Posted by Smokey Stover on February 18, 2006
In Reply to: A stern discipline pervades all nature ... posted by Sue on February 17, 2006
: What does this quote mean, "A stern discipline pervades all nature which is a little cruel that it may be very kind"
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was something of a polymath, presenting original and provocative ideas in several fields, especially science. He was an innovator in social philosophy (or sociology), and a strong supporter of Darwin's principles of evolution. Indeed, he helped popularize the term "evolution," and coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." This principle provides (or exemplifies) the "stern discipline which pervades all nature." As to the kindness that Spencer finds, that's part of his personal outlook. He was an original thinker, much admired (and sometimes maligned) in his lifetime. The kindness, cruelty and "stern discipline" that he found in nature are figures of speech reflecting human attitudes, of course, since "nature" is completely indifferent and inexorable. SS