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Talk:Herbert Spencer


I've restructured this page to collect the quotes by source and to provide the complete source titles, where I could identify them, which also allowed removal of a lot of redundant source data. However, there are a few problems I ran into:

  • Essays citations are ambiguous, as there are at least two Spencer publications that feature this term, and they may not even include all his essays.
  • Page numbers aren't very helpful without exact publication editions. Specifically, the page numbers for "Over-Legislation" may be extremely inaccurate, given that there are two Essays publications (The Man versus the State and Essays: Scientific, Political and Speculative) that include this essay.
  • I could not find a Spencer essay called "The Americans".
  • Some publication dates are suspect, as I found different years in different citations.

Would the editor who contributed these quotes please add the specific bibliographical information for their sources in the new References section? Thank you for your assistance. — Jeff Q (talk) 19:23, 15 May 2005 (UTC)

Source of quoteEdit

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

This Spencer quote is included in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous at the end of Appendix II, "Spiritual Experience". I have been unable to determine exactly where this quote comes from other than that book.


To the previous unidentified editor who states above that they were unable to determine where the "contempt" quote comes from:

See the section on Misattributed. The quotation has been thoroughly researched. It is not Spencer's, but it is widely misattributed to him. I updated and clarified the section from what existed prior to today's date. I fixed the chronology of the section, formatted for ease of reading and consistency with the rest of the page, linked to relevant Wikipedia articles, and clarified some of the language. I also gave two complete source citations for the information in the Misattributed section. AA members and others often have questions about Spencer in connection with this quote. It is probably the most common Spencer quote in usage, but it is not his. Radcuré (talk) 03:55, 27 May 2012 (UTC)

Brutal factsEdit

I came across a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts" with various intros. It struck me as off so I did a google book search. The earliest appearance I could find was in the 1922 book by Walter Lippman, "Public Opinion" page 15 "Herbert Spencer's tragedy of the murder of a Beautiful Theory by a Gang of Brutal Facts" (capitalization in the original). Its attribution to Spencer continued until the mid-1950s when it started being attributed to Franklin (such attribution continuing to the present day). It is similar to Thomas Huxley's quote "The great tragedy of science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact" which can be tracked back to his 1870 address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. So the first question is Spencer the actual of author of the quote that Lippman attributed to him and if so where and when. The second question is how does one add a misattribution (this is my first time working in Wikiquote) since what I have is original research. --Erp (talk) 03:51, 15 May 2018 (UTC)

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