Herbert Spencer's evolutionary
basis for ethics

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) coined the phrase "Social Darwinism" and developed Darwin’s theory further.

He felt that humans were motivated wholly by pleasure and avoiding pain, but he sought to find a balance between altruism and egotism. He theorized that humans derived pleasure from three types of "good" moral behavior by: 1) satisfying himself, 2) satisfying others, and 3) cooperation in satisfying everyone.

However Spencer attempted to develop an ethical system based on evolution. He believed that natural selection was the force behind social progress, and his writings inspired the ruthless business practices of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller who saw that intentionally aggressive monopolies were not evil but simply survival of the fittest.

Spencer would answer the two essential questions as: 1) the standard for judging good from evil was whether the most people gained pleasure or least pain from one’s action, and 2) cooperation for the greater good was self serving.

©2003 Helpmewithbiblestudy.org. A resource for learning how to read the Bible.