Herbert Spencer

Probably no intellectual has suffered more distortion and abuse than
Spencer. He is continually condemned for things he never said β€”
indeed, he is taken to task for things he explicitly denied. The target
of academic criticism is usually the mythical Spencer rather than the
real Spencer; and although some critics may derive immense satisfaction
from their devastating refutations of a Spencer who never existed,
these treatments hinder rather than advance the cause of knowledge.
~ George H. Smith (Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies, p. 293)

Roderick T. Long has long been a defender of Spencer and once wrote:

I don’t know what it is about Herbert Spencer that brings out the worst in cultural historians; but the tendency to recycle the same bizarre, age-old smears against him, without ever checking the facts, remains firmly entrenched. Spencer, it seems, is a ready-made scapegoat, attacked because others have made it fashionable to attack him; and few bother to read what the man actually wrote, because “everybody knows” that his ideas, whatever they were, were inhuman and worthless.

To those, like myself, who admire Spencer as a profound thinker and a hero of liberty, the shameful treatment he regularly receives at the hands of careless and credulous scholars is especially infuriating. Indeed, lately I’ve found myself turning into something of a one-man Herbert Spencer Anti-Defamation League. (See my recent skirmishes here, here, and here.) Well, so be it; as long as scholars continue to misrepresent Herbert Spencer, I’ll continue to cry foul.

Those people who love truth will applaud Long’s continued attempts to set the record straight even if he is tilting at windmills. Leftists (and others) love to denounce the “evil men” with a self-righteous vengeance that needs no real truth of facts to get into the way. It is almost cruel to point out to the Spenser haters that they are full of the stinky brown stuff. (almost but not quite)


One thought on “Herbert Spencer

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