A blog dedicated to providing quotes by and posts relating to one of the most influential (and quotable!) authors of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). If you do not know much about GKC, I suggest visiting the webpage of the American Chesterton Society as well as this wonderful Chesterton Facebook Page by a fellow Chestertonian

I also have created a list detailing examples of the influence of Chesterton if you are interested, that I work on from time to time.

(Moreover, for a list of short GKC quotes, I have created one here, citing the sources)

"...Stevenson had found that the secret of life lies in laughter and humility."

-Heretics (1905)



Thursday, March 12, 2015

I guess I should say that I'm gone from my GKC blog for Lent. (Yeah, a little late in stating that, but....)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"I have not the rudiment of anything resembling a conscience (I mean in this respect)..."

In a leading article in a leading paper, insisting on the need of vaccination in face of the small-pox scare or menace, the writer observes, "Is it really worth while being obsolete and retrograde by resisting vaccination when, at regularly recurrent intervals, that resistance brings such penalties?"- referring to the quarantine of Gloucester. I select this subject because it is one of the very few subjects on which I have no opinion whatever. I know nothing against vaccination. I know nothing about vaccination. I have not the rudiment of anything resembling a conscience (I mean in this respect), far less a conscientious objection calculated to impress a magistrate. I should certainly be vaccinated every other month or so, if any really responsible authority insists on it; for where conviction makes no express objection, civic obedience is the rule. I am therefore taking a case in which I have no controversial bias one way or the other, so that I can protest on impartial intellectual grounds against a certain controversial method. I protest against one bad argument which makes a botheration about a hundred different questions, but which is best represented by calling the anti-vaccinationst's position "obsolete and retrograde."

Now, what is wrong with this argument is that it always means a refusal to discuss a question on its merits. I do not propose to discuss anti-vaccination on its merits. I do not know whether anti-vaccination has any merits to discuss. I do not propose to discuss it at all. But I am quite certain that people ought to discuss it on its merits, if they do discuss it at all. If I were called upon to consider the subject I should try to consider the subject itself, and not these rhetorical recriminations about whether a thing is old or new. I should not ask whether the anti-vaccinationist was retrograde, but whether he was right. I should not ask whether the neglect of vaccination was obsolete, but whether it was wrong. The case of the word "obsolete" especially gives the argument away, for it is obvious that if a sufficient number of people did wrong it would cease to be obsolete, however clearly it was wrong. It is obvious that the controversialist is not really convinced that anti-vaccination is obsolete; on the contrary, he is fighting against some alleged danger that vaccination  will be obsolete. If he were not fighting against that, it would not be worth his while to fight at all.

And it is obvious that if a new theory appears later than vaccination, the latter does become relatively obsolete, or at least relatively retrograde. But it remains exactly as right or wrong as it was before...

I have taken this very elementary example to illustrate a very elementary truism, because it is exactly this obvious truth that needs to be repeated to the point of tedium in answer to half-a-hundred heresies today. This talk about progress and retrogression is to be resisted, not because progress is never to be achieved, not because retrogression is never to be deplored, but because the talk about these two abstractions always hampers the discussion of the intrinsic truth involved....What we want to know is whether vaccination does, in fact, prevent small-pox. We may not be in a position to know; we may not have the training to know; it may not lie in our own line of business or duty to know; we may not even very much want to know; but that is the only thing that is worth knowing. To be told in a vague way about the chronological order in which the two things happened to appear in history, or to be told that each of them is called by its enemies retrogressive and by its friends progressive is to get no nearer to that nucleus of the matter at all...The questions we really want to ask are in any case difficult enough to answer. When they are questions of scientific evidence, they would in any case put an ordinary person to a great deal of trouble in order to collect the evidence. But his only intelligent course is either to collect it or leave it alone, as I leave vaccination alone. To discuss whether one thing is really more old-fashioned than another, or more new-fangled than another, is a sheer waste of his time. And to throw himself thoughtlessly on to the side of whatever he has heard is new-fangled against anything he has heard is old-fashioned will be something worse than a waste of his life; it is very likely to be the positive poisoning of his life with all sorts of sophistry and insanity.

This very simple fallacy, which I have here once more indicated in equally simple language, is indeed applied not only to question like vaccination, about which I have the lofty impartiality of ignorance, but to many questions on which I have the strong partisanship which commonly comes with a certain amount of knowledge. But I am more interested for the moment in the fallacy itself than in even the most important problems to which it is applied. It seems to me that if we could get this one drivelling digression out of the way, we should establish something like a short cut to the heart of every problem. Let us not discuss whether it is best to go back or best to go forward, but what is really the best place to go to. Let us not discuss whether it is best to stay wherever we are, but whether we have really found the best place to stay in. The infantile simplicity of this distinction does not seem even yet to be made clear to many critics discussing matters in which I happen to be more interested than I am in anti-vaccinationists, and about which I happen even to know a little more than I know about small-pox....

Anyhow, the first step to sanity and stability of action is this step of considering institutions and proposals intrinsically and on their merits. If the Chinese invented fireworks, we need not ask in what Chinese dynasty it was done before we consent to send up a rocket to save a sinking ship. If the ancient Egyptians had surgical instruments, we need not verify the exact date of Tutankhamen before we cut off a man's leg to save his life. It may be sentimental always to regret the past; it is even more sentimental always to regret any regret of the past. What we want is to be free to take our pick of the past for the necessities of the present.
-July 28, 1923, Illustrated London News

Friday, February 6, 2015

The critic of the Crusade talks as if it had sought out some inoffensive tribe or temple in the interior of Thibet, which was never discovered until it was invaded. They seem entirely to forget that long before the Crusaders had dreamed of riding to Jerusalem, the Moslems had almost ridden into Paris. They seem to forget that if the Crusaders nearly conquered Palestine, it was but a return upon the Moslems who had nearly conquered Europe [...] The Crusade was the counter-attack. It was the defensive army taking the offensive in its turn, and driving back the enemy to his base.
-The New Jerusalem (1920)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A subject always seems absolutely simple while we literally know nothing about it.
-July 15, 1916, Illustrated London News

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"The strong words are all put in; the chain of thought is left out."

Chesterton on the reporting of speeches; I think the Pope can relate...lol.

Surely the art of reporting speeches is in a strange state of degeneration. We should not object, perhaps, to the reporter’s making the speeches much shorter than they are; but we do object to his making all the speeches much worse than they are. And the method which he employs is one which is dangerously unjust. When a statesman or philosopher makes an important speech, there are several courses which the reporter might take without being unreasonable. Perhaps the most reasonable course of all would be not to report the speech at all. Let the world live and love, marry and give in marriage, without that particular speech, as they did (in some desperate way) in the days when there were no newspapers. A second course would be to report a small part of it; but to get that right. A third course, far better if you can do it, is to understand the main purpose and argument of the speech, and report that in clear and logical language of your own. In short, the three possible methods are, first, to leave the man’s speech alone; second, to report what he says or some complete part of what he says; and third, to report what he means. But the present way of reporting speeches (mainly created, I think, by the scrappy methods of the Daily Mail) is something utterly different from both these ways, and quite senseless and misleading.

 The present method is this: the reporter sits listening to a tide of words which he does not try to understand, and does not, generally speaking, even try to take down; he waits until something occurs in the speech which for some reason sounds funny, or memorable, or very exaggerated, or, perhaps, merely concrete; then he writes it down and waits for the next one. If the orator says that the Premier is like a porpoise in the sea under some special circumstances, the reporter gets in the porpoise even if he leaves out the Premier. If the orator begins by saying that Mr. Chamberlain is rather like a violoncello, the reporter does not even wait to hear why he is like a violoncello. He has got hold of something material, and so he is quite happy. The strong words are all put in; the chain of thought is left out. If the orator uses the word “donkey,” down goes the word “donkey.” If the orator uses the word “damnable,” down goes the word “damnable.” They follow each other so abruptly in the report that it is often hard to discover the fascinating fact as to what was damnable or who was being compared with a donkey. And the whole line of argument in which these things occurred is entirely lost.
-All Things Considered (1908)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Politicians...seldom suffer, indeed, from a bigoted fixity of conviction
-April. 21, 1923, Illustrated London News

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"If people are especially horrified at the failure of Christian practice, it must be an indirect compliment to the Christian creed."

Most Christians fail to fulfill the Christian ideal. This bitter and bracing fact cannot be too much insisted upon in this and every other moral question. But, perhaps, it might be suggested that this failure is not so much the failure of Christians in connection with the Christian ideal as the failure of any men in connection with any ideal. That Christians are not always Christian is obvious; neither are Liberals always liberal, nor Socialists always social, nor Humanitarians always kind, nor Rationalists always rational, nor are gentlemen always gentle, nor do working men always work. If people are especially horrified at the failure of Christian practice, it must be an indirect compliment to the Christian creed.
-February 13, 1906, Daily News
(quoted in Nov/Dec 2014 issue of Gilbert)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December 8, 1906, Illustrated London News

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"...it is not really so much a question of access to the facts, as of attitude to the facts."

It is true that, in most other cases, there was a certain limitation to the data of medieval science; but this certainly had nothing to do with medieval religion. For the data of Aristotle, and the great Greek civilisation, were in many ways more limited still. But it is not really so much a question of access to the facts, as of attitude to the facts. Most of the Schoolmen, if informed by the only informants they had that a unicorn has one horn or a salamander lives in the fire, still used it more as an illustration of logic than an incident of life. What they really said was, "If a Unicorn has one horn, two unicorns have as many horns as one cow." And that has not one inch the less a fact because the unicorn is a fable. But with Albertus in medieval times, as with Aristotle in ancient times, there did begin something like the idea of emphasising the question: "But does the unicorn only have one horn or the salamander a fire instead of a fireside?" Doubtless when the social and geographical limits of medieval life began to allow them to search the fire for salamanders or the desert for unicorns, they had to modify many of their scientific ideas. A fact which will expose them to the very proper scorn of a generation of scientists which has just discovered that Newton is nonsense, that space is limited, and that there is no such thing as an atom.
-St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox (1933)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"There is one very vile habit that the pedants have, and that is explaining to a man why he does a thing which the man himself can explain quite well- and quiet differently."

There is one very vile habit that the pedants have, and that is explaining to a man why he does a thing which the man himself can explain quite well- and quiet differently. If I go down on all-fours to find sixpence, it annoys me to be told by a passing biologist that I am really doing it because my remote ancestors were quadrupeds. I concede that he knows all about biology, or even a great deal about my ancestors; but I know he is wrong, because he does not know about the sixpence. If I climb a tree after a stray cat, I am unconvinced when a stray anthropologist tells me that I am doing it because I am essentially arboreal and barbaric. I happen to know why I am doing it; and I know it is because I am amiable and somewhat over-civilised. Scientists will talk to a man on general guess-work about things that they know no more about than about his pocket-money or his pet cat. Religion is one of them, and all the festivals and formalities that are rooted in religion. Thus a man will tell me that in keeping Christmas I am not keeping a Christian feast, but a pagan feast. This is exactly as if he told me that I was not feeling furiously angry, but only a little sad. I know how I am feeling all right; and why I am feeling it. I know this in the case of cats, sixpences, anger, and Christmas Day. When a learned man tells me that on the 25th of December I am really astronomically worshiping the sun, I answer that I am not. I am practicing a particular personal religion, the pleasures of which (right or wrong) are not in the least astronomical. If he says that the cult of Christmas and the cult of Apollo are the same, I answer that they are utterly different; and I ought to know, for I have held both of them. I believed in Apollo when I was quite little; and I believe in Christmas now that I am very, very big.

Let us not take with such smooth surrender these tenth-truths at tenth hand, such as the phrase that Christmas is pagan in origin. Let us note exactly how much it really means. It amounts, so far as our knowledge goes, solely to this- that primitive Scandinavians did hold a feast in mid-winter. What the dickens else could primitive Scandinavians do, especially in winter? That they put on the largest log in winter: do the professors expect such simple pagans to put on the largest log in summer? It amounts to this, again- that many tribes have either worshiped the sun or (more probably) compared some god or hero to the sun. Just so many a poet has compared his lady to the sun-without by any means intending that she was a Solar Myth. Thus, by talking a great deal about the solar solstice, it can be maintained that Christmas is a sort of sun-worship; to all of which the simple answer is that it feels quite different. If people profess to feel 'the spirit' behind symbols, the first thing I expect of them that they shall feel how opposite are the adoration of the sun and the following of the star
-The Spirit of Christmas (1984)

Friday, December 5, 2014

"...extending the powers of the law means something entirely different from extending the powers of the public."

People seem to forget that in a society where power goes with wealth and where wealth is in an extreme state of inequality, extending the powers of the law means something entirely different from extending the powers of the public.
-Divorce Versus Democracy (1916)