An Example Regarding the Transfer of Herbert Spencer’s Views to Turkey: Translation of İbrahim Aşkî’s Progress: Its Law and Cause

The influence of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), one of the important thinkers of the 19th century, on Ottoman intellectuals is undeniable. Especially, the organismic view of society, which he shaped around the concepts of evolution and progress, has been frequently discussed. The understanding of “progress”, which is among the founding ideas of sociology and significantly influenced the perspectives of other social sciences, also constituted the starting point of the Ottomanintellectuals. Spencer’s article titled “Progress: Its Law and Cause”, in which we find an impressive expression of this understanding, was translated into Turkishby İbrahim Aşkî [Tanık] in 1335.

In this article, Spencer argued that successive differentiations from simple to complex lie in the development of the earth, life on earth, society, state, industry, commerce, language, music, literature, fine arts and sciences. For him, progress is the development of the heterogeneous from the homogeneous, and this process of differentiation is the history of society, which is an organism, as it is the history of all organisms. Written two years before Darwin’s Origin of Species, this work stands out as an interesting work on the course of evolution and the principles of progress. In our study, the transliteration of the aforementioned text will be shared and the reason for the interest of the Ottoman intellectuals to Spencer will be discussed in the axis of the perception of progress from the First Constitutional Monarchy period until the first quarter of the 20th century.

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