Social Statics "Progress Is Not An Accident, But A Necessity"

Herbert Spencer

"Progress Is Not An Accident, But A Necessity"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: English philosopher and social scientist, Herbert Spencer is known for his application of the scientific doctrines of evolution to philosophy and ethics. His central principle is that Force is the agent of all change and organization in the universe. His ethics, which emphasize the role and function of the individual, was derived from Bentham's Utilitarianism. Inasmuch as a thorough knowledge of science would provide the key to the progress of today and the evolution of tomorrow, he saw little value in a liberal arts education. Beginning with such fundamental premises as the persistence of force, the conservation of energy, and the indestructability of matter, Spencer devised his definition of evolution: "The integration of matter and the concomitant dissipation of motion during which the matter passes from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite heterogeneity, and during which the retained motion undergoes a parallel transformation." Spencer, like many of his associates, believed that evolution was the means to man's perfectibility. The evolutionary process has currently reached a critical state of imbalance; man is not yet adapted to his social state because he retains his primitive instincts to survive at the expense of his fellowmen. "His primitive circumstances required that he should sacrifice the welfare of others to his own; his present circumstances require that he shall not do so." The continued process of adaptation is vital to the eventual evolution of the complete being:

Progress, therefore, is not an accident, but a necessity. Instead of civilization being artificial it is a part of nature; all of a piece with the development of an embryo or the unfolding of a flower. The modifications mankind have undergone, and are still undergoing, result from a law underlying the whole organic creation; and provided the human race continues, and the constitution of things remains the same, these modifications must end in completeness. . . . So surely must evil and immorality disappear; so surely must man become perfect.