skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From Herbert Spencer   2 May 1871

37 Queens Gardens | Bayswater, London, W.

2 May 1871.

Dear Mr. Darwin,

It has occurred to me that it may be worth while to write a few lines to the Contemporary Review à propos of Sir A. Grant’s article.1 I think of drawing his attention to the “Principles of Psychology” as containing proof, both analytic & synthetic, that the division between Reason & lower forms of Intelligence, which he thinks so unquestionable, does not exist.2

Before deciding on this course, however, I think it is proper to inquire whether you propose to say anything on the matter, seeing that the attack is ostensibly directed against you.

Sincerely yours, | Herbert Spencer


The reference is to Alexander Grant’s article, ‘Philosophy and Mr. Darwin’, published in the May issue of Contemporary Review (Grant 1871). Grant argued that the differences between higher and lower mental powers were differences in kind, not degree; and that humans alone had reason, or the ‘faculty of apprehending universals’ (Grant 1871, pp. 276–8).
Spencer’s reply, ‘Mental evolution’, appeared in the June issue of Contemporary Review (Spencer 1871). He summarised the argument of his Principles of psychology (Spencer 1855) for a continuity of mental evolution between reason and ‘lower’ mental functions such as instinct and reflex action.


Grant, Alexander. 1871. Philosophy and Mr. Darwin. Contemporary Review 17: 274–81.

Spencer, Herbert. 1855. The principles of psychology. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Spencer, Herbert. 1871. Mental evolution. Contemporary Review 17: 461–2.


Intends to answer Sir A. Grant’s article if CD does not. [A. Grant, "Philosophy and Mr Darwin", Contemp. Rev. 17 (1871): 274–81; H. Spencer, "Mental evolution", Contemp. Rev. 17 (1871): 461–2.]

Letter details

Letter no.
Herbert Spencer
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 177: 229
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7734,” accessed on 22 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19