Above all, he is continuously under the influence of the individualist notion which he had done so much to explode.
Politically, Spencer is an individualist of an extreme laissez faire type, and it is in his political attitude that the consequences of his pre-Darwinian conception of Evolution are most manifest.
But for this he would hardly have established so absolute an antithesis between industrial and military competition, and have shown himself readier to recognize that the law of the struggle for existence, just because it is universal and equally (though differently) operative in every form of society, cannot be appealed to for guidance in deciding between the respective merits of an industrial or military and of an individualist or socialist organization of society.
Although he was classed in Canada as a Liberal, his tendencies would in England have been considered strongly conservative; an individualist rather than a collectivist, he opposed the intrusion of the state into the sphere of private enterprise, and showed no sympathy with the movement for state operation of railways, telegraphs and telephones, or with any kindred proposal looking to the extension of the obligations of the central government.
In his exaltation of the spiritual side of religion over its forms, his enthusiastic celebration of the love of Christ, and his assertion of the individualist principle, he represented the best side of the influences that led to the Lollard movement.
Up to that time all the leaders had been united in accepting the naturalistic formula, which was combined with an individualist and a radical tendency.
He has read Plato's Theaetetus in the light of Baconian and individualist preconceptions.
Individualism is, however, by no means identical with egoism, though egoism is always individualistic. An individualist may also be a conscientious altruist: he is by no means hostile to or aloof from society (any more than the socialist is necessarily hostile to the individual), but he is opposed to state interference with individual freedom wherever, in his opinion, it can be avoided.
Extreme individualism is pure anarchy: on the other hand Thomas Hobbes, a characteristic individualist, vigorously supported absolute government as necessary to the well-being of individuals.
They are throughout individualist, i.e.
Regarded from the individualist point of view, this line of inquiry becomes purely psychological, and the answer may be presented, as it was presented by Locke, in the fashion of a natural history of the growth of conscious experience in the mind of the subject.
This second inquiry is specifically metaphysical in bearing, and the kind of answer furnished to it by Leibnitz on the one hand, by Berkeley on the other, is in fact prescribed or determined beforehand by the fundamental conception of the individualist method with which both begin their investigations.
Any success in the attempt is due only to the fact that Berkeley introduces alongside of his individualist notion a totally new conception, that of mind itself as not in the same way one of the matters of conscious experience, but as capable of reflection upon the whole of experience and of reference to the supreme mind as the ground of all reality.
It is only in Hume that we have definitely and completely the evolution of the individualist notion as groundwork of a theory of knowledge; and it is in his writings, therefore, that we may expect to find the fundamental difficulty of that notion clearly apparent.
It is not a little remarkable that we should find in Hume, not only the sceptical dissolution of all fixity of cognition, which is the inevitable result of the individualist method, but also the clearest consciousness of the very root of the difficulty.
Thus, on the one hand, the individualist conception, when carried out to its full extent, leads to the total negation of all real cognition.
The dogmatic or individualist conception of experience had thus proved itself inadequate to the solution of Hume's difficulty regarding the notion of cause, - a difficulty which Kant, erroneously, had thought to be the only case contemplated by his predecessor.
Thus neither the formal nor the material aspect of conscious experience, when regarded from the individualist point of view, supplied any foundation for real knowledge, whether a priori or empirical.
He gradually developed extreme individualist views.
When he is actually analysing the conditions of knowledge, the influence of the individualist conception is not prominent; the conditions are stated as quite general, as conditions of knowledge.