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)

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"The Speaker" Articles

A book I published containing 112 pieces Chesterton wrote for the newspaper "The Speaker" at the beginning of his career.

They are also available for free electronically on another blog of mine here, if you wish to read them that way.




Thursday, August 9, 2012

Trains of thought vs. Tags of Language

While relevant in Chesterton's day, the following quote is all the more so today...


What is the matter with the curious cultural atmosphere around us is that it abounds not in trains of thought, but in tags of language. Vast numbers know that a certain phrase should be used about a certain subject; but it never occurs to them even to wonder how it would apply to some other subject....To ask what an argument depends on; to consider where it leads; to speculate on whether there are other cases to which it applies- all this seems to be an unknown world to many who use the words of the debate glibly enough. The point is that they they only use those words in connection with that debate.

Here is a phrase, for instance, which I heard the other day from a very agreeable and intelligent person, and which we have all heard hundreds of times from hundreds of such persons. A young mother remarked to me, "I don't want to teach my child any religion. I don't want to influence him; I want him to choose for himself when he grows up." That is a very ordinary example of a current argument, which is frequently repeated and yet never really applied. Of course the mother was always influencing the child. Of course the mother might just as well have said: "I hope he will choose his own friends when he grows up, so I won't introduce him to any aunts or uncles." The grown-up person cannot in any case escape from the responsibility of influencing the child, not even if she accepts the enormous responsibility of not influencing the child. The mother can bring up the child without choosing a religion for him, but not without choosing an environment for him. If she chooses to leave out the religion, she is choosing the environment- and an infernally dismal, unnatural environment too. The mother can bring up the child alone on a solitary island in the middle of a large lake, lest the child should be influenced by superstitions and social traditions. But the mother is choosing the island and the lake and the loneliness, and is just as responsible for doing so as if she had chosen the sect of the Mennonites or the theology of the Mormons.

It is entirely obvious, to anybody who will think for two minutes, that this responsibility for determining childhood belongs inevitably to the relations of child and adult, quite apart from the relations of religion and irreligion. But the people who repeat these fragments of phraseology do not think for two minutes. They do not make any attempt to connect such a phraseology with a philosophy. They have heard that argument applied to religion, and they never think of applying it to anything else except religion. They never think of taking those ten or twelve words out of their conventional context, and seeing whether they apply to any other context. They have heard that there are people who refuse to train children even in their own religion. There might just as well be people who refuse to train children in their own civilisation. If the child, when he has grown up, may prefer another creed, it is equally true that he may prefer another culture. He may be annoyed at having been brought up as a Swedenborgian; he may passionately regret that he was not brought up as a Sandemanian. But so he may regret that he was brought up as an English gentleman and not as a wild Arab of the desert. He may, as (with the assistance of a sound geographical education) he surveys the world from China to Peru, feel envious of the dignity of the code of Confucius or weep over the ruins of the great Aztec civilisation. But somebody has obviously got to bring him up as something, and it is perhaps the heaviest responsibility of all to bring him up as nothing.

...I could give many other examples of this fragmentary sort of argument, which everybody quotes and nobody develops....They only see the question as applied to some particular silly discussion, and they never make any attempt to deal with the question as a whole. They only repeat the tame controversial comment that is attached to that little local controversy.

-February 18, 1928, Illustrated London News

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