The Principles of Ethics
In Two Volumes
Publication Year: 2012
Spencer provides us with an intellectual adventure rarely matched, especially in our own epoch.
—From the Introduction
Though almost forgotten today, Herbert Spencer ranks as one of the foremost individualist philosophers. His influence in the latter half of the nineteenth century was immense.
Spencer's name is usually linked with Darwin's, for it was he who penned the phrase, "survival of the fittest." Today in America he is most often admired for his trenchant essays in The Man Versus the State. But Spencer himself considered The Principles of Ethics to be his finest work. In the second volume, under "Justice," is his final statement on the role of the state. His formula for justice is summed up in these words: "Every man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man."
Published by: Liberty Fund
Herbert Spencer: A Century Later
Classical liberalism, with its focus on individual political and economic liberty, brought millions a better life than they would have had under the influence of other systems of thought. Capitalism, where consistently implemented, has been better for people than all the alternatives known to mankind. ...
The divisions of which this work consists have been published in an irregular manner. Part I was issued in 1879; Part IV in 1891; Parts II and III, forming along with Part I, the first volume, were issued in 1892; and Parts V and VI, concluding the second volume, have now, along with Part IV, been just issued. ...
Preface to Volume I
Misapprehensions would probably arise in the absence of explanations respecting the order in which the several parts of The Principles of Ethics have been, and are to be, published; for the production of the work, and its appearance in print, have proceeded in an unusual manner. ...
Preface to Part I
A reference to the program of the "System of Synthetic Philosophy" will show that the chapters herewith issued constitute the first division of the work on the Principles of Morality, with which the system ends. As the second and third volumes of the Principles of Sociology are as yet unpublished, ...
1. Conduct in General
The doctrine that correlatives imply one another-that a father cannot be thought of without thinking of a child, and that there can be no consciousness of superior without a consciousness of inferior—has for one of its common examples the necessary connection between the conceptions of whole and part. ...
2. The Evolution of Conduct
We have become quite familiar with the idea of an evolution of structures throughout the ascending types of animals. To a considerable degree we have become familiar with the thought that an evolution of functions has gone on pari passu with the evolution of structures. ...
3. Good and Bad Conduct
By comparing its meanings in different connections and observing what they have in common, we learn the essential meaning of a word; and the essential meaning of a word that is variously applied, may best be learnt by comparing with one another those applications of it which diverge most widely. ...
4. Ways of Judging Conduct
Intellectual progress is by no one trait so adequately characterized, as by development of the idea of causation; since development of this idea involves development of so many other ideas. Before any way can be made, thought and language must have advanced far enough to render properties or attributes thinkable as such, ...
5. The Physical View
Every moment we pass instantly from men's perceived actions to the motives implied by them; and so are led to formulate these actions in mental terms rather than in bodily terms. Thoughts and feelings are referred to when we speak of any one's deeds with praise or blame; ...
6. The Biological View
The truth that the ideally moral man is one in whom the moving equilibrium is perfect, or approaches nearest to perfection, becomes, when translated into physiological language, the truth that he is one in whom the functions of all kinds are duly fulfilled. Each function has some relation, direct or indirect, to the needs of life: ...
7. The Psychological View
The last chapter, in so far as it dealt with feelings in their relation to conduct, recognized only their physiological aspects: their psychological aspects were passed over. In this chapter, conversely, we are not concerned with the constitutional connections between feelings, as incentives or deterrents, ...
8. The Sociological View
Not for the human race only, but for every race, there are laws of right living. Given its environment and its structure, and there is for each kind of creature a set of actions adapted in their kinds, amounts, and combinations, to secure the highest conservation its nature permits. ...
9. Criticisms and Explanations
Comparisons of the foregoing chapters with one another, suggest sundry questions which must be answered partially, if not completely, before anything can be done towards reducing ethical principles from abstract forms to concrete forms. ...
10. The Relativity of Pains and Pleasures
A truth of cardinal importance as a datum of ethics, which was incidentally referred to in the last chapter, must here be set forth at full length. I mean the truth that not only men of different races, but also different men of the same race, and even the same men at different periods of life, have different standards of happiness. ...
11. Egoism Versus Altruism
Of self-evident truths so dealt with, the one which here concerns us is that a creature must live before it can act. From this it is a corollary that the acts by which each maintains his own life must, speaking generally, precede in imperativeness all other acts of which he is capable. ...
12. Altruism Versus Egoism
If we define altruism as being all action which, in the normal course of things, benefits others instead of benefiting self, then, from the dawn of life, altruism has been no less essential than egoism. Though primarily it is dependent on egoism, yet secondarily egoism is dependent on it. ...
13. Trial and Compromise
If the opposed statements are severally valid, or even if each of them is valid in part, the influence must be that pure egoism and pure altruism are both illegitimate. If the maxim "Live for self" is wrong, so also is the maxim "Live for others." Hence a compromise is the only possibility. ...
As exhibited in the last chapter, the compromise between the claims of self and the claims of others seems to imply permanent antagonism between the two. The pursuit by each of his own happiness while paying due regard to the happiness of his fellows, apparently necessitates the ever-recurring question— ...
15. Absolute and Relative Ethics
As applied to ethics, the word "absolute" will by many be supposed to imply principles of right conduct that exist out of relation to life as conditioned on the earth—out of relation to time and place, and independent of the universe as now visible to us—"eternal" principles, as they are called. ...
16. The Scope of Ethics
At the outset it was shown that as the conduct with which ethics deals, is a part of conduct at large, conduct at large must be understood before this part can be understood. After taking a general view of conduct, not human only but subhuman, and not only as existing but as evolving, ...
1. The Confusion of Ethical Thought
If, in common with other things, human feelings and ideas conform to the general law of evolution, the implication is that the set of conceptions constituting ethics, together with the associated sentiments, arise out of a relatively incoherent and indefinite consciousness; ...
2. What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?
Under this title, accepted in its full meaning, may be ranged many kinds of acts—acts so many and various that they cannot be dealt with in one chapter. Here I propose to restrict the application of the title to acts inflicting bodily injury on others to the extent of killing or wounding them-acts of kinds which we class as destructive. ...
As exhibited in the last chapter, the compromise between the claims of self and the claims of others seems to imply permanent antagonism between the two. The pursuit by each of his own happiness while paying due regard to the happiness of his fellows, apparently necessitates the ever-recurring question ...
Between physically injuring another, partially or to the death, and injuring him either by taking possession of his body and labor, or of his property, the kinship in nature is obvious. Both direct and indirect injuries are comprehended under the title "Aggression"; ...
Among intelligent creatures the struggle for existence entails aggressions. Where these are not the destructive aggressions of carnivorous creatures on their prey, they are the aggressions, not necessarily destructive but commonly violent, of creatures competing with one another for food. ...
Perhaps the soul of goodness in things evil is by nothing better exemplified than by the good thing, justice, which, in a rudimentary form, exists within the evil thing revenge. Meeting aggression by counteraggression is, in the first place, an endeavor to avoid being suppressed by the aggressor, ...
To bring into intelligible order the kinds of conduct ordinarily grouped under the name generosity is difficult; partly because much which passes under the name is not really prompted by generous feeling, and partly because generosity rightly so-called is complex in nature and its composition variable. ...
The division between the subject matter of this chapter and that of the last chapter, is in large measure artificial, and defensible only for convenience' sake. Kindness, pity, mercy, which we here group under the general head of humanity, are closely allied to generosity; ...
Complete truthfulness is one of the rarest of virtues. Even those who regard themselves as absolutely truthful are daily guilty of overstatements and understatements. Exaggeration is almost universal. The perpetual use of the word "very," where the occasion does not call for it, shows how widely diffused and confirmed is the habit of misrepresentation. ...
Under the one name "obedience" are grouped two kinds of conduct, which have widely different sanctions: the one sanction being permanent and the other temporary. Filial obedience and political obedience being thus bracketed, the idea of virtuousness is associated with both; ...
If we are to understand the origins and variations of the sentiments, ethical and proethical, which have been entertained in different times and places concerning industry and the absence of industry, we must first note certain fundamental distinctions between classes of human activities, and between their relations to the social state. ...
Such ethical, or rather proethical, sentiments as attach to temperance, have primarily, like sundry of the associated proethical sentiments, religious origins. As shown in The Principles of Sociology, section 140, the bearing of hunger becomes in many cases a virtue, because it is a sequence of leaving food for the ancestor, ...
Before we can understand fully the ethical aspects of chastity, we must study its biological and sociological sanctions. Conduciveness to welfare, individual or social or both, being the ultimate criterion of evolutionary ethics, the demand for chastity has to be sought in its effects under given conditions. ...
14. Summary of Inductions
Where the data are few and exact, definite conclusions can be drawn; but where they are numerous and inexact, the conclusions drawn must be proportionately indefinite. Pure mathematics exemplifies the one extreme, and sociology the other. ...
The foregoing fourteen chapters have shown that ethical sentiments and ideas are, in each place and time, determined by the local form of human nature, the social antecedents, and the surrounding circumstances. Hence the question arises—How from all which is special and temporary shall we separate that which is general and permanent? ...
In a systematic treatise the express statement of certain commonplaces is inevitable. A coherent body of geometrical theorems, for instance, has to be preceded by self-evident axioms. This must be the excuse for here setting down certain familiar truths . ...
Though the ethically enjoined limitation of life-sustaining activities, specified towards the close of the last chapter, apparently implies that rest is ethically enjoined, and in a large measure does so, yet this corollary must be definitely stated and enlarged on for several reasons. ...
Except perhaps in agreeing that gluttony is to be reprobated and that the gourmet, as well as the gourmand, is a man to be regarded with scant respect, most people will think it is absurd to imply, as the above title does, that ethics has anything to say about the taking of food. ...
To write sundry chapters on the ethics of individual life and to say nothing about the taking of stimulants is out of the question. While, on large parts of private conduct, most men pass no moral judgments, and assume that they are subject to none; over that part of private conduct which concerns the drinking of fermented liquors, ...
Taken in its widest sense, culture means preparation for complete living. It includes, in the first place, all such discipline and all such knowledge as are needful for, or conducive to, efficient self-sustentation and sustentation of family. And it includes, in the second place, all such development of the faculties at large, ...
I have closed the last chapter with a division, the subject matter of which links it on to the subject matter of this chapter. We pass insensibly from the activities and passivities implied by aesthetic culture, to sundry of those which come under the head of relaxations and amusements. ...
Up to the present point there has been maintained, if not absolutely yet with tolerable clearness, the division between the ethics of individual life and the ethics of social life; but we come, in this chapter and the chapter which follows it, to a part of ethics which is in a sense intermediate. ...
The subject matter of this chapter is of course only in part separable from the subject matter of the last chapter. But though in discussing the ethics of marriage, as primarily concerning the relations of parents to each other, it has been needful to take account of the relations of parents to offspring, ...
10. General Conclusions
The title of this division—"The Ethics of Individual Life" — has excited a publicly expressed curiosity respecting the possible nature of its contents. Nothing beyond prudential admonitions could, it was thought, be meant; and there was evident surprise that ethical sanction should be claimed for these. ...
About the Author, Production Notes
Tibor R. Machan teaches at Chapman University, California. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, California.
Preface to Volume II
Now that, by this issue of Parts V and VI, along with Part IV previously published, I have succeeded in complet forms a subject matter unlikely to admit of specific statements private conduct are involved with the complexities of relations reply is that in that chief division of ethics treating of justice, it tance. If it be said that throughout the final divisions of ethics, ...
Preface to Part IV
...before I reached the last part of the task I have marked out for part of the task" -the affiliation of ethics on the doctrine of as subsidiary," I did not like to contemplate the probability of failure in executing it. Hence the decision to write The Data of Principles of Ethics was, without hesitation, decided upon: the ...
1. Animal Ethics
Those who have not read the first division of this work will be surprised by the above title. But the chapters "Conduct in General" and "The Evolution of Conduct" will have made clear to those who have read them that something which may be regarded as animal ethics is implied. ...
2. Subhuman Justice
Of the two essential but opposed principles of action by pursuance of which each species is preserved, we are here concerned only with the second. Passing over the law of the family as composed of adults and young, we have now to consider exclusively the law of the species as composed of adults only. ...
3. Human Justice
The contents of the last chapter foreshadow the contents of this. As, from the evolution point of view, human life must be regarded as a further development of subhuman life, it follows that from this same point of view, human justice must be a further development of subhuman justice. ...
4. The Sentiment of Justice
Acceptance of the doctrine of organic evolution determines certain ethical conceptions. The doctrine implies that the numerous organs in each of the innumerable species of animals, have been either directly or indirectly moulded into fitness for the requirements of life by constant converse with those requirements. ...
5. The Idea of Justice
While describing the sentiment of justice the way has been prepared for describing the idea of justice. Though the two are intimately connected they may be clearly distinguished. ...
6. The Formula of Justice
After tracing up the evolution of justice in its simple form, considered objectively as a condition to the maintenance of life; after seeing how justice as so considered becomes qualified by a new factor when the life is gregarious, more especially in the human race; ...
7. The Authority of This Formula
By those who have been brought up in the reigning school of politics and morals, nothing less than scorn is shown for every doctrine which implies restraint on the doings of immediate expediency or what appears to be such. Along with avowed contempt for "abstract principles" and generalizations, ...
8. Its Corollaries
Men's activities are many in their kinds and the consequent social relations are complex. Hence, that the general formula of justice may serve for guidance, deductions must be drawn severally applicable to special classes of cases. The statement that the liberty of each is bounded only by the like liberties of all, ...
9. The Right to Physical Integrity
For using a title that is so apparently pedantic, my defense must be that no other adequately expresses everything to be included in the chapter. The physical integrity which has to be claimed for each, may at the one extreme be destroyed by violence, and at the other extreme interfered with by the nausea which a neighboring nuisance causes. ...
10. The Rights to Free Motion and Locomotion
As direct deductions from the formula of justice, the right of each man to the use of unshackled limbs, and the right to move from place to place without hindrance, are almost too obvious to need specifying. Indeed these rights, more perhaps than any others, are immediately recognized in thought as corollaries. ...
11. The Rights to the Uses of Natural Media
A man may be entirely uninjured in body by the actions of fellow men, and he may be entirely unimpeded in his movements by them, and he may yet be prevented from carrying on the activities needful for maintenance of life, by traversing his relations to the physical environment on which his life depends. ...
12. The Right of Property
Since all material objects capable of being owned, are in one way or other obtained from the earth, it results that the right of property is originally dependent on the right to the use of the earth. While there were yet no artificial products, and natural products were therefore the only things which could be appropriated, ...
13. The Right of Incorporeal Property
Even the dog, which not only fights to retain a bone he has found but fights also to preserve the coat or other object left in his charge by his master, can recognize ownership of a visible, tangible object; and hence it is clear that only a small reach of intelligence is needed for framing in thought the right of material property. ...
14. The Rights of Gift and Bequest
Complete ownership of anything implies power to make over the ownership to another; since a partial or entire interdict implies partial or entire ownership by the authority issuing the interdict, and therefore limits or overrides the ownership. Hence, if the right of property is admitted, the right of gift is admitted. ...
15. The Rights of Free Exchange and Free Contract
What was said at the outset of the last chapter concerning the right of gift, may be said here, with change of terms, concerning the right of exchange; for exchange may not unfitly be regarded as a mutual canceling of gifts. Probably most readers will think this a fanciful interpretation of it; ...
16. The Right to Free Industry
Though, under one of its aspects, industrial freedom is implied by the rights to free motion and locomotion; and though, under another of its aspects, it is implied by the rights to free exchange and free contract; yet it has a further aspect, not clearly included in these, which must be specifically stated. ...
17. The Rights of Free Belief and Worship
If we interpret the meanings of words literally, to assert freedom of belief as a right is absurd; since by no external power can this be taken away. Indeed an assertion of it involves a double absurdity; for while belief cannot really be destroyed or changed by coercion from without, it cannot really be destroyed or changed by coercion from within. ...
18. The Rights of Free Speech and Publication
The subject matter of this chapter is scarcely separable from that of the last. As belief, considered in itself, does not admit of being controlled by external power—as it is only the profession of belief which can be taken cognizance of by authority and permitted or prevented, ...
19. A Retrospect with an Addition
Where men's natures and their institutions are incongruous, there exists a force tending to produce change. Either the institutions will remold the nature or the nature will remold the institutions, or partly the one and partly the other; and eventually a more stable state will establish itself. ...
20. The Rights of Women
When in certain preceding chapters the fundamental principle of justice was discussed, a relevant question which might have been raised, I decided to postpone, because I thought discussion of it would appropriately introduce the subject matter of this chapter. ...
21. The Rights of Children
The reader who remembers that at the outset we recognized a fundamental distinction between the ethics of the family and the ethics of the state, and saw that welfare of the species requires the maintenance of two antagonist principles in them respectively, ...
22. Political Rights—So-Called
Every day yields illustrations of the way in which men think only of the proximate and ignore the remote. The power of a locomotive is currently ascribed to steam. There is no adequate consciousness of the fact that the steam is simply an intermediator and not an initiator—that the initiator is the heat of the fire. ...
23. The Nature of the State
The study of evolution at large makes familiar the truth that the nature of a thing is far from being fixed. Without change of identity, it may at one time have one nature and at a subsequent time quite a different nature. The contrast between a nebulous spheroid and the solid planet into which it eventually concentrates, ...
24. The Constitution of the State
If to preserve the lives of its units, and to maintain that freedom to pursue the objects of life which is ordinarily possessed by unconquered peoples, a society has to use its corporate action chiefly for dealing with environing societies; ...
25. The Duties of the State
Whether or not they accept the ethical principles set forth in the opening chapters of this part, most readers will agree with the practical applications of them made in subsequent chapters. Some, indeed, are so averse to deductive reasoning that they would gladly reject its results, ...
26. The Limits of State Duties
During those early stages in which the family and the state were not differentiated, there naturally arose the theory of paternal government. The members of the group were "held together by common obedience to their highest living ascendant, the father, grandfather, or great-grandfather." ...
27. The Limits of State Duties—Continued
We saw (in chap. 23) that at a later stage of evolution a society may acquire a nature fundamentally unlike the nature it had at an earlier stage; and we drew the corollary that a theory of state duties appropriate when it had one nature must be inappropriate when it has the other nature. Here we have to draw a further corollary. ...
28. The Limits of State Duties—Continued
"In simple matters direct perception cannot be trusted: to insure trustworthy conclusions we must use some mode of measurement by which the imperfections of the senses may be corrected. Contrariwise, in complex matters unaided contemplation suffices: we can adequately sum up and balance the evidences ...
29. The Limits of State Duties—Concluded
Of the many reasons for restricting the range of governmental actions, the strongest remains to be named. The end which the statesman should keep in view as higher than all other ends, is the formation of character. And if there is entertained a right conception of the character which should be formed, ...
1. Kinds of Altruism
One division of an earlier work in this series of works—The Principles of Psychology—was devoted to showing that all intellectual operations are ultimately decomposable into recognitions of likeness and unlikeness, with mental grouping of the like and separation of the unlike. ...
2. Restraints on Free Competition
Beyond those limits to the actions of individuals which it is the business of the state to maintain, individuals have to impose on themselves further limits, prompted by sympathetic consideration for their struggling fellow citizens. For the battle of life as carried on by competition, even within the bounds set by law, ...
3. Restraints on Free Contract
Society in its corporate capacity cannot be blamed for enforcing contracts to the letter—is often, indeed, to be blamed because it does not enforce them, but deliberately countenances the breaking of them, or itself breaks them; as when, after the houses forming a street have been taken on lease at high rents, ...
4. Restraints on Undeserved Payments
Still limiting ourselves to transactions in which money, or some equivalent, plays a part, we have here to consider a kind of negative beneficence which at first sight seems wholly unbeneficent. In daily occurring instances, immediate sympathy prompts certain actions which sympathy of a more abstract and higher form interdicts ...
5. Restraints on Displays of Ability
Beyond the material advantages which men give and receive under the system of social cooperation, they give and receive nonmaterial advantages. These are the benefits, or satisfactions, or pleasures, obtained during social intercourse; and which may or may not be apportioned in the most desirable ways. ...
6. Restraints on Blame
The subject matter of this chapter joins naturally on to that of the last chapter—is, in fact, scarcely to be parted from it: since criticisms passed in conversation and controversy necessarily imply a kind of blame. But blame, specially so called, is sufficiently distinguishable to be separately treated. ...
7. Restraints on Praise
They see at once that regard for truth should in many cases suppress the wish to give pleasure by applause. They do not doubt that when, even if there is no thought of gaining favor, there is professed an admiration which is not felt, a fault has been committed. ...
8. The Ultimate Sanctions
Though occasionally, in the foregoing chapters, I have briefly indicated the origin of the obligation to be beneficent, I have not under each head referred to this origin, but have thought it best here to emphasize it generally. ...
1. Marital Beneficence
In the history of humanity as written, the saddest part concerns the treatment of women; and had we before us its unwritten history we should find this part still sadder. I say the saddest part because, though there have been many things more conspicuously dreadful—cannibalism, the torturings of prisoners, ...
2. Parental Beneficence
Already in the chapter "Parenthood," forming part of "The Ethics of Individual Life," much has been said which might equally well or better have been reserved for treatment under the above title. But the conduct of parents to children has still several aspects, ...
3. Filial Beneficence
Many years of childhood have to pass before there can be entertained the thought of naturally derived obligations to parents-whether those which justice imposes or those which beneficence imposes. The obligation to obedience is indeed perpetually insisted upon; ...
4. Aiding the Sick and the Injured
Part of the subject matter of the preceding three chapters is included under the title of this chapter; for marital beneficence, parental beneficence, and filial beneficence, severally dictate solicitous care of any member of the family who is suffering from illness or from accident. ...
5. Succor to the Ill-Used and the Endangered
In everyone who is capable of ethical ideas and sentiments, more than one kind of motive prompts the defense of those who are aggressed upon: especially when they are weaker than the aggressors. There cooperate an immediate sympathy with the pains, mentally or bodily, inflicted; ...
6. Pecuniary Aid to Relatives and Friends
A curious change of sentiments has accompanied a curious change of obligations, during the transition from that ancient type of social structure in which the family is the unit of composition to that modern type in which the individual is the unit of composition. ...
7. Relief of the Poor
We enter now upon the subject with which the conception of beneficence is almost wholly identified in some minds, and chiefly identified in many minds. With the word beneficence (or rather with the word benevolence, which commonly usurps its place) there usually springs up the idea of openhanded generosity to those in want. ...
8. Social Beneficence
Is each person under obligation to carry on social intercourse? May he, without any disregard of claims upon him, lead a solitary life, or a life limited to the family circle? Or does positive beneficence dictate the cultivating of friendships and acquaintanceships to the extent of giving and receiving hospitalities? ...
9. Political Beneficence
The injunction ascribed to Charles I, "Touch no state matters," was one appropriately enough promulgated by a king; for a king naturally likes to have his own way. Ready conformity to the injunction, however, on the part of subjects, does not appear so natural; and yet throughout the past it has been general, and is not uncommon even now. ...
10. Beneficence at Large
Most readers have been surprised by much which has, in the foregoing chapters, and especially the later ones, been included under the head of beneficence . Only special parts of social and political conduct are usually thought of as having ethical aspects; whereas here most parts of them have been dealt with as having such aspects. ...
Page Count: 1136
Publication Year: 2012
OCLC Number: 868834799
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