[lit-ideas] Re: The meaning of life

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 09 Dec 2008 17:05:55 -0800

"Survival of the fittest" is I believe a concept Darwin imported from Herbert, who was an 
economist. (Previously he only used "natural selection.") It's unfortunate in that it mixes 
prescriptive with descriptive terms (survival with "fitness")

The concept would seem to have been imported by Spencer from Darwin; the actual phrase was first used, as reported below, by Herbert Spencer, he seems to have got the idea from Darwin. Darwin didn't use the expression in print until the 5th printing of Origin [1869], where it's the title of Book IV. (Origin was first published in 1859.)

'While the British economist Herbert Spencer is often credited with introducing the phrase "survival of the fittest" in his 1851 work Social Statics (relating to free market economics) or his First Principles of a New system of Philosophy of 1862, he actually did not use the phrase until after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. and introduced it in his Principles of Biology of 1864, vol. 1, p. 444, writing "This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called 'natural selection', or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life."'


'This preservation of favourable individual differences and variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious, I have called Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest.' [Darwin, Origin]


(The foregoing is McScholarship. We provide summer and holiday employment for high school and college students, who would otherwise lose themselves in philosophy.)

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute
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