, in
     his _Principles of Sociology_, he amplified his statement thus:
     "All other organs, therefore, jointly and individually, compete for
     blood with each organ,... local tissue formation (which under
     normal conditions measures the waste of tissue in discharging
     function) is itself a cause of increased supply of materials... the
     resulting competition, not between units simply, but between
     organs, causes in a society, as in a living body, high nutrition
     and growth of parts called into the greatest activity by the
     requirements of the rest." And once more: "For clearly, if the
     survival of the fittest among organisms is a process of
     equilibration between actions in the environment and actions in the
     organism; so must the local modifications of their parts, external
     and internal, be regarded as survivals of structures, the reactions
     of which are in equilibrium with the actions they are subject to."
     Clearly Spencer had a prevision of what Roux calls "_Der Kampf der
     Theile im Organismus_" (The struggle of parts within the organism),
     and we have here another example of his biological insight. That
     Spencer was not far from the idea of a struggle between hereditary
     units, we see from the following passage: "In the fertilised germ
     we have two groups of physiological units, slightly different in
     their structures. These slightly different units severally multiply
     at the expense of the nutriment supplied to the unfolding
     germ--each kind moulding this nutriment into units of its own type.
     Throughout the process of development the two kinds of units,
     mainly agreeing in their proclivities and in the form which they
     tend to build themselves into, but having minor differences, work
     in unison to produce an organism of the species from which they
     were derived, but work in antagonism to produce copies of their
     respective parent-organisms. And hence ultimately results an
     organism in which traits of the one are mixed with traits of the
     other; and in which, according to the predominance of one or other
     group of units, one or other sex with all its concomitants is
     produced" (_Principles of Biology_, vol. i., revised ed., p. 315).

While Spencer had this wide appreciation of the scope of selection, he
firmly held that biologists burdened it unjustifiably by disbelieving in
the transmission of acquired characters, and, as we have seen, he gave a
number of examples of phenomena which he believed the Darwinian theory
minus the Lamarckian factor was quite inadequate to interpret. He went
the length of saying: "Either there has been inheritance of acquired
characters or there has been no evolution." Spencer indicated three
general difficulties or limitations besetting the theory of Natural

(1) "The general argument proceeds upon the analogy between natural
selection and artificial selection. Yet all know that the first cannot
do what the last does. Natural Selection can do nothing more than
preserve those of which the _aggregate_ characters are most favourable
to life. It cannot pick out those possessed of one particular
favourable character, unless this is of extreme importance."

[It is admitted that we cannot prove that Natural Selection effected
this or that result in the distant past, but we know that a process of
discriminate elimination is a fact of life, and we argue from the
present to the past. Given variations enough and time enough, it is
difficult to put limits to the efficacy of selection. If in a race of
birds fairly well adapted to the conditions of their life, variations
occur in the length of wing, there is no theoretical difficulty in
supposing that if a longer wing is advantageous, this particular
favourable character may in the course of time become through selection
the property of the whole race.]

(2) "In many cases a structure is of no service until it has reached a
certain development; and it remains to account for that increase of it
by natural selection which must be supposed to take place before it
reaches the stage of usefulness."

[One variation is often correlated with another, and the stronger
variation may afford _point d'appui_ for the action of natural
selection, and thus act as a cover for the incipient variation until
that reaches the stage of usefulness and becomes itself of
selection-value. What Spencer himself says in regard to the selection of
aggregates rather than items, seems half the answer to his difficulty.

It has also been suggested that adaptive modifications may act as
fostering nurses of germinal variations in the same direction. Let us
suppose a country in which a change of climate made it year by year of
the utmost importance that the inhabitants should become swarthy. Some
individuals with a strong innate tendency in this direction would
doubtless exist, and on them and their similarly endowed progeny, the
success of the race would primarily, and might wholly depend. At the
same time, there might be many individuals in whom the constitutional
tendency in the direction of swarthiness was too weak and incipient to
be of use. If these, or some of them, made up for their lack of natural
swarthiness by a great susceptibility to acquired swarthiness, to
becoming tanned by the sun, it is conceivable that this modification,
though never taking organic root, might serve as a life-saving screen
until coincident congenital variations in the direction of swarthiness
had time to grow strong and become of selection value. We can also
imagine that a stock without great mental ability might succeed, in
conditions where a premium was put on brains, by their application and
docility, till eventually innate variations in the direction of real
cleverness became established in the stock. Similarly, many animals by
increased 'will-power' or intelligence may survive until bodily
variations of an adaptive kind arise to economise the higher energies.
Here and everywhere we venture to say that the more anthropomorphic we
can _reasonably_ make our conception of organic evolution the truer it
is likely to be.

A third answer to Spencer's second difficulty is afforded by Weismann's
subtle theory of Germinal Selection.]

(3) "Advantageous variations, not preserved in nature as they are by the
breeder, are liable to be swamped by crossing or to disappear by

[We have already referred to various answers to this difficulty--in
terms of Isolation, Prepotency, and other conceptions. But the answer
which will occur to everyone at the present time is in terms of
"Mendelism," into a discussion of which we cannot enter. Suffice it to
say, that for the cases with which he dealt, Mendel has given evidence
that variations which arise suddenly and are discontinuous--mutations,
as De Vries calls them--are not likely to be swamped by in-breeding with
the normal form, and that he has given a reason why this swamping does
not occur.]

In regard to the second directive factor--Isolation, Spencer had no
criticism to offer. It seemed to him that "in whatever way effected, the
isolation of a group subject to new conditions and in course of being
changed, is requisite as a means to permanent differentiation."

But after allowing full play to variation and modification, selection
and isolation, Spencer felt that "though all phenomena of organic
evolution must fall within the lines indicated, there remain many
unsolved problems." "We can only suppose that as there are devised by
human beings many puzzles apparently unanswerable till the answer is
given, and many necromantic tricks which seem impossible till the mode
of performance is shown; so there are apparently incomprehensible
results which are really achieved by natural processes. Or, otherwise,
we must conclude that since Life itself proves to be in its ultimate
nature inconceivable, there is probably an inconceivable element in its
ultimate workings."



     _The Starting-point--Inorganic Evolution--What Spencer tried to
     do--Summary of his Evolutionism--Notes and Queries--The Origin of
     Life--Evolution of Mind--Ascent of Man--The Scientific Position_

Every attempt to describe how our world has come to be as it is must
begin somewhere. It must postulate an initial state of Being from which
to start any particular chapter in the story of Becoming. How the
simplest conceivable raw material began--if it ever began--the
evolutionist cannot tell.

_The Starting-point._--Spencer began as far back as his scientific
imagination could take him--with "formless diffused matter." With this
to start with, he utilised the "Nebular Hypothesis" of Laplace, which
showed how the planetary system may have arisen by the diffused matter
becoming aggregated through the force of attraction into different
centres. This theory has been corroborated and improved by subsequent
researches in thermodynamics and spectroscopy, and in a modified form it
is very generally accepted. The researches of Sir Norman Lockyer on
"Inorganic Evolution" (1900) and of M. Faye (Sur l'origine du monde,
2nd. ed., Paris 1885) have strengthened and broadened the foundation of
Spencer's Evolutionism; many inquiries point to the idea that matter has
a homogeneous constitution; and the recent revolutionary discoveries
centred in "radio-activity" have given new life to the view that the
eighty odd elements of the chemist have had a long history behind them,
and have evolved from simple homogeneous units. The alchemists' dream
seems to be coming true, for we hear whispers of the transmutation of
elements. "It may be true," as Prof. R. K. Duncan says in his _New
Knowledge_ (1905) "that all bodily existence is but the manifestation of
units of negative electricity lying embosomed in an omnipresent ether of
which these units are, probably, a conditioned part."

_Inorganic Evolution._--We cannot follow this fascinating new story of
inorganic evolution, but we wish to point out that the progress of
science since Spencer wrote his _First Principles_ has tended to justify
him in beginning with formless diffused homogeneous matter. Were that
work being written to-day, it would have to be entirely recast. It would
probably begin (as Prof. Duncan sketches) with units of negative
electricity, assuming motion and carrying with them bound portions of
the ether in which they are bathed, becoming corpuscles endowed with the
primary qualities of matter superimposed upon those of electricity.
"Corpuscles congregating into groups or various configurations
constitute essentially the atoms of the chemical elements, locking up in
these configurations super-terrific energies, and leaving but "a slight
residual effect" as chemical affinity or gravitation with which we
attempt to carry on the work of the world. These atoms, congregating in
their turn as nebulæ and under the slight residual force of gravitation
condense into blazing suns. The suns decay in their temperature and
become ever more and more complex in their constitution as the atoms
lock themselves into multiple forms. We then see these multiple atoms
developing up into the molecules of matter to form a world. We see the
molecules growing ever more and more complex as the world grows colder
until we attain to organic compounds. We see these organic compounds
united to form living beings and we see these living beings developing
into countless forms, and, after æons of time, evolving into a dominant
race which is Us" (_The New Knowledge_, pp. 252-3). Of course there is
both imagination and faith in Prof. Duncan's "We see," but no one at all
aware of recent advances will doubt that the scientific cosmogony is
evolving rapidly, and that its movement is towards a fuller revelation
of the Unity of Nature.

_What Spencer tried to do._--Spencer's aim was to show that "our
harmonious Universe once existed potentially as formless diffused
matter, and has slowly grown into its present organised state." He
sought to account for its growing "in terms of Matter, Motion, and
Force." Of course he was careful to explain that "the interpretation of
all phenomena in terms of Matter, Motion, and Force, is nothing more
than the reduction of our complex symbols of thought, to the simplest
symbols; and when the equation has been brought to its lowest terms the
symbols remain symbols still." His common denominator for all phenomena
was "Matter, Motion, and Force," but he also recognised a greatest
common measure--"the unknown Cause co-extensive with all orders of
phenomena," "the unknown Reality which underlies all things," "a Power
of which the nature remains for ever inconceivable," and of which
phenomena are merely the manifestations. But while he was technically an
abstract Monist, he was practically a "mechanist," believing that it was
feasible to redescribe all evolution in terms of mechanical categories.
The scientific ideal to which he looked forward is expressed in the
sentence: "Given the Persistence of Force, and given the various
derivative laws of Force, and there has to be shown not only how the
actual existences of the inorganic world necessarily exhibit the traits
they do, but how there necessarily result the more numerous and involved
traits exhibited by organic and super-organic existences--how an
organism is evolved, what is the genesis of human intelligence, whence
social progress arises?" (_First Principles_, p. 555). He looked forward
to a unification of knowledge, to "_one science_, which has for its
object-matter the continuous transformation which the universe
undergoes." "Evolution being a universal process, one and continuous
throughout all forms of existence, there can be no break, no change from
one group of concrete phenomena to another without a bridge of
intermediate phenomena."

_Summary of Spencer's Evolutionism._--Spencer drew up the following
summary for publication in Appleton's _American Cyclopædia_.[10]

     1. Throughout the universe, in general, and in detail, there is an
     unceasing redistribution of matter and motion.

     2. This redistribution constitutes evolution where there is a
     predominant integration of matter and dissipation of motion, and
     constitutes dissolution where there is a predominant absorption of
     motion and disintegration of matter.

     3. Evolution is simple when the process of integration, or the
     formation of a coherent aggregate, proceeds uncomplicated by other

     4. Evolution is compound when, along with this primary change from
     an incoherent to a coherent state, there go on secondary changes,
     due to differences in the circumstances of the different parts of
     the aggregate.

     5. These secondary changes constitute a transformation of the
     homogeneous into the heterogeneous--a transformation which, like
     the first, is exhibited in the universe as a whole and in all (or
     nearly all) its details--in the aggregate of stars and nebulæ; in
     the planetary system; in the earth as an inorganic mass; in each
     organism, vegetal or animal (von Baer's law); in the aggregate of
     organisms throughout geologic time; in the mind; in society; in all
     products of social activity.

     6. The process of integration, acting locally as well as generally,
     combines with the process of differentiation to render this change,
     not simply from homogeneity to heterogeneity, but from an
     indefinite homogeneity to a definite heterogeneity; and this trait
     of increasing definiteness, which accompanies the trait of
     increasing heterogeneity, is, like it, exhibited in the totality of
     things, and in all its divisions and sub-divisions down to the

     7. Along with this redistribution of the matter composing any
     evolving aggregate there goes on a redistribution of the retained
     motion of its components in relation to one another; this also
     becomes, step by step, more definitely heterogeneous.

     8. In the absence of a homogeneity that is infinite and absolute,
     this redistribution, of which evolution is one phase, is
     inevitable. The causes which necessitate it are:--

     9. The instability of the homogeneous, which is consequent upon the
     different exposures of the different parts of any limited aggregate
     to incident forces. The transformations hence resulting are
     complicated by--

     10. The multiplication of effects: every mass and part of a mass on
     which a force falls sub-divides and differentiates that force,
     which thereupon proceeds to work a variety of changes; and each of
     these becomes the parent of similarly multiplying changes: the
     multiplication of these becoming greater in proportion as the
     aggregate becomes more heterogeneous. And these two causes of
     increasing differentiations are furthered by--

     11. Segregation, which is a process tending ever to separate unlike
     units, and to bring together like units, so serving continually to
     sharpen or make definite differentiations otherwise caused.

     12. Equilibration is the final result of these transformations
     which an evolving aggregate undergoes. The changes go on until
     there is reached an equilibrium between the forces which all parts
     of the aggregate are exposed to, and the forces these parts oppose
     to them. Equilibration may pass through a transition stage of
     balanced motions (as in a planetary system), or of balanced
     functions (as in a living body), on the way to ultimate
     equilibrium; but the state of rest in inorganic bodies, or death in
     organic bodies, is the necessary limit of the changes constituting

     13. Dissolution is the counterchange which sooner or later every
     evolved aggregate undergoes. Remaining exposed to surrounding
     forces that are unequilibrated, each aggregate is ever liable to be
     dissipated by the increase, gradual or sudden, of its contained
     motion; and its dissipation, quickly undergone by bodies lately
     animate, and slowly undergone by inanimate masses, remains to be
     undergone at an indefinitely remote period by each planetary and
     stellar mass, which, since an indefinitely remote period in the
     past, has been slowly evolving: the cycle of its transformations
     being thus completed.

     14. This rhythm of evolution and dissolution, completing itself
     during short periods in small aggregates, and in the vast
     aggregates distributed through space completing itself in periods
     which are immeasurable by human thought, is, so far as we can see,
     universal and eternal: each alternating phase of the process
     predominating--now in this region of space, and now in that--as
     local conditions determine.

     15. All these phenomena, from their great features down to their
     minutest details, are necessary results of the persistence of force
     under its forms of matter and motion. Given these in their known
     distributions through space, and their quantities being
     unchangeable, either by increase or decrease, there inevitably
     result the continuous redistributions distinguishable as evolution
     and dissolution, as well as all those special traits above

     16. That which persists, unchanging in quantity, but ever-changing
     in form, under these sensible appearances which the universe
     presents to us, transcends human knowledge and conception; is an
     unknown and an unknowable power, which we are obliged to recognise
     as without limit in space, and without beginning or end in time.

And the universal formula of Evolution stands thus: "Evolution is an
integration of matter and concomitant dissipation of motion; during
which the matter passes from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to a
definite, coherent heterogeneity; and during which the retained motion
undergoes a parallel transformation" (_First Principles_, p. 396).

_Notes and Queries._--(1) It should be noted that Spencer never
suggested that he had explained the origin of things. On the contrary,
"While the genesis of the Solar System, and of countless other systems
like it, is thus rendered comprehensible, the ultimate mystery remains
as great as ever. The problem of existence is not solved: it is simply
moved further back." What he offered was a genetic description, and that
is all that the scientific evolutionist ever offers.

(2) In the strict sense Spencer was no materialist. "Though the relation
of subject and object renders necessary to us these antithetical
conceptions of Spirit and Matter, the one is no less than the other to
be regarded as but a sign of the Unknown Reality which underlies both."
"Matter, Motion, and Force are but symbols of the Unknown Reality."
"Only in a doctrine which recognises the Unknown Cause as co-extensive
with all orders of phenomena, can there be a consistent Religion, or a
consistent Philosophy." "Were we compelled to choose between the
alternatives of translating mental phenomena into physical phenomena, or
of translating physical phenomena into mental phenomena, the latter
alternative would seem the more acceptable of the two."

It is one of the difficulties of Spencer's system that even when he is
using physical concepts he is thinking of these not merely as symbols by
which to formulate the routine of our sense-experience, but as symbols
of the reality behind matter and motion of which we do not know
anything. He works with the concept which he calls "the persistence of
force," and when the reader is feeling its inadequacy to meet the
situation, he is bluffed by the reminder--"By persistence of force we
really mean the persistence of some Power which transcends our knowledge
and conception": "Asserting the persistence of Force is but another mode
of asserting an Unconditioned Reality without beginning or end."

(3) When an investigator in giving an account of a process insists on
using higher categories than the sequences appear to require, he is
guilty of "_a transcendentalism_," e.g., if he says that an instinctive
action is rational, or that digestion is a psychical process. Similarly,
when an investigator in giving an account of a process insists on using
lower categories than the sequences appear to require, he is guilty of
"_a materialism_," _e.g._, if he says that a rational act is simply a
higher reflex, or that digestion is simply a chemical reaction.
Therefore, although Spencer was not a materialist, we think that he was
guilty of gross "materialisms," of attempting to give a false simplicity
to the facts, _e.g._, in his attempt to trace the evolution of mind in
terms of the evolution of the nervous system, and in his universal
evolution-formula which is wholly in terms of Matter and Motion.

(4) By keeping throughout to mechanical categories, Spencer gives a
semblance of simplicity and precision to his evolutionism, and his skill
is such that the unwary reader is led gently on from orders of facts
where mechanical categories (if not Spencer's) do certainly suffice, to
other orders of facts--in immaterial evolution--where they seem
strangely irrelevant. But if the reader, having his suspicions aroused
by sundry jolts and jars in the onward sweep of the chariot of First
Principles, begins to inquire into the reality of the apparent
mechanical precision, he is likely to be disillusioned. Thus, at an
early stage, he may discover that Spencer uses the word "force" without
special definition in at least five senses,[11] which is not reassuring.

As we have no expertness in these matters, we would submit the verdict
of a recognised authority, Prof. Karl Pearson. One of Spencer's
principles is "the redistribution of force," which he states in the
following words:--

     "A decreasing quantity of motion, sensible or insensible, always
     has for its concomitant an increasing aggregation of matter, and
     conversely an increasing quantity of motion, sensible or
     insensible, has for its concomitant a decreasing aggregation of

In regard to this Prof. Pearson remarks: "This principle has, so far as
I am aware, no real foundation in physics... it seems, so far as I can
grasp it at all, to flatly contradict the modern principle of the
conservation of energy"... the keystone of Spencer's system.

(5) What has taken place since Spencer stereotyped his _First
Principles_ seems to us to have rendered it almost useless to attempt a
detailed criticism of his scheme of evolution--wonderful and stimulating
as it was and is. He spoke of his delight in "intellectual hunting," and
a great huntsman he certainly was, but the _venue_ has changed since his
day. He did not fully nor always rightly utilise the chemistry and
physics of his time, and we have now to deal with a new chemistry and a
new physics.

Mr J. B. Crozier speaks of Spencer as "of all thinkers ancient or modern
the one whose power of analysing, decomposing, and combining the complex
web of Matter, Motion, and Force is the most incontestable and assured."
He describes Spencer's system as "No mere logical castle built of air
and definitions, and assuming in its premises, like the systems of the
metaphysicians, the very difficulties to be explained, but a great
granite pile sunk deep in the bed-rock of the world, each stone a
scientific truth, and all so compacted and dove-tailed together that it
was difficult to find anywhere a logical flaw among their seams."

This is one view, but another will be found in Prof. James Ward's
Gifford Lectures on "Naturalism and Agnosticism," in Mr Malcolm
Guthrie's three volumes of criticism, and in several luminous papers by
Principal James Iverach.

When we think of the evolution of the world and all that is therein--of
a universal process of Becoming--we recognise that at an uncertain time
the earth was framed, that living organisms appeared by and by, that by
and by some of these exhibited mental as well as bodily life, and that
finally man emerged, a rational and social person. This is a convenient
and unified retrospect, but when we go further and say that all this
evolution is expressible in one descriptive formula whose terms are
mechanical, we are going further than our present knowledge warrants.
Even Spencer did not really carry his evolution-formula throughout, for
he admitted that "the development of Mind itself cannot be explained by
a series of deductions from the Persistence of Force," though he covered
his retreat by the suggestion that Mind is the subjective concomitant of
the objective nervous system which has been evolved according to
formula. But even if this _tour de force_ seemed legitimate, we should
still be unable to accept a universal formula of Evolution in terms of
mechanism. For we are not at present able to think of the facts of
bodily life in terms of mechanical categories. Thus, in short, when we
enter the chariot of Spencer's Evolution-formula, and attempt to make an
intellectual journey--"one and continuous" from the primitive nebula to
human society, we confess to suffering serious joltings. We must admit
that on that chariot at least we have never been able to arrive. Let us
refer briefly to three of the worst jolts--at the origin of Life, at the
origin of Mind, at the origin of Man.

_Origin of Life._--It is much to be regretted that Spencer "had to omit
that part of the System of Philosophy, which deals with Inorganic
Evolution. Two volumes are missing." The closing chapter of the second
volume was to have dealt with "the evolution of organic matter--the step
preceding the evolution of living forms." It is tantalising to learn
that he habitually carried with him in thought the contents of this
unwritten chapter, for it would certainly have been interesting reading.
He did, however, give us some hint of his views.

First of all negatively, Spencer did not believe in any alleged cases of
spontaneous generation; he did not believe that any creature like an
Infusorian could arise from not-living matter; he did not believe in an
"absolute commencement of organic life," or in a "first organism." But
just as the chemist is able to build up complex organic compounds from
simple substances, so Spencer supposed that organic compounds were
evolved in nature. He supposed the evolution of some substance like
protein, which is capable of existing in many isomeric forms, and of
forming with itself and other elements, substances yet more intricate in
composition. "To the mutual influences of its metamorphic forms under
favouring conditions, we may ascribe the production of the still more
composite, still more sensitive, still more variously-changeable
portions of organic matter, which, in masses more minute and simpler
than existing Protozoa, displayed actions verging little by little into
those called vital." By a continuance of the process, the nascent life
displayed became gradually more pronounced.

No one who is aware of recent achievements in chemical synthesis, or of
the recent "vitalising" of the concept of matter, or of the apparent
simplicity of life in its humblest expressions, will seek to foreclose
the question of the possible origin of living matter from not-living
matter. The conclusion which most biologists accept is, that while there
is no known evidence of not-living matter giving origin to living
organisms, this does not exclude (_a_) the possibility that this once
took place, or (_b_) the possibility that it may be made to take place
again. It must always be remembered, however, that there is a great gap
between a drop of living matter and an integrated living organism. We
may firmly say that if living matter was once evolved from not-living
matter, it must have been the outcome of long preparatory processes,
that if it occurred, we cannot at present suggest "how" except in the
vaguest way, and that if we knew it had occurred we should still be
unable to _explain the organism_ in terms of its antecedents.

_Evolution of Mind._--Spencer speaks of the evolution-process as one and
continuous throughout, but he felt, as other thorough-going
evolutionists feel, that the emergence of psychical phenomena is a
difficulty in the way of unified formulation.

"Let it be granted that all existence distinguished as objective, may be
resolved into the existence of units of one kind. Let it be granted that
every species of objective activity may be understood as due to the
rhythmical motions of such ultimate units; and that among the objective
activities so understood, are the waves of molecular motion propagated
through nerves and nerve-centres. And let it further be granted that
all existence distinguished as subjective, is resolvable into units of
consciousness similar in nature to those which we know as nervous
shocks; each of which is the correlative of a rhythmical motion of a
material unit, or group of units. Can we then think of the subjective
and objective activities as the same? Can the oscillation of a molecule
be represented in consciousness side by side with a nervous shock, and
the two be recognised as one? No effort enables us to assimilate them.
That a unit of feeling has nothing in common with a unit of motion,
becomes more than ever manifest when we bring the two into
juxtaposition" (_Principles of Psychology_, i. p. 158).

He concluded that "there is not the remotest possibility of interpreting
Mind in terms of Matter." Since our "ideas of Matter and Motion, merely
symbolic of unknowable realities, are complex states of consciousness
built out of units of feeling," "it seems easier to translate so-called
Matter into so-called Spirit, than to translate so-called Spirit into
so-called Matter, which latter is, indeed, wholly impossible."

The obvious difficulty, of which Spencer was well aware, is "how mental
evolution is to be affiliated on Evolution at large, regarded as a
process of physical transformation?

"Specifically stated, the problem is to interpret mental evolution in
terms of the redistribution of Matter and Motion. Though under its
subjective aspect Mind is known only as an aggregate of states of
consciousness, which cannot be conceived as forms of Matter and Motion,
and do not therefore necessarily conform to the same laws of
redistribution; yet under its objective aspect, Mind is known as an
aggregate of activities manifested by an organism--is the correlative,
therefore, of certain material transformations, which must come within
the general process of material evolution, if that process is truly
universal. Though the development of Mind itself cannot be explained by
a series of deductions from the Persistence of Force, yet it remains
possible that its obverse, the development of physical changes in a
physical organ, may be so explained; and until it is so explained, the
conception of mental evolution as a part of Evolution in general,
remains incomplete" (_Principles of Psychology_, i. p. 508).

Therefore Spencer passes to discuss the genesis of nervous systems and
nervous functions, and by treating Mind as a mere aspect or
epiphenomenon, eventually gets "an adequate explanation of nervous
evolution, and the concomitant evolution of Mind," the Ultimate Reality
being always postulated as the amalgam.

"See then our predicament. We can think of Matter only in terms of Mind.
We can think of Mind only in terms of Matter, when we have pushed our
explorations of the first to the uttermost limit, we are referred to the
second for a final answer; and when we have got the final answer of the
second, we are referred back to the first for an interpretation of it.
We find the value of _x_ in terms of _y_; then we find the value of _y_
in terms of _x_; and so on we may continue for ever without coming
nearer to a solution. The antithesis of subject and object, never to be
transcended while consciousness lasts, renders impossible all knowledge
of that Ultimate Reality in which subject and object are united"
(_Principles of Psychology_, i. 627).

_Ascent of Man._--Spencer was careful to say that it is not necessary to
suppose "an absolute commencement of social life" or "a first social
organism." But an ascent has to be accounted for however gradual the
inclined plane may be, and like the origin of life, and the evolution of
mind, the ascent of man to the level of a rational and social person is
a very difficult problem, to the solution of which Spencer paid
relatively little attention.

From our frankly biological point of view there seems considerable
warrant for the suggestion that Man arose as a saltatory or transilient
variation or "sport" in a gregarious Simian stock, which was not too
hard-pressed by a struggle for subsistence either as regards food or
climate, which was not too severely menaced by ever-persecuting stronger
foes, which lived in conditions implying some measure of temporary
isolation, in-breeding, and daily "brain-stretching" education. It seems
likely that the transilient advance was in the direction of increased
cerebral complexity, associated with greater freedom of speech, and a
strengthened sense of kinship. It may be imagined that the advance
occurred in times of relative peace and in a stimulating environment,
where the seasons were well-defined, or where recurrent vicissitudes
gave an advantage to memory and capacity for prevision.

Various useful suggestions have been made as to the possible factors in
the evolution of man. (_a_) When the incipient man with his growing
brain got on to his hind-legs, and walked more or less erect upon the
earth, the new attitude, however prompted, would leave the hands more
free for manipulation, for using a stone, a tool, or a weapon, for
feeling round things and appreciating their three dimensions, it would
react on other parts of the body, such as the spinal column, the pelvis,
and perhaps even the larynx. In his address to the Anthropological
Section of the British Association in 1893, Dr Robert Munro directed
attention to three propositions: (1) the mechanical and physical
advantages of the erect position, (2) the consequent differentiation of
the limbs into hands and feet, and (3) the causal relation between this
and the development of the brain.

(_b_) Fiske and others have called attention to the prolonged helpless
infancy, so characteristic of human offspring, and illustrated in a less
marked degree among Simian races. It would tend, in conditions not too
severe, to tighten the family bond, and to evolve gentleness and a habit
of altruistic outlook. It should also be remembered that the type of
brain which characterises man is marked by its relative poverty in
inherited instinct and by its eminent educability.

(_c_) The influence of the family was probably an important factor,
fostering sympathy and mutual aid, prompting talk and division of
labour. Even in early days, children would educate their parents. It
must be remembered that many animals exhibit family life, and also
pairing for prolonged periods or for life.

(_d_) If we grant the incipient man a growing, plastic, and restless
brain, a strong feeling of kinship, some family ties, an erect attitude,
the habit of using his hands and voice, all of which the anthropoid
analogy suggests, and if we deny him sufficient physical strength to
keep his foothold by virtue of that alone, then it seems more than a
platitude to say that natural selection would favour the development of
wits, and not only of wits, but in the widest sense (partly through
sexual selection) of "love," which became a new source of strength.

(_e_) With the development of tool-using and sentence-making, with
recognition of the seasons as a fundamental illustration of the
uniformity of nature, with the gaining of a firmer foothold in the
struggle for existence, with slowly increasing altruism and sociality,
and with the occasional emergence of the genius, there might gradually
arise--in permanent products, in symbols and songs, in traditions and
customs--an external heritage, which, it appears to us, has been the
most potent factor in securing and furthering human evolution.

Ignorant as we are as to the factors in human evolution, there is a
convergence of various lines of evidence towards the conclusion that man
must have come of a social stock. It is difficult to conceive of his
survival on any other supposition. In a deeper sense, perhaps, than
Rousseau thought of, it seems true that Man did not make Society,
Society (pre-human) made Man.

By some means or other, probably along various paths--through
kinship-sympathies, through linguistic bonds, for economic or
life-and-death reasons, man became definitely social, and a new order of
things began, which Spencer has pictured with great skill. Just as it
was a new event in the history of Hymenopterous insects when ants made
an ant-hill, or bees a natural hive, so it was a new event in the
history of Man when unified societary groups came into being.

Now all this is vague, and, it may be, unconvincing; but we are not
aware that Spencer had any further light to throw on the problem--a
problem so difficult that Alfred Russel Wallace, the Nestor among living
evolutionists, has declared his conviction that the development of man's
higher qualities cannot be conceived without postulating "spiritual
influx." Our point at present is that the difficulties are greater than
Spencer publicly recognised, and that his formula of evolution is not
only too remotely abstract to be relevant, but that it is in its
mechanical phrasing quite inapplicable.

_The Scientific Position._--The idea of organic evolution suggests--that
the forms of life have had a natural history, that they have descended
from a far-distant relatively simple ancestry, that they have risen from
level to level throughout many millions of years just as individual
animals in their development rise from level to level in a few days or
months or years. It is the only scientific conception we have of the
Becoming of the world of life.

The theory of organic evolution raises this modal interpretation into a
causal interpretation by disclosing the factors--such as Variation and
Selection--in the long process. To some minds, the known factors appear
inadequate to describe the process, especially in relation to the
emergence of mental life and the ascent of man. Thus an attempt is often
made to sit on both sides of the fence, accepting scientific factors
for what they are worth, but eking them out by postulating
"ultra-scientific" causes. This procedure, however, lands in mental
confusion; it is like trying to speak two languages at once. It is also
very premature.

When we extend the concept of evolution to the inorganic world, we find
that it applies there also, that it enables us to resume the history of
the solar system as a whole, and of the earth in particular in a
convenient formula. Here again we are aware of factors of evolution,
which enable us to give a causal interpretation of how the inanimate
world came to be as it is. The factors are not the same as those
verifiable in organic evolution; they are in terms of the laws of motion
and other physical concepts.

Again the idea of evolution may be applied to the forms of mental life
and to the forms of social life, and in these realms the factors are not
the same as those used in interpreting the history of organisms
(objectively considered) or the history of inanimate systems.

In all cases the general concept of evolution is the same--the idea of
natural progressive change--but the factors are different. The reason
for this is that the organism is very different from a planet or a
crystal, that mind is quite different from metabolism, that a society is
more than the sum of its parts.

It is quite plain that the sociological evolutionist will not advance
far if he disregards the concept of the social organism, if he shuts his
eyes to the fact that a societary form, however simple, is an integrate;
not a mere congeries of persons, but a unity with a life and mind of its
own. Yet he may quite consistently try to trace the emergence of
societary forms from a simply gregarious stock, and that again from
entirely non-social organisms.

In the same way the psychological evolutionist will not advance far if
he disregards the distinctiveness of mental life, with principles of
its own quite different from those of the bodily life with which it is
inextricably associated. That is to say he must be more than a
physiologist of the nervous system.

So, the biological evolutionist must admit that he cannot trace the
evolution of organisms in terms of the concepts which suffice for
inanimate systems. In so doing he does not dogmatically say that the
activity of organisms _cannot_ be described in terms of mechanism, he
only says that it has not been done; he only says that neither physics
nor physiology is at present within sight of deducing the laws of motion
of organic corpuscles from the laws of motion of other corpuscles.

There is no reason why he should stand aloof from the theory that
inorganic and organic evolution are continuous, in other words from the
theory of the spontaneous generation of living matter at an appropriate
time in the Earth's history--a theory which is suggested by many facts.
If that is a legitimate theory it increases our respect for what we call
the inanimate, but it does not make our biological evolutionism any
easier, nor are we any nearer explaining life. The organism remains what
it is, a living creature with a behaviour which we are unable to
redescribe in terms of mechanism. And inanimate matter remains what it
is, except that we should be able to say definitely that it had once
given origin to living matter and might conceivably do so again. There
would be no gain in adding to the properties of matter a mysterious

Let us state the position once more. When one of the higher animals, in
the course of its development, reaches a certain, or rather uncertain,
degree of differentiation, its functioning becomes behaviour; its
activities are such that we cannot interpret them without using
psychical terms, such as awareness or intelligence. This expression of
fuller life is associated with the increased development of the nervous
system, and we have no knowledge of any psychical life apart from
nervous metabolism. Yet we remain quite unable to think of any way by
which the metabolism of nerve-cells gives rise to what we know in
ourselves as sensations or perceptions, ideas or feelings. Therefore
while we see no reason to doubt the continuity of the individual
development, we recognise as fact of experience that the merely sentient
embryo becomes a thoughtful child, whose behaviour cannot be formulated
in terms of our present biological or our present mechanical categories.

And as it is with the individual development, so it is with the
evolution of organisms; when they exhibit a certain, or rather
uncertain, degree of differentiation they behave in a way which we
cannot interpret without using psychical terms. We know of very simple
forms whose whole behaviour seems to be summed up in one reflex action,
at least if there is more we cannot detect it; we know of other
unicellular animals whose behaviour is such that we are forced to say
that they seem to pursue the method of trial and error; and from that
level we know of a long inclined plane leading up to very alert
intelligence. Again we see no reason to doubt the continuity of the
process, though we recognise that at a certain level of organisation the
biological categories of metabolism and the like are no longer
sufficient to formulate the facts. How it is that the activity of the
nervous system does express itself in such a way, that we must use a new
set of terms--psychical ones--to cover the facts of behaviour, no one
has at present any conception. A living creature behaves in such a way
that we cannot interpret what it does in terms of the motions of the
organic corpuscles which compose it. We do not know how to formulate in
physical terms its growth, its development, its power of effective
response, its co-ordination of activities. Therefore we introduce a
special series of biological concepts, without denying that a greater
unity of formulation may some day be attained either by a further
simplification of the biological concepts or by some change in the
physical concepts, such as, indeed, seems coming about at present.

But again, a living creature behaves in such a way that our biological
concepts are insufficient to formulate its behaviour. We do not know how
to interpret what it does without psychological concepts of thinking,
feeling, and willing. It is possible that here, too, a greater unity of
formulation may some day be attained either by a further simplification
of the psychological concepts or by some change in the biological
concepts. But sufficient unto the day is the science thereof.


[10] Quoted from Prof. W. H. Hudson's _Introduction to the Philosophy of
Herbert Spencer_.

[11] See Karl Pearson. _The Grammar of Science_, p. 329.



     _Evolution of Mind--Body and Mind--Experience and Intuitions--Test
     of Truth_

In seeking to appreciate Spencer's contributions to Psychology, it seems
necessary to distinguish between what he tried to do and his success in
doing it. For an attempt, especially a pioneer attempt, may have great
historical importance although it is only to a limited degree
successful. The attempts to cross a continent, or to scale a mountain,
to make a flying machine, or to discover the nature of protoplasm, may
be relative failures, but even the attempts may spell progress. They may
offer clues for other attempts, or they may show that certain ways of
attacking the problem are unpromising. And so while the doctors of
philosophy differ as to the value of many of Spencer's psychological
essays, there are few who go the length of denying their historical
interest and importance.

(1) _Evolution of Mind._--In his imaginary review of his _Principles of
Psychology_, which is not without a grim humour, Spencer supposes the
critic to begin by saying: "Our attitude towards this work is something
like that of the Roman poet to whom the poetaster brought some verses
with the request that he would erase any parts he did not like, and who
replied--one erasure will suffice. We reject absolutely the entire
doctrine which the book contains; and for the sufficient reason that it
is founded on a fallacy." The fallacy was, of course, the
evolution-idea, and it was Spencer's chief contribution to Psychology
that he insisted on regarding the human mind as a product, the outlines
of whose history could be more or less clearly descried. In other words,
he attempted a genetic interpretation of our mental life in the light of
antecedent simpler expressions of mentality in the child and in the
animal world. In so doing he was a pioneer, and he doubtless made a
pioneer's mistakes. None the less he helped to effect for psychology the
transition from a static and morphological mode of interpretation to one
which is distinctively kinetic, physiological, and historical. That this
is nowadays the mood of all psychologists is well-known. Thus one of our
leading modern exponents says, "We may define psychology as the science
of the development of mind."[12]

Spencer sought to make mental processes more intelligible by disclosing
the gradualness of their evolution. "It is not more certain that, from
the simple reflex action by which the infant sucks, up to the elaborate
reasoning of the adult man, the progress is by daily infinitesimal
steps, than it is certain that between the automatic actions of the
lowest creatures and the highest conscious actions of the human race, a
series of actions displayed by the various tribes of the animal kingdom
may be so placed as to render it impossible to say of any one step in
the series, Here intelligence begins." Objectively, with data drawn
from the animal world and from child-study, he attempted to trace the
evolution of mind from reflex action through instinct to reason, memory,
feeling, and will, by the interaction of the nervous system with its
gradually widening environment. Subjectively, in his analytic task, he
endeavoured to show that all mental states are referable to primitive
elements of consciousness or units of feeling, which he called nervous
or psychical shocks.

Spencer's general position is thus summed up:--

     "The Law of Evolution holds of the inner world as it does of the
     outer world. On tracing up from its low and vague beginnings the
     intelligence which becomes so marvellous in the highest beings, we
     find that under whatever aspect contemplated, it presents a
     progressive transformation of like nature with the progressive
     transformation we trace in the Universe as a whole, no less than in
     each of its parts. If we study the development of the nervous
     system, we see it advancing in integration, in complexity, in
     definiteness. If we turn to its functions, we find these similarly
     show an ever-increasing inter-dependence, an augmentation in number
     and heterogeneity, and a greater precision. If we examine the
     relations of these functions to the actions going on in the world
     around, we see that the correspondence between them progresses in
     range and amount, becomes continually more complex and special, and
     advances through differentiations and integrations like those
     everywhere going on. And when we observe the correlative states of
     consciousness, we discover that these, too, beginning as simple,
     vague, and incoherent, become increasingly numerous in their kinds,
     are united into aggregates which are larger, more multitudinous,
     and more multiform, and eventually assume those finished shapes we
     see in scientific generalisations, where definitely-quantitative
     elements are co-ordinated in definitely-quantitative relations"
     (_Principles of Psychology_, i. p. 627).

In Spencer's system mind is a secondary and derivative expression of
life; it emerges after corporeal evolution has made some strides; it is
always dependent on the development of the nervous system. This is an
inference from the facts of individual development and racial evolution,
which clearly show that mental life emerges from antecedent stages in
which only bodily life can be discerned. And if mental life were a
merely incidental quality, like the possession of red blood, there would
be no objection to the inference. But since mental life is almost from
the first a necessary postulate--wherever we have to deal with
behaviour--and as we are quite unable to suggest how it can arise out of
metabolism, it seems more scientific, at present, to regard the
potentiality of mind as being just as primitive as metabolism. It should
be noted that the most recent researches[13] on the behaviour of the
simplest animals disclose something more than reflex actions, namely a
pursuit of the method of trial and error, involving some of the
fundamental qualities seen in higher animals.

Just as inorganic evolution must have made many advances before
organisms became possible, so organic evolution must have made many
advances before the mental side of life could find distinct expression.
But as we cannot retranslate the daily activities of even a very simple
animal into chemico-physical language, we are forced at present to
conclude that what is called inanimate matter has somehow wrapped up
with it the potentiality of life; and as we cannot retranslate behaviour
into the metabolism of nerve-cells, we are forced at present to conclude
that life has somehow wrapped up with it the potentiality of mind. In
other words, what is called the evolution of mind is a genetic
description of the stages in its emergence from its state of universal

(2) _Body and Mind._--A second service Spencer rendered to Psychology
was that of linking it to Biology. He gave clear expression to the
doctrine, which many workers had been reaching towards, of the
correlation of mind and body. Although sagacious thinkers at many
different dates had pointed out that the flesh not only wars against the
spirit, but in a humiliating way conditions its activity, the
recognition of the intimate correlation of body and mind was still
requiring its advocate when Spencer wrote his _Psychology_. Ignoring
what had been clearly shown even by Descartes and the truth in Hartley's
_Observations on Man_ (1749), there was still a school who practically
dealt with the mind and its faculties on the one side, the body and its
functions on the other side, as entirely independent existences. The old
idea that character inheres in the ghost, and that the body is merely
the ghost's house, having no causal relation to it, still lingered in
more or less refined form when Spencer set himself to show "that, in
both amounts and kinds, mental manifestations are in part dependent on
bodily structures. Mind is not as deep as the brain only, but is, in a
sense, as deep as the viscera." In a detailed way, he sought to show
that "the amounts and kinds of the mental actions constituting
consciousness vary, other things equal, according to the rapidity, the
quantity, and the quality, of the blood-supply; and all these vary
according to the sizes and proportions of the sundry organs which unite
in preparing blood from food, the organs which circulate it, and the
organs which purify it from waste products." To put it concretely, he
contended that when we consider Handel, for instance, "so wonderfully
productive, so marvellous for the number and vigour of his musical
compositions," we must also remember that he had an unusually active
digestion. "And not the quantity of mind only, but the quality of mind
also, is in part determined by these psycho-physical connections. Amount
and structure of brain being the same, not only may the totality of
feelings and thoughts be greater or less according as this or that
viscus is well or ill-developed, but the feelings and thoughts may also
be favourably or unfavourably modified in their kinds." So morality, as
well as mind, is as deep as the viscera.

Here again the general truth which Spencer forcibly expounded, though it
was not of course peculiarly his, is one that has met with almost
universal recognition. As Prof. G. F. Stout says:--

     "The life of the brain is part of the life of the organism as a
     whole, and inasmuch as consciousness is the correlate of
     brain-process, it is conditioned by organic process in general. It
     is clear that the unity and connection of psychical states cannot
     be clearly conceived without taking into account the unity and
     connection of the processes of the organism as a whole."[14]

As Prof. James Ward says[15]:--

     "Modern science is content to ascertain co-existences and
     successions between facts of mind and facts of body. The relations
     so determined constitute the newest of the sciences,
     psychophysiology or psychophysics. From this science we learn that
     there exist manifold correspondences of the most intimate and
     exact kind between states and changes of consciousness on the one
     hand, and states and changes of brain on the other. As respects
     complexity, intensity, and time-order, the concomitance is
     apparently complete. Mind and brain advance and decline _pari
     passu_; the stimulants and narcotics that enliven or depress the
     action of the one tell in like manner upon the other. Local lesions
     that suspend or destroy, more or less completely, the functions of
     the centres of sight and speech, for instance, involve an
     equivalent loss, temporary or permanent, of words and ideas."

_Experience and Intuitions._--The history of psychology discloses a long
drawn-out dispute between schools of "empiricists," who said "all our
knowledge is derived from experience," and schools of "intuitionalists,"
who said, "Nay, but we have innate ideas or intuitions which transcend
experience." A parallel dispute was long continued in regard to moral
ideas. Between the disputants Spencer appeared as a peace-maker, and the
reconciliation he proposed was in terms of evolution. We can best
express it by a sentence from a letter to John Stuart Mill:--

     "Just in the same way that I believe the intuition of space,
     possessed by any living individual, to have arisen from organised
     and consolidated experiences of all antecedent individuals who
     bequeathed to him their slowly-developed nervous
     organisations--just as I believe that this intuition, requiring
     only to be made definite and complete by personal experiences, has
     practically become a form of thought, apparently quite independent
     of experience; so do I believe that the experiences of utility,
     organised and consolidated through all past generations of the
     human race, have been producing corresponding nervous
     modifications, which, by continued transmission and accumulation
     have become in us certain faculties of moral intuition--certain
     emotions responding to right and wrong conduct, which have no
     apparent basis in the individual experiences of utility."

In short, Spencer maintained that intellectual and moral intuitions had
arisen from gradually organised and inherited experience. "What the
transcendentalist called a _priori_ principles the evolutionist regards
as _a priori_ indeed to the individual, but _a posteriori_ to the race;
that is as race experiences which in the individual appear as

This was an ingenious _eirenicon_, but it does not seem to satisfy all
the philosophers, those namely who feel that intuitions--both
intellectual and moral--have a validity, universality, and compelling
necessity which cannot be accounted for if they are simply the outcome
of race-experience. The only alternative seems to be to say that their
validity depends on the nature of mind itself, or, what comes to the
same thing, because they are in harmony with the spiritual principle in

Nor are the biologists quite satisfied with Spencer's reconciliation,
between empiricism and apriorism, for, in the form he gave it, there is
the tacit assumption that results of experience are as such
transmissible. But this is biologically a hazardous assumption. The only
alternative would be to suppose that the advance to rational intuitions
came about by the selection of variations towards that type of mental
constitution which rational and moral intuitions express--a probably
very slow process which would be sheltered by the individual moulding
himself to the social heritage in which many results of experience are
registered and entailed independently of any germ-plasm. It is possible
that there has been an underestimate of the extent to which what are
regarded as intuitions are sustained by tradition in the widest sense,
and an underestimate of the extent to which they are individually
acquired by each successive generation.

When we speak of either instincts or intuitions arising by the selection
of variations, we need not think of such wonderful results as
originating in fortuitous mental sports; we are quite entitled to think
of definiteness in mental (at the same time neural) variation as in
bodily variation; we are quite entitled to think of mental (at the same
time neural) 'mutations' as well as bodily 'mutations'; we do not
require to burden natural selection with more than the pruning off of
irrationalities, instabilities, disharmonies, and imbecilities. Thus
even biologically we may admit that the validity of intuitions depends
on the nature of mind itself, socially confirmed from age to age.

_Test of Truth._--Spencer took great stock in "intuitions," especially
in his _First Principles_, and yet he believed in their empirical
origin; and this leads us to ask what his test of truth was. It may be
summed up in the phrase "the inconceivability of the opposite." After a
curiously self-contradictory attempt to show by reasoning that "a
certainty greater than that which any reasoning can yield has to be
recognised at the outset of all reasoning," he states the "universal
postulate": "The inconceivableness of its negation is that which shows a
cognition to possess the highest rank--is the criterion by which its
insurpassable validity is known."

     He admitted, however, that there were limitations to the utility of
     this test of truth. "That some propositions have been wrongly
     accepted as true, because their negations were supposed
     inconceivable when they were not, does not disprove the validity of
     the test, for these reasons: (1) That they were complex
     propositions, not to be established by a test applicable only to
     propositions no further decomposable; (2) that this test, in common
     with any test, is liable to yield untrue results, either from
     incapacity or from carelessness in those who use it." In regard to
     which Prof. Sidgwick says:[17] "These two qualifications surely
     reduce very much the practical value of the criterion. For how are
     we to proceed if philosophers disagree about the application of the
     criteria? How are we to test 'undecomposability'? For notions which
     on first reflection appear to us simple are so often found on
     further reflective analysis to be composite. Which conclusion,
     then, are we to trust, the earlier or the later? This seems to me a
     serious dilemma for Mr Spencer; whichever way he answers he is in a

It would seem then that Spencer did not get much further than others who
have tried to answer the question: _What is the test of truth?_ Nor for
our part can we supply the deficiency. It is probably more profitable,
as Sidgwick says, "to turn from infallible criteria to methods of
verification, from the search after an absolute test of truth to the
humbler task of devising modes of excluding error." "These verifications
are based on experience of the ways in which the human mind has actually
been convinced of error, and been led to discard it; _i.e._, three modes
of conflict, conflict between a judgment first formed, and the view of
this judgment taken by the same mind on subsequent reconsideration;
conflict between two different judgments, or the implications of two
partially different judgments formed by the same mind under different
conditions; and finally, conflict between the judgments of different
minds." In other words, what is true for us is that which survives these
conflicts, but the conflict is unceasing.


[12] G. F. Stout, _Analytic Psychology_, vol. i., 1896, p. 9.

[13] H. S. Jennings, "Publications of Carnegie Institute," Washington,
No. 16 (1904), pp. 1-256.

[14] _Op. cit._, p. 27.

[15] _Naturalism and Agnosticism_, 1899, vol. i. p. 10.

[16] W. H. Hudson, Introduction to the Philosophy of Herbert Spencer.

[17] _The Philosophy of Kant and other Lecturers_, 1905, p. 319



_What Sociology is--Criticism of Sociology--Sociology and
History--Spencer's Sociological Data--Central Ideas of Spencer's
Sociology--The Idea of the Social Organism--Parallelisms between a
Society and an Individual Organism_

While Spencer had little agreement with Comte, he was at one with him in
regarding Sociology as a possible science and as the crowning science.

_What Sociology is._--By sociology is meant the study of the structure
and activity, development and evolution of social groups, which have
sufficient integration or unity to justify their being regarded as
"organisms," with a life--and a mind--of their own. That many
active-minded people persist in looking askance at sociology--as "a mass
of facts about society," and "no science," is not unnatural, since the
science is still very young and its definition is still elastic. At
certain points it necessarily comes in contact with biology, _e.g._ in
the study of heredity and eugenics; with psychology, _e.g._ in the study
of tradition and religion; with anthropology and history; with economics
and politics. But it has a distinctive place to fill as the study of
human integrates, of groups capable of acting, consciously or
unconsciously, as unities, as more than the sum of their parts. When it
has grown up and done more work, it will be justified, like Wisdom in
general, of its children, and any discussion of its claims to be a
"science" will be an anachronism. Meanwhile, though the youngest of the
sciences is still struggling for existence, we need not fear for its
safety--it is a Hercules in the cradle.

_Criticism of Sociology._--The distrust which many thoughtful minds have
of "Sociology" is well expressed by Prof. Henry Sidgwick in one of his

     "It is not necessary to show that if we could ascertain from the
     past history of human society the fundamental laws of social
     evolution as a whole, so that we could accurately forecast the main
     features of the future state with which our present social world is
     pregnant--it is not needful, I say, to show that the science which
     gave this foresight would be of the highest value to a statesman,
     and would absorb or dominate our present political economy. What
     has to be proved is that this supremely important knowledge is
     within our grasp; that the sociology which professes this prevision
     is really an established science."[18]

     He goes on to say that there are two simple tests of the
     establishment of a science, recognised by Comte in his discussion
     of this very subject, which can be quickly and decisively applied
     to the claims of existing sociology. These tests may be
     characterised as (1) Consensus or Continuity, and (2) Prevision.
     The former Sedgwick explains in Comte's own words: "When we find
     that recent works, instead of being the result and development of
     what has gone before, have a character as personal as that of their
     authors, and bring the most fundamental ideas into question--then,"
     says Comte, "we may be sure we are not dealing with any doctrine
     deserving the name of positive science." [The validity of Comte's
     criterion seems very doubtful, but let that pass.]

     "Now," Sidgwick continues, "if we compare the most elaborate and
     ambitious treatises on sociology, of which there happens to be one
     in each of the three leading scientific languages--Comte's
     _Politique Positive_, Spencer's _Sociology_, and Schäffle's _Bau
     und Leben des socialen Körpers_--we see at once that they exhibit
     the most complete and conspicuous absence of agreement or
     continuity in their treatment of the fundamental questions of
     social evolution." Sidgwick illustrates this, in the first place,
     by taking the exceedingly difficult question of the future of
     religion, and shows easily enough how the three doctors differ.
     Perhaps it would have been fairer to have selected a less difficult

It seems profitable to follow Sidgwick's contrast since it brings out
some of Spencer's characteristic doctrines.

     "If we inquire after the characteristics of the religion of which
     their science leads them to foresee the coming prevalence, they
     give with nearly equal confidence answers as divergent as can be
     conceived. Schäffle cannot comprehend that the place of the great
     Christian Churches can be taken by anything but a purified form of
     Christianity; Spencer contemplates complacently the reduction of
     religious thought and sentiment to a perfectly indefinite
     consciousness of an Unknowable and the emotion that accompanies
     this peculiar intellectual exercise; while Comte has no doubt that
     the whole history of religion--which, as he says, 'should resume
     the entire history of human development,' has been leading up to
     the worship of the Great Being, Humanity, personified domestically
     for each normal male individual by his nearest female relatives. It
     would seem that the science which allows these discrepancies in its
     chief expositors must be still in its infancy." "I do not doubt
     that our sociologists are sincere in setting before us their
     conception of the coming social state as the last term of a series
     of which the law has been discovered by patient historical study;
     but when we look closely into their work it becomes only too
     evident that each philosopher has constructed on the basis of
     personal feeling and experience his ideal future in which our
     present social deficiencies are to be remedied; and that the
     process by which history is arranged in steps pointing towards his
     Utopia bears not the faintest resemblance to a scientific

     The remark on the influence of "personal feeling and experience"
     recalls the interesting sentence in the preface to Spencer's
     _Autobiography_, "One significant truth has been made clear--that
     in the genesis of a system of thought the emotional nature is a
     large factor: perhaps as large a factor as the intellectual
     nature." One cannot but ask if Sidgwick supposed that his own
     contributions were uninfluenced by his "personal feeling and
     experience." Is it not almost a truism that until science reaches
     the stage of measurement or other modes of direct perceptual
     verification, it must be tinctured with personal feeling?

     Sidgwick goes on to point out that similar discrepancies are
     evident "when we turn from religion to industry, and examine the
     forecasts of industrial development offered to the statesman in the
     name of scientific sociology as a substitute for the discarded
     calculations of the mere economist. With equal confidence, history
     is represented as leading up, now to the naïve and unqualified
     individualism of Spencer, now to the carefully guarded and
     elaborated socialism of Schäffle, now to Comte's dream of securing
     seven-roomed houses for all working men--with other comforts to
     correspond--solely by the impressive moral precepts of his
     philosophic priests. Guidance, truly, is here enough and to spare:
     but how is the bewildered statesman to select his guidance when his
     sociological doctors exhibit this portentous disagreement?" "Nor is
     it only that they adopt diametrically opposed conclusions: we find
     that each adopts his conclusion with the most serene and complete
     indifference to the line of historical reasoning on which his
     brother sociologist relies."

Now this is wholesome criticism, but its force is due to the fact that
sociology is still very young. It would be equally easy to discredit
evolution-lore by showing the discrepancies between the ætiology of
Darwin and Wallace, or Spencer and Weismann. But it must not be imagined
that Sidgwick was opposed to Sociology or doubted its validity; he was
simply advocating caution. "There is no reason to despair of the
progress of general sociology; but I do not think that its development
can be really promoted by shutting our eyes to its present very
rudimentary condition." He evidently looked forward with hope to a time
"when the general science of society has solved the problems which it
has as yet only managed to define more or less clearly--when for
positive knowledge it can offer us something better than a mixture of
vague and variously applied physiological analogies, imperfectly
verified historical generalisations, and unwarranted political
predictions--when it has succeeded in establishing on the basis of a
really scientific induction its forecasts of social evolution." The
recently established "Sociological Society"[19] has in its first volume
of publications suggested many ways in which those interested can assist
in the development of this new science, and already as one of its
indirect fruits we can point to the establishment of well defined
courses of Sociology in the University of London.

_Sociology and History._--Something must be said in regard to Spencer's
somewhat peculiar attitude to history. "I take," he said, "but little
interest in what are called histories, but am interested only in
Sociology, which stands related to these so-called histories much as a
vast building stands related to the heaps of stones and brick around
it." He went the length of saying: "Had Greece and Rome never existed,
human life, and the right conduct of it, would have been in their
essentials exactly what they now are: survival or death, health or
disease, prosperity or adversity, happiness or misery, would have been
just in the same ways determined by the adjustment or non-adjustment of
actions to requirements." When we reflect on the complex ways in which
the influence of Greece and Rome has saturated into our life, and has
become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, in literature and art,
in philosophy and science, so that the ideas and feelings among and in
which we live and move are hardly intelligible apart from it, we can
hardly believe our ears when we listen to Spencer's sentence. It seems
to throw a weird light on his Sociology.

For lack of personal interest and in his preoccupation with general
movements, Spencer failed to do justice to what is ordinarily called
history. While we can sympathise with his recoil from historical studies
which lose the wood in the trees, which are like palæontologies that
never disclose the ascent of life, the same limitation befalls every
kind of specialist study, and is almost a necessary evil, due as Spencer
would phrase it to "the imbecilities of our understanding."

Spencer's point of view was this:--

     "To have before us, in manageable form, evidence proving the
     correlations which everywhere exist between great militant activity
     and the degradation of women, between a despotic form of government
     and elaborate ceremonial in social intercourse, between relatively
     peaceful social activities and the relaxation of coercive
     institutions, promises furtherance of human welfare in a much
     greater degree than does learning whether the story of Alfred and
     the cakes is a fact or a myth, whether Queen Elizabeth intrigued
     with Essex or not, where Prince Charles hid himself, and what were
     the details of this battle or that siege--pieces of historical
     gossip which cannot in the least affect men's conceptions of the
     ways in which social phenomena hang together, or aid them in
     shaping their public conduct."

Here, of course, Spencer was making game of what he termed "so-called
histories," for, to do them justice, they are not wholly composed of
gossip, else they would be more read, but he was scoring a definite
point that history is incomplete without sociological generalisation. He
did not seem to see that we need the most scrupulous historical
scholarship if we are to make sure of our generalisations. Nor did he
understand how essential it is to some minds to have in their vision of
the past just those personal details and picturesque touches, which he
despised as gossip.

The antithesis between the sociologist and the conventional historian is
comparable to that between the biologist and the descriptive naturalist.
The painstaking scrupulous describer, with an almost personal affection
for his subjects, the gatherer of exact data to whom nothing is common
or unclean, nothing trivial or without significance, often shrinks from
the sweeping statements and far-reaching formulæ of the generaliser; his
detailed knowledge makes him a purist in science, enables him to recall
difficult exceptions, makes him distrustful of the summing-up phrases
which cover a multitude of individualised occurrences. But just as the
specialist is indispensable, so there can be no science without

We presume, however, that the historians agree with Spencer that their
chief aim is to give an account, as rational as is possible for them, of
the movement of human history, as Gibbon, for instance, did in his
"Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," but that they have a scientific
instinct of recoil from generalising formulæ, and probably doubt the
validity of some of Spencer's. We presume that they admit that all
events are not equally important, and that they are laws of perspective
applicable to historical pictures, but that they doubt Spencer's
competence--especially after that sentence of his regarding Greece and
Rome--to act as judge of what is important or in proportion. Just as the
descriptive naturalist justly resents any dictation from the biologist
as to what is or is not worth observing, so the descriptive historian
resents the sociologist's interference. And it is to be feared that men,
both in history and in life, were too much mere "phenomena" to the
Synthetic Philosopher, and that his Sociology was more biological than

_Spencer's Sociological Data._--Spencer may be accused of a lack of
personal interest in the details of human history, of a lack of
appreciation of what modern societies owe to the past, and of taking too
mechanical a view of social evolution, but to accuse him of _a priori_
methods is gratuitously unjust. Darwin in his theorising was no less
scrupulously careful than he was in his monographing of barnacles, and,
however we may disagree with any of Spencer's sociological
generalisations, we must remember the carefulness with which he prepared
himself for his task. From 1867 to 1874, with the help of Mr David
Duncan, Mr James Collier, and Dr Scheppig, he worked at the compilation
of sociological data, showing "in fitly classified groups and tables,
facts of all kinds, presented by numerous races, which illustrate social
evolution under its various aspects." This detailed work was begun
solely to facilitate his own generalisations; it was published "apart
from hypotheses, so as to aid all students of Social Science in testing
such conclusions as they have drawn and in drawing others."

Most admirable was the ideal which Spencer had before him in collecting
his data of Sociology.

     "Indications of the climate, contour, soil, and minerals, of the
     region inhabited by each society delineated, seemed to me needful.
     Some accounts of the Flora and Fauna, in so far as they affected
     human life, had to be given. And the characters of the surrounding
     tribes or nations were factors which could not be overlooked. The
     characters of the people, individually considered, had also to be
     described--their physical, moral, and intellectual traits. Then,
     besides the political, ecclesiastical, industrial and other
     institutions of the society--besides the knowledge, beliefs, and
     sentiments, the language, habits, customs, and tastes of its
     members--there had to be noticed their clothing, food, and arts of

_Central Ideas of Spencer's Sociology._--The central ideas of Spencer's
sociological work are thus summed up by Prof. F. H. Giddings:--

"Spencer's propositions could be arranged in the following order: (1)
Society is an organism; (2) in the struggle of social organisms for
existence and their consequent differentiation, fear of both the living
and the dead arises, and for countless ages is a controlling emotion;
(3) dominated by fear, men for ages are habitually engaged in military
activities; (4) the transition from militarism to industrialism, made
possible by the consolidation of small social groups into large ones,
which war accomplishes, to its own ultimate decline, transforms human
nature and social institutions; and this fact affords the true
interpretation of all social progress."

Spencer sought to disclose the evolution of human ideas and customs,
ceremonials and institutions. He emphasised the true idea that any
society worthy of the name is an integrate like an individual organism,
with the capacity of co-ordinated action or unified behaviour distinct
from the life of the component units, and he used other biological
concepts to render social evolution more intelligible.

He relied greatly on the influence of Fear in the early stages of social
evolution: fear of living competitors gave rise to political control--to
ceremonies and institutions; fear of the dead gave origin to religion
whose primitive expressions are seen in ancestor-worship or worship of
the dead. The conception of another life originated mainly in "such
phenomena as shadows, reflections, and echoes," and gave origin to
conceptions of gods.

Pressure of population and competitive struggle between societies have
been potent factors in evolution, promoting differentiation and
integration, and continually tending to disappear as their ends are
achieved. Morality is developed as an adaptive expedient under the
complex struggle for existence, and industrial organisation replaces
military organisation as the social integrates grow and multiply and
coalesce. As solidarity deepens with increased peaceful synergy, the
severe centralised control, necessary when militarism is dominant,
should be replaced by greater freedom of individual life, and by a
restriction of governmental function to securing justice, to maintaining
equitable relations, preventing one individual infringing on his
neighbour's liberty. The formula of absolute justice is that "every man
is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal
freedom of any other man." In militant times the individuals exist for
the state; in industrial times the state is to be maintained solely for
the benefit of the citizens, and a better than industrial freedom is to
be looked for when it is more fully realised that life is not for work
but work is for life. Spencer believed so much in the beneficence of
peace and individual liberty, that he said "there needs but a
continuance of absolute peace externally, and a vigorous insistence on
non-aggression internally, to ensure the moulding of men into a form
characterised by all the virtues"--a fine illustration of evolutionary
optimism. To him the goal of human progress was a completed
individualism, but "the ultimate individual will be one whose private
requirements coincide with public ones. He will be that manner of man
who, in spontaneously fulfilling his own nature, incidentally performs
the functions of a social unit, and yet is only enabled so to fulfil his
own nature by all others doing the like."

_The Idea of the Social Organism._--Spencer has been largely
responsible for popularising the conception expressed in the phrase "The
Social Organism"--that a society or societary form is in many ways
comparable to an individual organism, _e.g._ in growing, in
differentiating, in showing increased mutual dependence of its parts,
and so on. It is true that the comparison of society to an organism is
at least as old as the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, but Spencer
was one of the first to fill in the analogy with biological details. The
idea was briefly expressed in _Social Statics_, and was elaborated in an
essay which appeared in the "Westminster Review" in January 1860. There
he likened government to the central nervous system, agriculture and
industry to the alimentary tract, transport and exchange to the vascular
system of an animal, and pointed out that like an individual organism a
society grows, becomes more complex, shows increasing inter-relations,
division of labour, and mutual dependence among its parts, and has a
life immense in length when compared with the lives of the component
units. At the same time, it should be carefully noted that it was
Spencer who introduced the term _super-organic_ as descriptive of social
phenomena, indicating thereby that the biological categories may require
considerable modification before they can be safely used in Sociology.

_Parallelisms between a Society and an Individual Organism._--Spencer
indicated four chief parallelisms between a society and an individual

     (1) Starting as small aggregates both grow in size.

     (2) As they grow their initial relative simplicity is replaced by
     increasing complexity of structure.

     (3) With increasing differentiation there comes about an increasing
     mutual dependence of the component parts, until the life and normal
     functioning of each becomes dependent on the life of the whole.

     (4) The life of the whole becomes independent of and far more
     prolonged than the life of the component units.

It is obvious that this pleasing analogy may be pursued far. Thus a
society may be compared to an organism as regards the genetic kinship of
the component units (the cells being compared to individuals); in the
fact that continued existence depends on continued functioning; in the
power of retaining integrity or viable equilibrium in spite of ceaseless
changes both internal and external; in the internal struggle of parts
which co-exists with some measure of mutual subordination; in owing its
peculiar virtue to the subtle inter-relations between its unified
elements; in its power of coalescing with another form or of giving
birth to another form; in its power of varying as a whole; in its habit
of competing with other forms, as the result of which adaptation or
elimination may ensue; and so on. In fact the analogy is far-reaching
and persuasive and it is helped over some of its difficulties by the
consideration that just as there are many grades of social-group, from
the nomad herd to the French Republic, so there are many grades of
organism from sponge to eagle.

Schäffle, in his famous work on the _Structure and Life of the Social
Body_ (1875), carried the metaphor of the social organism to an extreme
which has induced many to recoil from it altogether. The family is the
cell, and the body consists of simple connective tissue (expressed in
unity of speech, etc.), and of various differentiated tissues, such as
sensory and motor apparatus. The comparison is as interesting as a game,
but when we find writers speaking of the social ectoderm and endoderm,
and so forth, we cannot but feel that the metaphor is being stretched to
the breaking-point.

Spencer was himself quite conscious that the metaphor had its
limitations, for he indicates four contrasts between a society and an
individual organism.

     (1) Societies have no specific external forms.

     (2) The units of an organism are physically continuous, but the
     units of a society are dispersed persons.

     (3) The elements of an organism are mostly fixed in their relative
     positions; while units of a society are capable of moving from
     place to place.

     (4) In the body of an animal only a special tissue is endowed with
     feeling; in a society all the members are so endowed. The social
     nervous system is happily wider than the government.

There are other limitations, _e.g._, that the social organism does not
seem to pass _necessarily_ through a curve of life ending in senility
and death; that when a particular form disappears it is usually by being
incorporated into another in whose life it shares.

As it appears to us the real analogy is between a human societary form
and an animal societary form, such as an ant-hill or a bee-hive or a
beaver-village, and not between a society and an individual organism.
Moreover, since the biologist has not yet arrived at a clear conception
of the innermost secret of the individual organism, notably the secret
of its unity, the comparison implied in the metaphor of the social
organism is an attempt to interpret _obscurum per obscurius_. The
analogy, such as it is, is probably destined to be of more use to the
biologist than to the sociologist.

In thinking of the unity of the individual organism--which remains in
great measure an enigma to Biology--we have to distinguish (_a_) _the
physical unity_, which rests on the fact that all the component units
are closely akin, being lineal descendants of the fertilised ovum, and
on the fact that they are subtly connected with each other in mutual
dependence and co-operation, whether by intercellular bridges, or by the
commonalty established by the vascular and nervous systems; and (_b_)
the correlated _psychical unity_, the _esprit de corps_, which in a
manner inconceivable to us makes the whole body one. That there are
organisms, like sponges, in which the psychical unity is quite
unverifiable is probably only a passing difficulty, greatly lessened by
our increasing knowledge of the life of the simplest unicellular
organisms whose behaviour is now seen to include trial by error and
other traits which we cannot interpret without using psychical terms.

The same is true in regard to the social organism; we have here to
distinguish (_a_) _the physical unity_ which rests on hereditary kinship
and on similar environmental conditions, and (_b_) _the psychical
unity_, the "social mind," developed with relation to certain ends--"a
unity which is the end of its parts." It seems probable that in early
days, the physical unity was more prominent than later on, when, as in
the case of mixed racial groups, the psychical bond is practically
supreme. But genetic and environmental bonds do not as physical facts
constitute a society. Until there is enough of correlated psychical
unity for the group to act, however imperfectly, as a group with a mind
of its own, controlling the egoism of the individual members, there is
no human society.

In short, if we continue to speak of a society as a social organism, we
must safeguard the analogy by remembering that the character of society
as an organism exists in the thoughts, feelings, and activities of the
component members, and that the social bonds are not those of sympathy
and synergy only, but that the rational life is intrinsically social.

As Green said, "Social life is to personality what language is to

The chief difficulty that Spencer had with his metaphor was that in the
individual organism there is a centred consciousness in the nervous
system, whereas the social group as a whole has no corporate
consciousness. Thus "while in individual bodies the welfare of all other
parts is rightly subservient to the welfare of the nervous system, whose
pleasurable or painful activities make up the good or ill of life; in
bodies politic the same thing does not hold, or holds only to a very
slight extent. It was well that the lives of all parts of an animal
should be merged in the life of the whole, because the whole has a
corporate consciousness capable of happiness or misery. But it is not so
with a society, since its living units do not and cannot lose individual
consciousness, and since the community as a whole has no corporate
consciousness. And this is an everlasting reason why the welfare of
citizens cannot rightly be sacrificed to some supposed benefit of the
State: but why, on the other hand, the State is to be maintained solely
for the benefit of citizens. The corporate life must here be subservient
to the lives of the parts, instead of the lives of the parts being
subservient to the corporate life" ("The Social Organism," _Essays_,
vol. i.). In other words, Spencer found the metaphor useful even when it
broke down, for it enabled him to corroborate his doctrine of
individualism. If he had pursued the analogy between the human social
group and the animal social group, such as that of bees or beavers, the
corroboration would not have been so easy, though Spencer would
doubtless have arrived at the same result.


[18] "The Scope and Method of Economic Science," _Miscellaneous Essays
and Addresses_, 1904, p. 193.

[19] For a discussion of the validity and scope of Sociology we may
refer to the following papers: "On the Origin and Use of the word
Sociology," "Note on the History of Sociology," by Mr Victor V.
Branford; "The Relation of Sociology to the Social Sciences and to
Philosophy," two papers by Prof. E. Durkheim and Mr Branford; "Sociology
and the Social Sciences," by Prof. Durkheim and M. E. Fauconnet;--all
published in "Sociological Papers," the first volume of the Sociological
Society's Proceedings.



We have not in this volume discussed any of Spencer's contributions to
practical life, for the task of indicating his scientific position was
more than enough. Furthermore, his _Education_ is the best known of all
his works, and many of its suggestions are now realised in everyday
practice; his political recommendations are too debatable; and as to
ethical advice he has himself said: "The doctrine of Evolution has not
furnished guidance to the extent I had hoped. Most of the conclusions
drawn empirically are such as right feelings, enlightened by cultivated
intelligence, have already sufficed to establish." But there is one
practical suggestion to which we must refer, namely Spencer's
contribution to the population question.

"The Abundance of Life"--the title of a very suggestive essay by Prof.
Joly--is one of the great facts of Nature. The river of life is always
tending to overflow its banks. Hence, in part, the "Struggle for

There are great differences in the number of offspring produced by
different kinds of organisms, and great differences in the
mortality-rate among the crowds of those produced. The rate of
reproduction depends primarily on the constitution of the organism, but
it also varies in response to external conditions, notably in relation
to the food-supply. Some organisms are intrinsically more reproductive
than others, thus the unicellular organisms, such as Bacteria and
Infusorians, which multiply by dividing into two or many units, head the
list; and, on the whole, it may be said that relatively simple creatures
multiply most rapidly, especially if their mode of reproduction, _e.g._,
the equipment of the germ-cells, is relatively simple and inexpensive,
and if the period required for reaching reproductive maturity is short.
But as we find very different reproductivity in animals and plants which
occupy the same grade of organisation, we are led to the conclusion,
which Weismann, for instance, has worked out, that the constitutional
capacity of producing many or few offspring has been regulated by
selection working throughout the ages, and is adapted to the particular
conditions of life. As the continuance of the race is an ideal aim,
which could not be present to the animal consciousness--not to speak of
the slumbering analogue of this in plants--all that we can say is that
in certain conditions variations towards greater fertility would be
relatively more successful because there were more of them to survive,
and that variations towards relative sterility would seal their own
doom. The survivors survived because they were many and capable of
producing many. Moreover it is possible in certain conditions that a
variation towards greater fertility may have been correlated with some
other variation, such as greater vigour on which the process of
selection could immediately operate. In any case, however, we may work
out the theory, the rate of reproductivity cannot be satisfactorily
interpreted without regarding it as in great part an adaptive character.

But while the rate of reproduction depends upon the constitution of the
individual organism, modifiable within variable limits by the direct
influence of food, warmth, and the like, the rate of increase or
decrease in an animal or plant population depends upon the wide and
complex conditions of the entire animate and inanimate environment. In
short, it is a function of the Struggle for Existence.

When there are no checks to prolific multiplication a single Infusorian
may become, in the course of a week, the ancestor of several millions,
and the same is true of a Bacterium within a day. Huxley has computed
that the progeny of single mother Aphis or green-fly, if they all lived
a charmed life, would in a few months literally outweigh the population
of China, which probably amounts to between two and three hundred
millions. If there were no checks to increase, a few pairs of cod-fish
and conger-eels would soon put an end to fishing and much else, by
making the North Sea solid. And apart from problematical cases, every
now and then, with locusts or voles, with rabbits in Australia, or
sparrows in America, we get a vivid glimpse of what a "spate" of life
may mean.

In the main, however, the river of life overflows its banks only locally
and temporarily. An adjustment of the abundance of life to the
limitations of subsistence is speedily effected in nature, and the flood
subsides. The "positive checks" of disease, starvation, lack of room,
internecine competition, increase of enemies, and so on, re-establish a
balance, though perhaps with a slightly changed centre of gravity. The
struggle for existence punctuates the increase of population.

In the history of mankind various aspects of the population question are
familiar. Whether we inquire into what is known of the history of
uncivilised races, or into present-day conditions in more or less
isolated communities and even in large countries, we read the story of
population-crises--of increase in numbers out-running the means of
livelihood. Among races in contact one often increases at a much more
rapid rate than the other, and we hear of "perils" of various colours.
Within a given race we find great differences in the fertility of
different sections or stocks and dangerous results impending. One nation
is troubled by its teeming millions, and another by its dwindling
birth-rate. The whole question is one of great biological interest and
human importance, and it is one to which Spencer had a very definite
contribution to make.

But before we consider Spencer's theory, it may be profitable to notice
what other suggestions have been made.

(_a_) _Malthusian._--In 1798, in his _Theory of Population_, Malthus
riveted the attention of all thoughtful men by seeking to establish the
induction that population tends to outrun the means of subsistence. In
its earliest form, his thesis was that population tends to increase in
geometrical ratio, while the means of subsistence increase only in
arithmetical ratio. So precise a statement cannot be justified, but
Malthus was right in insisting on the general fact that in certain
conditions and in certain stocks multiplication tends to exceed the
means of subsistence. His discussion of this thesis, and the conception
of "the struggle for existence" which he developed--for the phrase was
his--had a profound influence on many minds, including Spencer, Darwin,
and Wallace.

Malthus pointed out, with abundant concrete illustration, that the
increase of population is met by "positive checks," such as disease,
starvation, war, and infanticide, and that it may also be met by
"prudential checks," such as late marriage and moral control. His
practical corollary was that to avoid the "positive checks" which are
almost always appalling and pity-moving, we must develop the "prudential
checks," which tend to prevent further swelling of the population-tide.
"To a rational being the prudential check to population ought to be
considered as equally natural with the check from poverty and premature
mortality" (Malthus, 1806). The obvious objections are, that extended
celibacy or postponed marriage tends to increase of sexual vice; that
very late marriages are biologically and psychologically inadvisable,
tending for instance _on an average_ to increased mortality in
childbirth, to less fit children, and to a diminution of the happiness
of married life; and that moral control is apt to be most exercised
where it is least needed, namely among the more highly developed stocks,
and that it is a very uncertain check since great conjugal temperance
seems often to render conception the more certain.

(_b_) _Darwinian._--The Darwinian theory, that is the theory of Natural
Selection, supplied an important supplement to the Malthusian position.
For it pointed to the course of nature wherein the struggle for
existence has opened up the pathway of progress. Increase of population
brings about or accentuates the struggle for existence wherein the
relatively less fit are eliminated. Although this Natural Selection
works slowly it works surely, hence the Darwinian corollary is
practically nil, that is to say, a _laissez-faire_ policy. The obvious
objections are, that man as a rational and social being has a higher
standard than mere survival, and that a confidence in uncontrolled
natural selection is altogether optimistic. He cannot abrogate his task
of endeavouring, by rational selection, to accelerate what he believes
to be progressive evolution and to hinder degenerative change. Moreover,
it is not in him to stand by contemplating the mills of Nature grinding
slowly, ignoring the well-being of the individual in considering the
merely possible advancement of the species. And as a matter of fact he
is continually interfering with natural selection by introducing various
modes of what he believes to be rational selection.

(_c_) _Neo-Malthusian._--The general position of modern Malthusians may
be summed up in a few propositions. Population has a constant tendency
to outrun the means of subsistence; over-population is a fruitful source
of pauperism, ignorance, crime and disease; the positive or
life-destroying checks are cruel, and their reduction is in the line of
social progress; abstention from marriage is for normal organisms
unnatural and anti-social, postponement of marriage is also unnatural
and tends to vice and unfitness; the check that remains to be advocated
is "prudence _after_ marriage," and by this the Neo-Malthusians most
distinctly mean attention to methods which secure small families. So far
as these scientific checks imply control and conjugal temperance and
obviate or lessen misery, they commend themselves, but the obvious
objections are, that their use is often not without its physiological
risks, and that by annulling the responsibility of consequences, while
allowing the gratification of sexual appetites to continue, they may
have the result of increasing an already sufficiently intense sexuality,
of facilitating unchastity, and of exaggerating the tendency of marriage
to sink into "monogamic prostitution." On the other hand, it seems
probable that the transition from impulsive animalism to deliberate
regulation--somewhat mechanical though it be--would tend in some to
decrease not increase sexual intemperance. While the ideal surely is
that there should be a retention, throughout married life, of a large
measure of that self-control which must always form the organic basis of
the enthusiasm and idealism of lovers, it remains a fact that even
exemplary temperance does not obviate an unduly large family, and that
some form of Neo-Malthusian practice is in many cases the only
practicable suggestion--_pis aller_ though it be.

(_d_) _Spencer's Contribution._--In his keen analysis of the conditions
of multiplication,[20] Spencer showed that a species cannot be
maintained unless self-preservative and reproductive powers vary
inversely, and gave a physiological reason why these two powers cannot
do other than vary inversely. If we group under the term individuation
all those race-preservative processes by which individual life is
completed and maintained, and extend the term genesis to include all
those processes aiding the formation and perfecting of new individuals,
the result of the whole argument may be tersely expressed in the
formula--_Individuation and Genesis vary inversely_. And from this
conception important corollaries follow; thus, other things equal,
advancing evolution must be accompanied by declining fertility; again,
if the difficulties of self-preservation permanently diminish, there
will be a permanent increase in the rate of multiplication, and

The next step was an inductive verification of these _a priori_
inferences, and here Spencer utilised a wealth of evidence drawn from a
wide survey of the animal and vegetable world. He measured individuation
by amount of growth, degree of development, and fullness of activity,
and his result always was that genesis and individuation vary inversely.
To the question: How is the ratio established in each special case?
Spencer answered: By Natural Selection. According to the particular
conditions of the species, natural selection determines whether the
quantity of matter spared from individuation for genesis be divided into
many small ova or a few large ones; whether there shall be small broods
at short intervals or larger broods at longer intervals; or whether
there shall be many unprotected offspring, or a few carefully protected
by the parent. In other words, natural selection determines the
particular form which the antithesis between individuation and genesis
will take. Finally, Spencer introduced the following qualification. If
time be left out of account, or if species be considered as permanent,
then the inverse ratio between individuation and genesis holds
absolutely, but each advance in individual development implies an
economy: the advantage must exceed the cost, else it would not be
perpetuated. The organism has an augmentation of total wealth to share
between its individuation and its genesis, and though the increment of
individuation tends to produce a corresponding decrement of genesis,
this latter will be somewhat less than accurately proportionate. In
short, genesis decreases as individuation increases, yet not quite so
fast. If the species be evolving, the advance in individuation implies a
certain economy, of which a share may go to diminish the decrement to

Spencer then extended his hard-won generalisation to the case of man, in
which, as everyone knows, very high individuation is associated with all
but the lowest rate of multiplication. The same antithesis is seen on
comparing different races or nations, or even different social castes or
occupations. Where there is relatively low individuation, or where
nutrition is in obvious excess of expenditure required to get it, there
high multiplication prevails. Reviewing the various possibilities of
progressive human evolution, he concluded that this must take place
mainly on the psychical side. Hence the corollary that the culture of
man's psychical nature constantly tends to diminish the rate of
fertility, and pressure of population, which Spencer regarded as the
main incentive to progress, tends to disappear as it achieves its full
effect. The acute pressure of population, with its attendant evils, thus
tends to cease as a more and more highly individuated race busies itself
with its increasingly complex yet normal and pleasurable activities,
its rate of reproduction meanwhile descending towards that minimum
required to make good its inevitable losses.

This was Spencer's contribution to the population question, and it is
one which suggests hope and action, and is in harmony with the growing
ideal of racial eugenics. "For it is obvious that the progress of the
species and of the individual alike is secured and accelerated whenever
action is transferred from the negative side of merely seeking directly
to repress genesis, to the positive yet indirect side of proportionally
increasing individuation. This holds true of all species, yet most fully
of man, since that modification of psychical activities in which his
evolution essentially lies, is _par excellence_ and increasingly the
respect in which artificial or rational comes in to replace natural
selection. Without therefore ignoring the latter, or hoping ever wholly
to escape from the iron grasp of nature, we yet have within our power
more and more to mitigate the pressure of population, and that without
any sacrifice of progress, but actually by hastening it. Since then the
remedy of pressure and the hope of progress alike lie in advancing
individuation, the course for practical action is clear--it is in the
organisation of these alternate reactions between bettered environment
(material, mental, social, moral) and better organism in which the whole
evolution of life is defined, in the conscious and rational adjustment
of the struggle into the culture of existence."[21]


[20] A summary of his argument is given in "The Evolution of Sex," by P.
Geddes and J. Arthur Thomson. Walter Scott, London. Revised edition,

[21] _Evolution of Sex._ Chapter xx.



     _Metaphysics--Early Attitude to Religion--Increased Sympathy with

Spencer was always clear that "life is not for work and learning, but
work and learning are for life." Thus he valued science because it is
"_fructiferous_," to use Bacon's word, making for the amelioration of
life; but he valued it still more because it is "_luciferous_," "for the
light it throws on our own nature and the nature of the Universe." He
spoke with regret of "the ordinary scientific specialist, who, deeply
interested in his speciality, and often displaying comparatively little
interest in other departments of science, is rarely much interested in
the relations between Science at large and the great questions which lie
beyond Science." He ranked himself with those who, "while seeking
scientific knowledge for its proximate value, have an ever-increasing
consciousness of its ultimate value as a transfiguration of things,
which, marvellous enough within the limits of the knowable, suggests a
profounder marvel than can be known." Thus it is not surprising to find
that he had a metaphysical system of his own, and if he had not a
religion he had at least "a humility in presence of the inscrutable,"
and a reverence for Nature deeper than many religious minds exhibit.

_Metaphysics._--"Metaphysician" was with Spencer a term of reproach,
"employed (as Prof. Sidgwick says) exclusively to designate a class of
thinkers who have followed an erroneous method to untenable
conclusions," yet he himself had a metaphysical system--which Sidgwick
defines as "a systematic view of the nature and relations of finite
minds to the material world, and to the Primal Being or ultimate ground
of Being." A critical discussion of Spencer's metaphysical and
epistemological doctrines will be found in Sidgwick's "Philosophy of
Kant and other Lectures," 1905.

In his doctrine of "the Unknowable," in which experts discover the
influence of Kant through Hamilton and Mansel, Spencer reached the
conclusion that "no tenable hypothesis can be formed as to the origin or
nature of the Universe regarded as a whole." He offered for the
reconciliation of Religion and Science the "Supreme Verity," that "the
reality underlying appearances is totally and for ever inconceivable to
us... but we are obliged to regard every phenomenon as the manifestation
of an incomprehensible power, called Omnipresent from inability to
assign its limits, though Omnipresence is unthinkable." Similarly when
we try to understand Time, Space, Matter, Force, Consciousness, we have
to confess that the "reality underlying appearances is and must be
totally and for ever inconceivable by us." At the same time Spencer was
able to attain to some knowledge of his Unknowable, concluding, for
instance, in spite of the antithesis between subject and object, never
to be transcended while consciousness lasts, that "it is one and the
same Ultimate Reality that is manifested to us subjectively and
objectively"; that while "the manifestations, as occurring either in
ourselves or outside of us, do not persist: that which persists is the
Unknown Cause of these manifestations"--"an unconditioned Reality
without beginning or end."

_Early attitude to Religion._--Spencer came of a religious stock, but
the traditional beliefs took no grip of him. Even as a boy he had what
may be called a cosmic outlook, but he tells us of no religious
tendrils, and if there were any they found no support in the faith of
his fathers. Though surrounded in early life by a religious atmosphere,
he never seems to have moved or even drawn breath in it. He passed by
theological beliefs as if he were immune; he developed into an agnostic
without passing through any crisis or perplexity; he had not even what
Prof. James has called "the religion of healthy-mindedness."

The explanation of this may be looked for partly in the self-sufficiency
of his strong intellect, partly in the limitations of the emotional side
of his nature, and partly in his fine heritage of natural goodness. When
the religious mood does not arise naturally as an almost spontaneous
expression of inherited disposition and nurture-influences, it is
usually reached by one of three paths, or by more than one of these at
once. These paths to religion, which apply to the racial as well as to
the individual history, may be called the practical, the emotional, and
the intellectual approaches to faith. When men reach the limits of their
practical endeavours and find themselves baffled, when they feel the
impotence of their utmost strength, when they are filled with fear of
the past, the present, and the future, then they sometimes become
religious. When men reach the limits of their emotional strength, and
the tension of joy or of sorrow, of delight in nature or love of kin
becomes almost an oppression, then they sometimes become religious. When
men reach the limit of their intellectual endeavours after clearness and
unity and are baffled, they sometimes become religious.

As Spencer was never at his wit's end practically, and was born too good
to be troubled by a sense of sin, and as he had a somewhat lukewarm
emotional nature, and was singularly devoid of any poetical or mystical
sense, he was not likely to approach religion by either the practical or
the emotional path. The third path, reached by baffled intelligence, was
more or less closed by Spencer's postulate of the Unknowable, though
there was even in this some tinge of religious feeling.

He had been brought up among those who held almost as an axiom to the
belief that "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," but
this never seems to have meant anything practically or emotionally to
him, while as a cosmological statement it seemed quite unverifiable.
Most thinkers have tried by searching to find out God, to find some way
of thinking of the ultimate origin, nature, and purpose of things, but
at an early age Herbert Spencer foreclosed this quest, and was quite
comfortable in so doing, chiefly, it must be suspected, because it never
appealed to him save as a purely intellectual puzzle. "_Nur was du
fühlst, das ist dein Eigenthum._"

     Thus when he was twenty-six (1848) he wrote to his father, "As
     regards 'the ultimate nature of things or origin of them,' my
     position is simply that I know nothing about it, and never can know
     anything about it, and must be content in my ignorance. I deny
     nothing, and I affirm nothing, and to any one who says that the
     current theory _is not_ true, I say just as I say to those who
     assert its truth--you have no evidence. Either alternative leaves
     us in inextricable difficulties. An _uncaused_ Deity is just as
     inconceivable as an uncaused Universe. If the existence of matter
     from all eternity is incomprehensible, the creation of matter out
     of nothing is equally incomprehensible. Thus finding that either
     attempt to conceive the origin of things is futile, I am content to
     leave the question unsettled as _the insoluble mystery_"...
     (_Autobiography_, i. p. 346).

This was written in 1848, twelve years before _First Principles_, in
which he afterwards sought more fully to justify the position which
Huxley called "agnostic."

Just because his emotions were so little engaged, the agnostic position
seemed to him a very simple and satisfactory one, and we find no
evidence that he ever tried to get below the surface of theistic or
Christian doctrine. He was so much repelled by particular
anthropomorphic and superstitious expressions or formulæ of religious
belief that he never appreciated their true inwardness or value.
Otherwise, he would never have spoken of "the radical incongruity
between the Bible and the order of Nature." Otherwise he would never
have written the following passage, "The creed of Christendom is
evidently alien to my nature, both emotional and intellectual. To many,
and apparently to most, religious worship yields a species of pleasure.
To me it never did so; unless, indeed, I count as such the emotion
produced by sacred music.... But the expressions of adoration of a
personal being, the utterance of laudations, and the humble professions
of obedience, never found in me any echoes."

_Later Attitude to Religion._--But while it seems to us preposterous to
speak of "the religion of Herbert Spencer," beyond a reverence for the
mysteries beyond science, it is important to note that in his later
years he became more appreciative of the important rôle that religion
has filled, and continues to fill in human life. The 'Reflections' at
the close of the _Autobiography_ illustrate this change of outlook.

In his earlier days Spencer was an uncompromising critic of many of the
established governmental forms, such as the monarchy; in later years,
while he did not change his views, he became more acquiescent, feeling
that institutions must be judged by their relative fitness to the
average characters and conditions of the citizens at any given time. He
saw, moreover, that mere morphological changes matter little since the
temper of a people alters so slowly. There is a rhythm of change in
external forms, but the actual constitution of the social organism
varies very little.

     "We have been living in the midst of a social exuviation, and the
     old coercive shell having been cast off, a new coercive shell is in
     course of development; for in our day, as in past days, there
     co-exist the readiness to coerce and the readiness to submit to
     coercion. Here, then, I see a change in my political views which
     has become increasingly marked with increasing years. Whereas, in
     the days of early enthusiasm, I thought that all would go well if
     governmental arrangements were transformed, I now think that
     transformations in governmental arrangements can be of use only in
     so far as they express the transformed natures of citizens" (1893).

A similar change marks his ideas about religious institutions. In early
days he was an uncompromising critic of particular theological doctrines
and religious customs, but a wider knowledge convinced him almost
against his will that some sort of religious cult has been an
indispensable factor in social progress. Quite aware of the great
changes in theological thought which had taken place during his
life-time, he looked forward to a stage in which, "recognising the
mystery of things as insoluble, religious organisations will be devoted
to ethical culture." As Prof. Henry Sidgwick puts it, "Spencer
contemplates complacently the reduction of religious thought and
sentiment to a perfectly indefinite consciousness of the Unknowable and
the emotion that accompanies this peculiar intellectual exercise."

     "Thus I have come more and more to look calmly on forms of
     religious belief to which I had, in earlier days, a pronounced
     aversion. Holding that they are in the main naturally adapted to
     their respective peoples and times, it now seems to me well that
     they should severally live and work as long as the conditions
     permit, and, further, that sudden changes of religious
     institutions, as of political institutions, are certain to be
     followed by reactions.

     "If it be asked why, thinking thus, I have persevered in setting
     forth views at variance with current creeds, my reply is the one
     elsewhere made: It is for each to utter that which he sincerely
     believes to be true, and, adding his unit of influence to all other
     units, leave the results to work themselves out."

Largely, however, Spencer's change of mood in regard to religious creeds
and institutions resulted from "a deepening conviction that the sphere
occupied by them can never become an unfilled sphere, but that there
must continue to arise afresh the great questions concerning ourselves
and surrounding things; and that, if not positive answers, then modes of
consciousness standing in place of positive answers must ever remain."

     "An unreflective mood, he said, is general among both cultured and
     uncultured, characterised by indifference to everything beyond
     material interests and the superficial aspects of things."... "But
     in both cultured and uncultured there occur lucid intervals. Some,
     at least, either fill the vacuum by stereotyped answers, or become
     conscious of unanswered questions of transcendent moment. By those
     who know much, more than by those who know little, is there felt
     the need for explanation. Whence this process, inconceivable
     however symbolised, by which alike the monad and the man build
     themselves up into their respective structures? What must we say of
     the life, minute, multitudinous, degraded, which, covering the
     ocean-floor, occupies by far the larger part of the Earth's area;
     and which yet, growing and decaying in utter darkness, presents
     hundreds of species of a single type? Or, when we think of the
     myriads of years of the Earth's past, during which have arisen and
     passed away low forms of creatures, small and great, which,
     murdering and being murdered, have gradually evolved, how shall we
     answer the question--To what end? Ascending to wider problems, in
     which way are we to interpret the lifelessness of the greater
     celestial masses--the giant planets and the Sun; in proportion to
     which the habitable planets are mere nothings? If we pass from
     these relatively near bodies to the thirty millions of remote suns
     and solar systems, where shall we find a reason for all this
     apparently unconscious existence, infinite in amount compared with
     the existence which is conscious--a waste Universe as it seems?
     Then behind these mysteries lies the all-embracing mystery--whence
     this universal transformation which has gone on unceasingly
     throughout a past eternity and will go on unceasingly throughout a
     future eternity? And along with this rises the paralysing
     thought--what if, of all that is thus incomprehensible to us, there
     exists no comprehension anywhere? No wonder that men take refuge in
     authoritative dogma!"

     "So is it, too, with our own natures. No less inscrutable is this
     complex consciousness which has slowly evolved out of infantine
     vacuity--consciousness which, during the development of every
     creature, makes its appearance out of what seems unconscious
     matter; suggesting the thought that consciousness in some
     rudimentary form is omnipresent. Lastly come the insoluble
     questions concerning our own fate: the evidence seeming so strong
     that the relations of mind and nervous structure are such that
     cessation of the one accompanies dissolution of the other, while,
     simultaneously, comes the thought, so strange and so difficult to
     realise, that with death there lapses both the consciousness of
     existence and the consciousness of having existed."

"Thus religious creeds, which in one way or other occupy the sphere that
rational interpretation seeks to occupy and fails, and fails the more
the more it seeks, I have come to regard with a sympathy based on
community of need: feeling that dissent from them results from inability
to accept the solutions offered, joined with the wish that solutions
could be found" (1893).


Even those who have criticised Spencer's system most severely have been
generous in recognising the grandeur of his aim. Thus Principal James
Iverach, while never sparing in his disclosure of what he regards as the
weaknesses and inconsistencies of the Synthetic Philosophy, writes as
follows: "It is a great thing to be constrained to recognise that a
system is possible which may bring all human thought into unity, that
there may be a formula which may express the law of change in all
spheres where change happens, and that the universe as a whole and in
all its parts forms one system. Suppose that the particular formula of
Mr Spencer is inadequate, is a failure, yet is it not something worthy
of recognition, that a man has lived who gave his life to the
elaboration of this thought, and has so far succeeded as to make men
think that such a consummation is possible and desirable? He has widened
the thoughts of men, has enabled them to think in larger terms, and has
done something to enable men to overcome a mere provincialism of
thought. In an age of specialism he endeavoured to be universal. And
such an endeavour is worthy of the highest admiration."

Perhaps the greatest of Spencer's services was his insistence on the
Unity of Science, on the ideal of a unified outlook and inlook. It may
be that his "Synthetic Philosophy" left most of the problems of
philosophy out, but no one will deny the grandeur of his aim in seeking
to present a unified system of scientific knowledge. As Prof. A. S.
Pringle-Pattison has said: "It was much to hold aloft in an age of
specialism the banner of completely unified knowledge; and this is,
perhaps, after all, Spencer's chief claim to gratitude and remembrance.
He brought home the idea of philosophic synthesis to a greater number of
the Anglo-Saxon race than had ever conceived the idea before. His own
synthesis, in the particular form he gave it, will necessarily crumble
away. He speaks of it himself, indeed, at the close of _First
Principles_ (ed. i.), modestly enough as a more or less rude attempt to
accomplish a task which can be achieved only in the remote future and by
the combined efforts of many, which cannot be completely achieved even
then. But the idea of knowledge as a coherent whole, worked out on
purely natural (though not, therefore, naturalistic) principles--a whole
in which all the facts of human experience should be included--was a
great idea with which to familiarise the minds of his contemporaries. It
is the living germ of philosophy itself."



_A System of Synthetic Philosophy._

    First Principles. 1862 and 1900.

    Principles of Biology. 2 vols. 1864 and 1898-9.

    Principles of Psychology. 2 vols. 1855 and 1876.

    Principles of Sociology, Vol. I. 1877.
      Do. Vol. II. 1886.
      Do. Vol. III. 1896.

    Principles of Ethics, Vol. I. 1879.
      Do. Vol. II. 1892.


    An Autobiography. 2 vols. 1904.

_Other Works._

    The Study of Sociology. 1873.

    Education. 1861.

    Essays. 3 vols.

    Social Statics. 1850.

    The Man _v._ The State.

    Facts and Comments. 1902.

    Various Fragments. 1897.

    Reasons for dissenting from the Philosophy of M. Comte. 1864.

    A Rejoinder to Prof. Weismann. 1893.

    Weismannism once more.

    Factors of Organic Evolution. 1886.

_Descriptive Sociology._

Compiled and abstracted by Dr Duncan, Dr Scheppig, and Mr Collier.
Folio. Boards.


    Ancient American Races.

    Lowest Races, Negritos, Polynesians.

    African Races.

    Asiatic Races.

    American Races.

    Hebrews and Phoenicians.



1876. Bowne, E. P. The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer: being an
examination of the "First Principles" of his System. Nelson and
Philipps, New York.

1897. Clodd, Edward. Pioneers of Evolution. Grant Richards, London. Pp.

1889. Collins, F. Howard. An Epitome of the Synthetic Philosophy.

1904. Crozier, J. B. Mr Herbert Spencer and the Dangers of Specialism.
_Fortnightly Review_, lxxv. Pp. 105-120.

1875. Fischer. Ueber das Gesetz der Entwickelung mit Rücksicht auf
Herbert Spencer.

1874. Fiske, John. Outlines of Cosmic Philosophy, based on the Doctrine
of Evolution. MacMillan & Co., London.

1904. Gribble, Francis. Herbert Spencer: His Autobiography and His
Philosophy. _Fortnightly Review_, lxxv. Pp. 984-995.

1879. Guthrie, Malcolm. On Mr Spencer's Formula of Evolution as an
exhaustive statement of the changes of the universe. Trübner & Co.,
London. Pp. 267.

1882. Guthrie, Malcolm. On Mr Spencer's Unification of Knowledge.
Trübner, London. Pp. 476.

1884. Guthrie, Malcolm. On Mr Spencer's Data of Ethics, London. Pp. 122.

Green. Mr Herbert Spencer and Mr G. H. Lewes: their application of the
Doctrine of Evolution to Thought. _Contemporary Review._ December 1877,
March and July, 1878.

1894. Hudson, W. H. An introduction to the philosophy of Herbert
Spencer. Popular Edition. Watts & Co., 1904. Pp. 124.

1904. Hudson, W. H. Herbert Spencer's Autobiography. _Independent
Review_, July.

1904. Hudson, W. H. Herbert Spencer. A Character Study. _Fortnightly
Review_, January.

1904. Iverach, James. Herbert Spencer. _The Critical Review_, xiv. Pp.
99-112, 195-209.

1899. Mackintosh, Robert. From Comte to Benjamin Kidd. The appeal to
biology or evolution for human guidance. Macmillan & Co., London. Pp.

1900. Macpherson, Hector. Herbert Spencer. The man and his work. Chapman
& Hall, London. Pp. 227.

1872. Martineau, James. The Place of Mind in Nature. Williams & Norgate,

1879. Martineau, James. Essays. 2 vols. Trübner & Co., London.

1882. Michelet. Spencer's System der Philosophie. Spencer's Lehre von
dem Unerkennbaren. Leipzig, 1891.

1898. Morgan, C. Lloyd. Mr Herbert Spencer's Biology. Natural Science,
xiii. pp. 377-383.

1900. Pearson, K. The Grammar of Science, 2nd. Edition. A. & C. Black,
London. Pp. 548.

1904. Pringle-Pattison, A. S. The Life and Philosophy of Herbert
Spencer. _The Quarterly Review_, vol. 200, pp. 240-267.

1902. Sidgwick, Henry. Lectures on the Ethics of T. H. Green, Mr Herbert
Spencer and J. Martineau. Macmillan & Co., London, Pp. 374.

1905. Sidgwick, Henry. The Philosophy of Mr Herbert Spencer. In "The
Philosophy of Kant and other lectures." Macmillan & Co., London. Pp.

1904. Sorley, W. R. The Ethics of Naturalism: a criticism, 2nd Edition,
Blackwood, Edinburgh. Pp. 338.

1892. Sorley, W. R. Herbert Spencer. Article in Chambers's Encyclopædia.

1879. Sully, James. Article, "Evolution." Encyclopædia Britannica, ninth

1899. Ward, James. Naturalism and agnosticism. 2 vols. A. & C. Black,
London. Pp. 302 and 291.

_British Quarterly Review._ October 1873, and January 1877.


Acquired Characters, transmission of, 177

Adaptation, 119

America, visit to, 49

"Anti-Aggression League," 48

Athenæum Club, 42

Autobiography, 52

Baer's, Von, Law, 139, 140

Bateson, 190

Biologist, Spencer as, 93

_Biology, Principles of_, 94

"Blastodermic," 39

Body and Mind, 236

Born's experiments, 163

Carlyle, 30

Cell-life, 120

Comte, August, 29, 243

Creation, 145

Darwin, 165, 180

Darwinian Theory, 263

Death, 51

Descent, theory of, 146

Development, 113

_Development Hypothesis_, 31

Driesch, 163

Duncan, Prof., "The New Knowledge," 210

Dynamic element in life, 102

_Economist, The_, Spencer as sub-editor of, 28

_Education_, Spencer's, 259

Equilibration, direct, 197
  Indirect, 198

_Essays: Scientific, Political, and Speculative_, 35

Evolution, factors of, 180
  External factors, 195
  Internal, 196
  Universal, 209
  Inorganic, 210

Evolutionism, summary of Spencer's, 212

Ewart, Prof. Cossar, 191

Experience and Intuitions, 238

_First Principles_, 38

Geddes, Prof., 31

Genesis, 123

George Eliot, friendship with, 31

Germ-cells, 150

Germ-cells and Sperm-cells, 167

Giddings, Prof. F. H., 250

Gribble, Francis, 83, 86

Growth, 110

Heredity, problems of, 156

Hudson, Prof., 51, 80, 85, 212, 239

Huxley, friendship with, 32

_Illogical Geology_, 36

"Inconceivability," 174

Individual Organism, comparison between it and Society, 253

Intuitions, Experience and, 238

Invalid bed, invention of, 41

Isolation, 190

Italy, tour in, 42

Iverach, Prof. James, 219

Jennings, H. S., 235

Joly, Prof., 259

Lewes, G. H., 30

Life, definition of, 98
  dynamic element in, 102
  mechanism of, 107
  origin of, 220

Malthusianism, 262

Neo-malthusianism, 264

Man, Ascent of, 224

_Manners and Fashions_, 33

Mendelism, 208

Metabolism, 98

Metaphysics, Spencer's, 270

Mill, J. S., 39

Mind, evolution of, 221, 233
  Body and, 236

_Method in Education_, 33

Morgan, Prof. Lloyd, 93, 105, 171

_Music, the origin and function of_, 34

Nutrition and Reproduction, 125

Organic matter, 96

Pearson, Prof. Karl, 108, 217

_Philosophy of Style_, 70

Physiological Units, 157

_Physiology of Laughter_, 36

Population, a theory of, 192
  question, 260

Pringle-Pattison, Prof. A. S., 89

_Prison ethics_, 36

_Progress, its Law and Cause_, 34, 193

_Psychology, Principles of_, 33, 235

_Railway Morals and Railway Policy_, 33

Regeneration, 118

"Reader, The," 39

Religion, early attitude to, 271

Religion, later attitude, 274

Reproduction, Nutrition and, 125

Schäffle, 254

_Science, the Genesis of_, 33

Selection, 186, 194, 196, 204

Sidgwick, Prof., 241, 243-5

_Social Organism, The_, 36, 252

Special Creation, 145

_Social Statics_, 29

Sociological Society, 246

Sociology, 44, 242
  criticism of, 243
  and history, 247
  data of, Spencer's, 249

Spencer, Herbert, ancestry, 1;
  boyhood, 7;
  characteristics, emotional and ethical, 74;
  intellectual, 54;
  physical, 52;
  engineering, 17;
  human relations, 82;
  inventions, 18, 27;
  limitations, 59;
  methods of work, 65;
  delight in nature, 81

Stout, Prof. G. F., 233, 237

Structure and function, 115

_Synthetic Philosophy_, finished, 50

_Transcendental Physiology_, 34, 193

Truth, test of, 241

Variations, 182

Vries, H. de, 165, 190

Wallace, A. R., 180, 227

Ward, Prof. James, 218, 237

Waste and Repair, 116

Weismann, germ-plasm theory, 159
  sexual reproduction, 129
  germinal selection, 186

"X" Club, 39

Youmans, Prof., 40


       *       *       *       *       *




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