Important ideas of Herbert Spencer:
Herbert Spencer was largely influenced by positivism of Auguste Comte and he often viewed the issues he studied through a lens of scientific thought and empiricism. Spencer is famous for framing his philosophical ideas through ideas of evolution, hence the term social Darwinism. Spencer viewed things through a 'principle of continuity' which states that "homogenous organisms are unstable, that organism develop from simple to more complex and heterogeneous forms, and that such evolution constituted a norm of progress"(Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Denying Darwin's claim of evolution, Spencer believed that evolution was not based on natural selection.
John Stuart Mill; Charles Lamb; Charles Kingsley; Herbert Spencer; John Ruskin; Charles Darwin
Spencer was said to have an 'organic' take on society. Based upon the nature of individual entities one could draw conclusions about what human happiness consisted of. To Spencer, social life could be viewed as an extension of the life of the natural body. Spencer approached religion in a very sensible and rational way, denouncing the existence of a god and reasoning there is no possible pathway to be knowledgeable about the nature of the divine and no way to prove that information, either. Ideas behind social Darwinism were founded on a belief that human life is built on a continuum and also a piece of a larger evolutionary process. Human society mirrors the evolution of other organisms and society and many institutions within said society can function absent of an external control. Basic bodily functions and processes worked in a similar way to social institutions. Spencer held that moral science can aptly observe key aspects of the 'laws of life', which would promote happiness for every citizen.
For happiness to be possible, there must be very few artificial restrictions on society: progress was an inevitable characteristic of evolution, it was something to be achieved only through the free exercise of human faculties. Spencer held what can be called a 'moral sense theory' through his claims, Herbert Spencer argued for liberty and individualism and human rights. For Spencer, 'liberty' "is to be measured, not by the nature of the government machinery he lives under [...] but by the relative paucity of the restraints it imposes on him" (The Man versus the State , p. 19) Spencer admitted to following earlier forms of liberalism, and then focusing more on individualist values, the philosopher moved to believe that the only function of the government should be to protect the individual rights of it's citizens. In Spencer's works themes of Growth, differentiation, integration and adaption, ideas from developmental biology unified his discussions about social issues.