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)

Friday, August 31, 2012

..there is certainly something amusing in the picture of the rich and powerful peering down into the abyss and drooping tears over the poor specimens that make up the populace, while by far the greater part of the populace is remarking more and more what uncommonly poor specimens are looking down at them.

quoted in The Century Magazine, volume 85 (November, 1912, To April, 1913)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The theory of a complete change of standards in human history does not merely deprive us of the pleasure of honouring our fathers; it deprives us even of the more modern and aristocratic pleasure of despising them.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Free love is the direct enemy of freedom. It is the most obvious of all the bribes that can be offered by slavery."

Free love is the direct enemy of freedom. It is the most obvious of all the bribes that can be offered by slavery. In servile societies a vast amount of sexual laxity can go on in practice, and even in theory...the new Servile State would settle down into the sleepy resignation of the old Servile State; the old pagan repose in slavery, as it was before Christianity came to trouble and perplex the world with ideals of liberty and chivalry. One of the conveniences of that pagan world is that, below a certain level of society, nobody really need bother about pedigree or paternity at all. A new world began when slaves began to stand on their dignity as virgin martyrs. Christendom is the civilization that such martyrs made; and slavery is its returning enemy. But of all the bribes that the old pagan slavery can offer, this luxury and laxity is the strongest; nor do I deny that the influences desiring the degradation of human dignity have here chosen their instrument well.

-Fancies Versus Fads (1923)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Bad men are almost without exception conceited, but they are commonly conceited of their defects."

Bad men are almost without exception conceited, but they are commonly conceited of their defects.

-Robert Browning (1903)

We scarcely ever find in Browning a defence of those obvious and easily defended publicans and sinners whose mingled virtues and vices are the stuff of romance and melodrama—the generous rake, the kindly drunkard, the strong man too great for parochial morals. He was in a yet more solitary sense the friend of the outcast. He took in the sinners whom even sinners cast out. He went with the hypocrite and had mercy on the Pharisee.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sinclair Lewis and GKC

[Chesterton] refused to follow Sinclair Lewis's elitist "Henry Jamesianism" and despise Main Street, but when Chesterton met Lewis at Marshall Field's State Street store in the rare book department, they liked one another....The writers sat down to talk books....Then someone suggested that they write a play together, an idea Chesterton happily agreed to...Lewis named their play "Mary, Queen of Scotch," and Chesterton said that if he wrote the first act it must be a detective play about a mysterious murder: "There's nothing like a nice murder...to get real human interest into the play..." He said Lewis could arrive at the solution and write the happy ending to a plot which he sketched out to be the story of "an American ex-distiller from Peoria found dead in his hotel, hit on the head with a quart bottle."

-The Outline of Sanity: A Life of G.K. Chesterton, Alzina Stone Dale (1982)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"...what is the matter with Mr. Blatchford and his school is that they are not sceptical enough. For the really bold questions we have to go back to the Christian Fathers."

I have said it before, but it cannot be too often repeated, that what is the matter with Mr. Blatchford and his school is that they are not sceptical enough. For the really bold questions we have to go back to the Christian Fathers.

For example, Mr. Blatchford, in God and My Neighbour, does me the honour to quote from me as follows: “Mr. G.K. Chesterton, in defending Christianity, said, ‘Christianity has committed crimes at which the sun might sicken in Heaven, and no one can refute the statement.’ ” I did say this, and I say it again, but I said something else. I said that every great and useful institution had committed such crimes. And no one can refute that statement.

And why has every great institution been criminal? It is not enough to say “Christians persecuted; down with Christianity,” any more than it is enough to say, “A Confucian stole my hair-brush; down with Confucianism.” We want to know whether the reason for which the Confucian stole the hair-brush was a reason peculiar to the Confucians or a reason common to many other men.

It is obvious that the Christian’s reason for torturing was a reason common to hosts of other men; it was simply the fact that he held his views strongly and tried unscrupulously to make them prevail. Any other man might hold any other views strongly and try unscrupulously to make them prevail. And when we look at the facts we find, as I say, that millions of other men do, and have done so from the beginning of the world....

If only Mr. Blatchford would ask the real question. It is not, “Why is Christianity so bad when it claims to be so good? The real question is, “Why are all human things so bad when they claim to be so good?” Why is not the most noble scheme a guarantee against corruption? If [Blatchford] will boldly pursue this question, will really leave delusions behind and walk across the godless waste, alone, he will come at last to a strange place. His sceptical pilgrimage will end at a place where Christianity begins.

Chrisitanity begins with the wickedness of the Inquisition. Only it adds the wickedness of the English Liberals, Tories, Socialists, and county magistrates. It begins with a strange thing running across human history. This it calls Sin, or the Fall of Man.

If ever I wish to expound it further, Mr. Blatchford’s list of Christian crimes will be a most valuable compilation. In brief, however, Mr. Blatchford sees the sins of historic Christianity rise before him like a great tower. It is a star-defying Tower of Babel, lifting itself alone into the sky, affronting God in Heaven. Let him climb up it for a few years. When he is near to its tremendous top, he will find that it is one of the nine hundred and ninety-nine columns which support the pedestal of the ancient Christian philosophy.

-"The Eternal Heroism of the Slums" (1904), The Blatchford Controversies

Friday, August 24, 2012

An anecdote of absentmindedness I have to laugh at.... :-)

The Chesterton's own maid told Mrs. Saxon Mills, to whom for a while the Chesterton flat was let, of her troubles in cleaning up after him. Especially was she worried over the bathroom. He would flood the floor, to the imminent danger of the ceiling below. So she tried to get into the room as quickly as possible after him to mop up. One day she had heard him get out of the tub and was hovering around, waiting for her moment, when a tremendous splash assailed her ears. Then came a deep groan and the words, "Dammit, I've been in here already."

-Return to Chesterton, Maisie Ward (1952)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Of the Dangers Attending Altruism on the High Seas

The following is a poem from Chesterton's first book ever published (in 1900 when he was 26), Greybeards at Play. It was a book of nonsense verse, containing, according to W.H. Auden, some of the best examples of nonsense verse in English and also some of Chesterton's own drawings. Here's my favorite poem (minus the drawings) from that book.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"A false film might be refuted in a hundred books, without much affecting the million dupes who had never read the books but only seen the film."

...a certain privilege almost analogous to monopoly...belongs of necessity to things like the theatre and the cinema...If a man is repelled by one book, he can shut it and open another; but he cannot shut up a theatre in which he finds a show repulsive, nor instantly order one of a thousand other theatres to suit his taste. There are a limited number of theatres; and even to cinemas there is some limit. Hence there is a real danger of historical falsehood being popularised through the film, because there is not the normal chance of one film being corrected by another film. When a book appears displaying a doubtful portrait of Queen Elizabeth, it will generally be found that about six other historical students are moved to publish about six other versions of Queen Elizabeth at the same moment...But few of us are in a  position to pay the money required to stage a complete and elaborately presented alternative film-version of Disraeli. The fiction on the film, the partisan version in the movie-lay, will go uncontradicted and even uncriticised, in a way in which few provocative books can really go uncontradicted and uncriticised. There will be no opportunity of meeting it on its own large battlefield of expansive scenario and multitudinous repetition. And most of those who are affected by it will know or care very little about its being brought to book by other critics and critical methods...A false film might be refuted in a hundred books, without much affecting the million dupes who had never read the books but only seen the film...provincial prejudice of this kind is frightfully dangerous...

-January 5, 1935, Illustrated London News

Monday, August 20, 2012

"The difficulty of disbelieving in democracy is that there is nothing else to believe in."

The difficulty of believing in democracy is that it is so hard to believe-- like God and most other good things. The difficulty of disbelieving in democracy is that there is nothing else to believe in. I mean there is nothing else on earth or in earthly politics. Unless an aristocracy is selected by gods, it must be selected by men. It may be negatively and passively permitted, but either heaven or humanity must permit it; otherwise it has no more moral authority than a lucky pickpocket. It is babytalk to talk about "Supermen" or "Nature's Aristocracy" or "The Wise Few." "The Wise Few" must be either those whom others think wise--who are often fools; or those who think themselves wise--who are always fools.

-Divorce Versus Democracy (1916)

"In our friends the richness of life is proved to us by what we have gained; in the faces in the street the richness of life is proved to us by the hint of what we have lost."

The love of humanity is a thing supposed to be professed only by vulgar and officious philanthropists, or by saints of a superhuman detachment and universality. As a matter of fact, love of humanity is the commonest and most natural of the feelings of a fresh nature, and almost every one has felt it alight capriciously upon him when looking at a crowded park or a room full of dancers. The love of those whom we do not know is quite as eternal a sentiment as the love of those whom we do know. In our friends the richness of life is proved to us by what we have gained; in the faces in the street the richness of life is proved to us by the hint of what we have lost.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity."

I had often called myself an optimist, to avoid the too evident blasphemy of pessimism. But all the optimism of the age had been false and disheartening for this reason, that it had always been trying to prove that we fit in to the world. The Christian optimism is based on the fact that we do not fit in to the world. I had tried to be happy by telling myself that man is an animal, like any other which sought its meat from God. But now I really was happy, for I had learnt that man is a monstrosity. I had been right in feeling all things as odd, for I myself was at once worse and better than all things. The optimist's pleasure was prosaic, for it dwelt on the naturalness of everything; the Christian pleasure was poetic, for it dwelt on the unnaturalness of everything in the light of the supernatural. The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place, and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring. The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy. I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant, and why I could feel homesick at home.

-Orthodoxy (1908)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

"The truth is that there are no things for which men will make such herculean efforts as the things of which they know they are unworthy."

We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity. We ought to be interested in that darkest and most real part of a man in which dwell not the vices that he does not display, but the virtues that he cannot. And the more we approach the problems of human history with this keen and piercing charity, the smaller and smaller space we shall allow to pure hypocrisy of any kind. The hypocrites shall not deceive us into thinking them saints; but neither shall they deceive us into thinking them hypocrites. And an increasing number of cases will crowd into our field of inquiry, cases in which there is really no question of hypocrisy at all, cases in which people were so ingenuous that they seemed absurd, and so absurd that they seemed disingenuous.

There is one striking instance of an unfair charge of hypocrisy. It is always urged against the religious in the past, as a point of inconsistency and duplicity, that they combined a profession of almost crawling humility with a keen struggle for earthly success and considerable triumph in attaining it. It is felt as a piece of humbug, that a man should be very punctilious in calling himself a miserable sinner, and also very punctilious in calling himself King of France. But the truth is that there is no more conscious inconsistency between the humility of a Christian and the rapacity of a Christian than there is between the humility of a lover and the rapacity of a lover. The truth is that there are no things for which men will make such herculean efforts as the things of which they know they are unworthy. There never was a man in love who did not declare that, if he strained every nerve to breaking, he was going to have his desire. And there never was a man in love who did not declare also that he ought not to have it. The whole secret of the practical success of Christendom lies in the Christian humility, however imperfectly fulfilled. For with the removal of all question of merit or payment, the soul is suddenly released for incredible voyages. If we ask a sane man how much he merits, his mind shrinks instinctively and instantaneously. It is doubtful whether he merits six feet of earth. But if you ask him what he can conquer--he can conquer the stars.

-Heretics (1905)

Friday, August 17, 2012

"It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism."

In the same way, there is in modern discussions of religion and philosophy an absurd assumption that a man is in some way just and well-poised because he has come to no conclusion; and that a man is in some way knocked off the list of fair judges because he has come to a conclusion. It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism. I remember once arguing with an honest young atheist, who was very much shocked at my disputing some of the assumptions which were absolute sanctities to him (such as the quite unproved proposition of the independence of matter and the quite improbable proposition of its power to originate mind), and he at length fell back upon this question, which he delivered with an honourable heat of defiance and indignation: "Well, can you tell me any man of intellect, great in science or philosophy, who accepted the miraculous?" I said, "With pleasure. Descartes, Dr. Johnson, Newton, Faraday, Newman, Gladstone, Pasteur, Browning, Brunetiere—as many more as you please." To which that quite admirable and idealistic young man made this astonishing reply—"Oh, but of course they had to say that; they were Christians." First he challenged me to find a black swan, and then he ruled out all my swans because they were black. The fact that all these great intellects had come to the Christian view was somehow or other a proof either that they were not great intellects or that they had not really come to that view. The argument thus stood in a charmingly convenient form: "All men that count have come to my conclusion; for if they come to your conclusion they do not count."

It did not seem to occur to such controversialists that if Cardinal Newman was really a man of intellect, the fact that he adhered to dogmatic religion proved exactly as much as the fact that Professor Huxley, another man of intellect, found that he could not adhere to dogmatic religion; that is to say (as I cheerfully admit), it proved precious little either way. If there is one class of men whom history has proved especially and supremely capable of going quite wrong in all directions, it is the class of highly intellectual men. I would always prefer to go by the bulk of humanity; that is why I am a democrat. But whatever be the truth about exceptional intelligence and the masses, it is manifestly most unreasonable that intelligent men should be divided upon the absurd modern principle of regarding every clever man who cannot make up his mind as an impartial judge, and regarding every clever man who can make up his mind as a servile fanatic. As it is, we seem to regard it as a positive objection to a reasoner that he has taken one side or the other. We regard it (in other words) as a positive objection to a reasoner that he has contrived to reach the object of his reasoning. We call a man a bigot or a slave of dogma because he is a thinker who has thought thoroughly and to a definite end. We say that the juryman is not a juryman because he has brought in a verdict. We say that the judge is not a judge because he gives judgment. We say that the sincere believer has no right to vote, simply because he has voted.

-All Things Considered (1908)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"We were talking about St. Peter," he said; "you remember that he was crucified upside down. I've often fancied his humility was rewarded by seeing in death the beautiful vision of his boyhood. He also saw the landscape as it really is: with the stars like flowers, and the clouds like hills, and all men hanging on the mercy of God."

-The Poet and the Lunatics (1929)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"It's all very well to talk about being topsy-turvy. But when the angels hang head downwards, we know they come from above. It's only those that come from below that always have their noses in the air."

-The Poet and the Lunatics (1929)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Free speech is an idea which has at present all the unpopularity of a truism..."

Free speech is an idea which has at present all the unpopularity of a truism; so that we tend to forget that it was not so very long ago that it had the more practical unpopularity which attaches to a new truth. Ingratitude is surely the chief of the intellectual sins of man. He takes his political benefits for granted, just as he takes the skies and the seasons for granted. He considers the calm of a city street a thing as inevitable as the calm of a forest clearing, whereas it is only kept in peace by a sustained stretch and effort similar to that which keeps up a battle or a fencing match. Just as we forget where we stand in relation to natural phenomena, so we forget it in relation to social phenomena. We forget that the earth is a star, and we forget that free speech is a paradox.

It is not by any means self-evident upon the face of it that an institution like the liberty of speech is right or just. It is not natural or obvious to let a man utter follies and abominations which you believe to be bad for mankind any more than it is natural or obvious to let a man dig up a part of the public road, or infect half a town with typhoid fever. The theory of free speech, that truth is so much larger and stranger and more many-sided than we know of, that it is very much better at all costs to hear every one's account of it, is a theory which has been justified upon the whole by experiment, but which remains a very daring and even a very surprising theory. It is really one of the great discoveries of the modern time; but, once admitted, it is a principle that does not merely affect politics, but philosophy, ethics, and finally poetry.

Browning was upon the whole the first poet to apply the principle to poetry. He perceived that if we wish to tell the truth about a human drama, we must not tell it merely like a melodrama, in which the villain is villainous and the comic man is comic. He saw that the truth had not been told until he had seen in the villain the pure and disinterested gentleman that most villains firmly believe themselves to be, or until he had taken the comic man as seriously as it is the custom of comic men to take themselves. And in this Browning is beyond all question the founder of the most modern school of poetry. Everything that was profound, everything, indeed, that was tolerable in the aesthetes of 1880, and the decadent of 1890, has its ultimate source in Browning's great conception that every one's point of view is interesting, even if it be a jaundiced or a blood-shot point of view. He is at one with the decadents, in holding that it is emphatically profitable, that it is emphatically creditable, to know something of the grounds of the happiness of a thoroughly bad man. Since his time we have indeed been somewhat over-satisfied with the moods of the burglar, and the pensive lyrics of the receiver of stolen goods. But Browning, united with the decadents on this point, of the value of every human testimony, is divided from them sharply and by a chasm in another equally important point. He held that it is necessary to listen to all sides of a question in order to discover the truth of it. But he held that there was a truth to discover. He held that justice was a mystery, but not, like the decadents, that justice was a delusion. He held, in other words, the true Browning doctrine, that in a dispute every one was to a certain extent right; not the decadent doctrine that in so mad a place as the world, every one must be by the nature of things wrong.

-Robert Browning (1903)

Monday, August 13, 2012

"Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste."

Thrift is the really romantic thing; economy is more romantic than extravagance. Heaven knows I for one speak disinterestedly in the matter; for I cannot clearly remember saving a half-penny ever since I was born. But the thing is true; economy, properly understood, is the more poetic. Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste. It is prosaic to throw money away, because it is prosaic to throw anything away; it is negative; it is a confession of indifference, that is, it is a confession of failure. The most prosaic thing about the house is the dustbin, and the one great objection to the new fastidious and aesthetic homestead is simply that in such a moral menage the dustbin must be bigger than the house. If a man could undertake to make use of all things in his dustbin he would be a broader genius than Shakespeare. When science began to use by-products; when science found that colors could be made out of coaltar, she made her greatest and perhaps her only claim on the real respect of the human soul.

-What's Wrong With the World (1910)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"...the Catholic Church has never yet become quite respectable. He still eats and drinks with publicans and sinners."

 The following is a passage from a private letter by Chesterton to an anti-Catholic who had written him, and found quoted in G.K. Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker (2011)

When you say that penitents pay for absolution, or that money can annul any marriage, it is merely as if you said that Margate is in Scotland, or that elephants lay eggs. It does not happen to be the fact, as you would discover if you investigated the facts. But when you suggest that there hangs on the fringe of the Catholic Church a vast horde of outcasts, criminals, prostitutes, etc- you refer to a real fact; and a very interesting and remarkable fact it is. They cannot get the Church's Sacraments or solid assurances, except by changing their whole way of life; but they do actually love the faith they cannot live by...which would be a fascinating psychological problem to anyone whose mind was free to consider it freely. If you explain it by supposing that the Church, though bound to refuse them Absolution where there is no Amendment, keeps in touch with them and treats their human dignity rather more sympathetically than does the world, Puritan or Pagan- that also probably refers to a real fact. It is one of the facts that convince me most strongly that Catholicism is what it claims to be. After two thousand years of compromises and concordats with every sort of social system, the Catholic Church has never yet become quite respectable. He still eats and drinks with publicans and sinners.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I daresay that there are a good many fools who can call me a friend and also (a more chastening thought) a good many friends who can call me a fool.

-Autobiography (1936)

Friday, August 10, 2012


...self-denial is the test and definition of self-government.

-Alarms and Discursions (1910)

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...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An open mind

...they generally forget that toleration cuts both ways and that an open mind is open on all sides.

-What I Saw in America (1922)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Courtesy...is the wedding of humility with dignity

-The Well and the Shallows (1935)

Monday, August 6, 2012

The very fact that we have seen a remark made a hundred times in the newspapers is normally a very good reason for considering seriously whether the opposite is not true.

-September 8, 1928, Illustrated London News

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"When the learned sceptic says: 'The visions of the Old Testament were local, and rustic, and grotesque,' we shall answer: 'Of course. They were genuine.' "

The Secularist constantly points out that the Hebrew and Christian religions began as local things; that their god was a tribal god; that they gave him material form, and attached him to particular places.

This is an excellent example of one of the things that if I were conducting a detailed campaign I should use as an argument for the validity of Biblical experience. For if there really are some other and higher beings than ourselves, and if they in some strange way, at some emotional crisis, really revealed themselves to rude poets or dreamers in very simply times, that these rude people should regard the revelation as local, and connect it with the particular hill or river where it happened, seems to me exactly what any reasonable human being would expect. It has a far more credible look than if they had talked cosmic philosophy from the beginning. If they had, I should have suspected “priestcraft” and forgeries and third-century Gnosticism.

If there be such a being as God, and He can speak to a child, and if God spoke to a child in the garden, the child would of course, say that God lived in the garden. I should not think it any less likely to be true for that. If the child said: “God is everywhere: an impalpable essence pervading and supporting all constituents of the Cosmos alike”- if, I say, the infant addressed me in the above terms, I should think he was much more likely to have been with the governess than with God.

So if Moses had said God was an Infinite Energy, I should be certain he had seen nothing extraordinary. As he said He was a Burning Bush, I think it very likely that he did see something extraordinary. For whatever be the Divine Secret, and whether or no it has (as all people have believed) sometimes broken bounds and surged into our work, at least it lies on the side furthest away from pedants and their definitions, and nearest to the silver souls of quiet people, to the beauty of bushes, and the love of one’s native place.

Thus, then, in our last instance (out of hundreds that might be taken), we conclude in the same way . When the learned sceptic says: “The visions of the Old Testament were local, and rustic, and grotesque,” we shall answer: “Of course. They were genuine.”

-"Christianity and Rationalism" (1904), The Blatchford Controversies

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"They used to say in the sight of God we are all equal. But if you only say that, it sounds flat...No, in the sight of God we are all distinguished."

As he walked where the town opened into a country road, he had suddenly realised that he was happy. His cure was complete. The disease of disdain for common things no longer devoured his brain, and yet his appreciation of the common was no nearer to the vulgar. Indeed, the common things around him, the stones in the road, the weeds in the ditch, stood out with a distinctness that was the reverse of flat. It was as if he had felt the third dimension for the first time. It reminded him of something his friend had said about religion, as compared with the mere herding both of Capitalism and Communism. "There is a delicacy about the Day of Judgment." It was at least supposed to deal with individuals. "Yes, that is it," he said to himself. "They used to say in the sight of God we are all equal. But if you only say that, it sounds flat; like all those flat-faced Bisons. No, in the sight of God we are all distinguished. We may be damned; but, damn it all, we're distinguished."

-"The End of Wisdom" (1931), found in Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, volume XIV

Friday, August 3, 2012

False Courage

Any man living in complete luxury and security who chooses to write a play or a novel which causes a flutter and exchange of compliments in Chelsea and Chiswick and a faint thrill in Streatham and Surbiton, is described as "daring," though nobody on earth knows what danger it is that he dares. I speak, of course, of terrestrial dangers; or the only sort of dangers he believes in. To be extravagantly flattered by everybody he considers enlightened, and rather feebly rebuked by everybody he considers dated and dead, does not seem so appalling a peril that a man should be stared at as a heroic warrior and militant martyr because he has had the strength to endure it.

-The Thing (1929)

Thursday, August 2, 2012


If you let loose a law, it will do as a dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours. Such sense as you have put into the law (or the dog) will be fulfilled. But you will not be able to fulfill a fragment of anything you have forgotten to put into it.

-Eugenics and Other Evils (1922)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"About all those arguments affecting human equality, I myself always have one feeling, which finds expression in a little test of my own."

But a very interesting question was raised by Mr. Ford's remarks on the difference between men and men; and his suggestion that most men preferred mechanical action or were only fitted for it. About all those arguments affecting human equality, I myself always have one feeling, which finds expression in a little test of my own. I shall begin to take seriously those classifications of superiority and inferiority, when I find a man classifying himself as inferior. It will be noted that Mr. Ford does not say that he is only fitted to mind machines; he confesses frankly that he is too fine and free and fastidious a being for such tasks. I shall believe the doctrine when I hear somebody say: "I have only got the wits to turn a wheel." That would be real, that would be realistic, that would be scientific. That would be independent testimony that could not easily be disputed. It is exactly the same, of course, with all the other superiorities and denials of human equality that are so specially characteristic of a scientific age. It is so with the men who talk about superior and inferior races; I never heard a man say: "Anthropology shows that I belong to an inferior race." If he did, he might be talking like an anthropologist; as it is, he is talking like a man, and not unfrequently like a fool. I have long hoped that I might some day hear a man explaining on scientific principles his own unfitness for any important post or privilege, say: "The world should belong to the free and fighting races, and not to persons of that servile disposition that you will notice in myself; the intelligent will know how to form opinions, but the weakness of intellect from which I so obviously suffer renders my opinions manifestly absurd on the face of them: there are indeed stately and godlike races--but look at me! Observe my shapeless and fourth-rate features! Gaze, if you can bear it, on my commonplace and repulsive face!" If I heard a man making a scientific demonstration in that style, I might admit that he was really scientific. But as it invariably happens, by a curious coincidence, that the superior race is his own race, the superior type is his own type, and the superior preference for work the sort of work he happens to prefer--I have come to the conclusion that there is a simpler explanation.

-The Outline of Sanity (1926)