An Autobiography: Herbert Spencer - Vol. 2

By Herbert Spencer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER L.
A SERIES OF ARTICLES. 1877-78. ÆT. 57-58.

WHILE words are necessary aids to all thoughts save very simple ones, they are impediments to correct thinking. Every word carried with it a cluster of associations determined by its most familiar uses, and these associations, often inappropriate to the particular case in which the word is being used, distort more or less the image it calls up. An instance of this is furnished to me by an incident which occurred when about to commence my next volume.

Government, conceived apart from any particular species of it, is a form of control. But, when we think of government, we instantly think of a ministry, a legislature, laws, and police--we think of that particular kind of government made dominant in consciousness by the reading of newspapers and by conversation over dinner- tables. If, on occasion, we extend the conception of government so as to include the control exercised over men by clergy, creeds, and religious observances, it is rather by deliberate analysis than by spontaneous association that we are led to do this. And neither spontaneously nor after consideration do we habitually include in our conception of government the regulative influence of usages, manners, ceremonies; thought, as

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