He was representative of an important aspect of the Victorian period in his faith in evolutionary theory and his trust in scientific progress. He is most notably associated with the phrase `Social Darwinism', which can be roughly glossed as extreme laissez-faire economics endowed with a supposed biological sanction. Basing his ideas on the evolutionary theories of the French scientist Lamarck (1744-1829), a forerunner of Darwin, Spencer concluded that everything was in the process of development, interaction, change, growth and progress. In this way, the laws of science, nature and evolution could only be beneficial. Spencer regarded society as an organism which was evolving from a simple primitive state to a complex heterogeneous form according to the designs of an unknown and unknowable absolute force. The same theory was applied to the development of knowledge from an undifferentiated mass into the various separate sciences. Spencer's scientific determinism was extremely popular in the latter half of the 19th century. He formulated his ideas independently of Darwin and was responsible for coining the phrase `survival of the fittest' which he used as early as 1852. In that year Spencer heard Thomas Huxley's paper on oceanic hydrozoa and used some facts from it in his `Theory of Population deduced from the General Law of Animal Fertility'. He also helped to put the word `evolution' into common parlance in the 1850s. Some of his more influential books were Social Statics (1850), in which he developed his idea of progress as inevitable rather than accidental, and Education: Intellectual, Moral and Physical (1861) in which he claimed that science (including social science, psychology, economics, sociology and political theory) was the only discipline worth studying. The best-selling The Man Versus the State (1884) proclaimed the popular notion that individual freedom depended on the absence of all forms of interference including government intervention. In 1857 Spencer decided on a massive system of philosophy, beginning with the humble biological origins and ending with the highest ethical principles, that was to be his life's work. The ten volumes of his System of Synthetic Philosophy took him nearly forty years to produce and included First Principles (1862), and volumes on biology, psychology, morality and sociology. It was completed in 1896. At the height of his popularity he influenced George Eliot (with whom he was romantically linked for a time) who applied his Principles of Psychology to the detailed creation of her characters. The character of Casaubon in Middlemarch is based on Spencer. Others he influenced included T. H. Huxley, John Stuart Mill, and Beatrice Webb.
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