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The Story of Philosophy Series – How Can Societies Survive Without Disintegrating?
October 31, 2021 at 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm GMT
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In the mid-1800s, as England was ushering in the industrial era, Herbert Spencer gained prominence for his intellectual and scientific prowess. A man with varied interests and talents, Spencer was (in)famous for his social Darwinist views. He applied evolutionary theory to societies, classes, and individuals. He coined the famous phrase, ‘survival of the fittest.’ His ideas on sociology played a seminal role in shaping modern-day sociology. In his first book Social Statics, he wrote about societies being akin to organisms. He believed that “societies grow through economic and other acts of spontaneous cooperation by gregarious and social individuals, who are themselves displaying what is called a “social self-consciousness.” But his influence faded due to his laissez-faire beliefs, and he disappeared in the philosophical hinterlands. In our salon, we will attempt to clear the cobwebs of understanding around Spencer and his philosophy.
The tryst for survival in our times has evolved with progress. The issues and challenges that we face are different from the 19th and 20th centuries. So can Spencer’s ideas help alleviate some of the problems or not?
Here are some questions and themes that we will cover in our salon :
- Are Spencer’s ideas obsolete or relevant today?
- How would Spencer have reacted to our current era where governments still play a crucial role?
- How do we build free, fair, and equitable societies?
- Is there a middle ground possible between the socialist and capitalist ideological conflicts? Can ethical & moral values be preserved as societies progress? ( ideas – gene editing, cloning, surveillance, free markets, universal income, regulations)
This salon is part of an 11-month Interintellect series exploring the evolution and story of Western philosophers and their ideas through ‘The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. In subsequent months, we will explore key philosophers by reading the relevant chapter of Durant’s book and additional texts. Click here to find out more about this salon series and join us on this journey exploring the story of philosophy.
The group will be most valuable if we all set out to contribute in the spirit of vigorous and open discussion. Let us approach the reading and discussion with an open but active mind and sincere intent. Our salons’ duration ranges between 2.5-3 hours.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Additional Readings :
- The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant ( Chapter 8 – Herbert Spencer)
- Herbert Spencer – Survival of the Fittest
- In Our Time – BBC Podcast
- The Man with the Plan ( A quick preview if you aren’t able to read the book)
- Social Darwinism is back, but this time, it’s a good thing
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