Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/36

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26
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as laws of social development, natural processes of rectification in society, and an adaptation of man to the conditions of social life. The scientific point of view was thus early assumed, and society was regarded not as a manufacture but as a growth. These letters were revised and published in a pamphlet in 1843.

The argument, however, was unsatisfactory from its want of depth and scientific precision, and Mr. Spencer decided in 1846 to write a work in which the leading doctrine of his pamphlet should be affiliated upon general moral principles. By reading various books upon moral philosophy he had become dissatisfied with the basis of morality which they adopt; and it became clear to him that the question of the proper sphere of government could be dealt with only by tracing ethical principles to their roots. The plan of this work was formed while Mr. Spencer was still a civil-engineer; and it was commenced in 1848, before he abandoned engineering and accepted the position of sub-editor of the Economist. It was issued, under the title of "Social Statics," at the close of 1850. In this work various developments of the ideas contained in the pamphlet above named are noticeable. It will be seen that the conception that there is an adaptation going on between human nature and the social state has become dominant. There is the idea that all social evils result from the want of this adaptation, and are in process of disappearance as the adaptation progresses. There is the notion that all morality consists in conformity to such principles of conduct as allow of the life of each individual being fulfilled, to the uttermost, consistently with the fulfillment of the lives of other individuals; and that the vital activities of the social human being are gradually being moulded into such form that they may be realized to the uttermost without mutual hindrance. Social progress is in fact viewed as a natural evolution, in which human beings are moulded into fitness for the social state, and society adjusted into fitness for the natures of men the units and the aggregate perpetually acting and reacting, until equilibrium is reached. There is recognized not only the process of continual direct adaptation of men to their circumstances by the inherited modifications of habit, but there is also recognized the process of the dying out of the unfit and the survival of the fit. And these changes are regarded as parts of a process of general evolution, tacitly affirmed as running through all animate Nature, tending ever to produce a more complete and self-sufficing individuality, and ending in the highest type of man as the most complete individual.

After finishing "Social Statics" Mr. Spencer's thoughts were more strongly attracted in the directions of biology and psychology—sciences which he saw were most intimately related with the progress of social questions; and one result reached at this time was significant. As he states in the essay on the "Laws of Organic Form," published in 1859 in the Medico-Chirurgical Review, it was in the autumn of 1851, during a country ramble with Mr. George Henry Lewes, that the germinal