Herbert Spencer (England, 1820 – 1903) is one of the most studied psychologists of the 19th century. His work also includes writings in the fields of philosophy, anthropology and sociology.

Spencer is especially remembered for being the author of the expression “the survival of the fittest” , a phrase he uttered after studying Charles Darwin’s work in depth. Moreover, he was one of the authors who developed his thought around the theory of Lamarck.

Phrases and famous quotes from Herbert Spencer

In today’s article we wanted to collect Herbert Spencer’s best quotes. Through his famous quotes we can get closer to his thoughts and know first hand some of his most valuable reflections.

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1. Education is about character building.

A somewhat innovative vision of the purpose of education.

If men use their freedom in such a way that they give it up, can they be considered less of a slave? If the people elect a despot to govern them by plebiscite, are they still free because despotism has been their own work?

A philosophical reflection that is still a subject of study today.

3. The function of liberalism in the past was to put a limit on the powers of kings. The function of true liberalism in the future will be to put a limit on the power of parliaments.

A heterodox view of this political and economic system.

4. With a clear head, a quick imagination and a sensitive ear, let all unnecessary rhetorical precepts pass by.

Good philosophers are not lost in aesthetic martingals.

5. The society exists for the benefit of its members, not the members for the benefit of the society.

An individualistic view of the ultimate purpose of living in community.

6. Civilization is the progress from an undefined and incoherent homogeneity towards a defined and coherent heterogeneity.

Respect for ethnic and cultural minorities would be proof that a civilization had achieved one of its priority objectives.

7. The universal basis of cooperation is to receive mutual benefits.

If only one member of a team wins, the principle of reciprocity is not being observed.

8. Limiting one’s freedom to the freedom of the other excludes improper actions, but does not exclude more inappropriate ones.

A sentence by Herbert Spencer to free interpretation on individual and collective freedom.

9. The anarchist denies the right of any government – be it autocratic or democratic – to interfere with his individual freedom.

One of the anarchist principles, in Spencer’s words.

10. Old forms of government are growing so oppressive that they must be eliminated, even at the risk of terror.

Another phrase that attests to his predilection for a liberal form of government.

11. The genius survives; everything else dies.

The mentality of the geniuses makes the difference.

12. Time: what men always try to kill, but end up killing them.

The eternal struggle. Do you need more famous quotes about time?

13. All socialism implies slavery.

His reflection on this political system based on state power.

14. There is a principle that resists all information, that resists all research, that never fails to keep man in perennial ignorance… It is the principle of dismissing what has not been investigated.

Scientists often suffer from this tendency not to value what has not yet been studied in depth.

15. Keep calm in discussions, because passion can turn error into fault, and truth into discourtesy.

Life advice from the more diplomatic Herbert Spencer.

16. Every man is free to do as he pleases, provided he does not infringe upon the freedom of any other man.

The golden rule of liberalism.

17. Philosophy is the unification of thought.

A famous quote from Herbert Spencer.

  • You may be interested in: “75 philosophical phrases with which to cultivate your thought”

18. It is assumed that the citizen agreed to everything his representative could do when he voted for him.

One of the problems of representative democracy: non-accountability.

19. Morality knows nothing of geographical boundaries or race distinctions.

Ethical principles are unwavering and know of no circumstances or extenuating circumstances.

20. The cult of heroism is stronger where there is less freedom of conscience.

The more ignorant a people are, the more they tend to elevate specific individuals and grant them high levels of power over their lives and destiny.

21. Architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry can be called the efflorescence of civilized life.

To transcend common life, that is the mission of the various artistic disciplines.

22. No one can be perfectly free until all are free, no one can be perfectly moral until all are moral, no one can be perfectly happy until all are happy.

In an ideal society we can all aspire to share ethical ideals.

23.Progress is not an accident, but a necessity.

It is fundamental for the individuals of each society to feel that their efforts bear fruit.

24.The great goal of education is not knowledge, but action.

Knowledge must drive action and optimise civilisation.

25. Train yourself instead of waiting to be trained and modeled.

In this sentence, Herbert Spencer urges us to seek our own path.