Self-government for Men

The things we vote on are very seldom the things we see and smell and eat and drink and do. These are more and more controlled by vast and vague central forces, at once autocratic and anonymous. This is the real modern problem, which has nothing to do with utopias; and until it is solved there will be a real satire in self-government for men who are invited to govern everything except themselves.

– GK Chesterton


Hearts and Heads

It is a prejudice of rationalism (not of reason) that rational order is the only kind of order. in fact, the heart’s order is just as much ‘order’, but a different kind. The head seeks truth, the heart seeks goodness. This is why reason’s order is that of a map or outline of truth, while the heart’s order is that of a journey to its goal, its heart’s desire. Reason’s order is static, the heart’s dynamic. Reason’s order is spatial, the heart’s is temporal. Reason’s order naturally takes the shape of a grid, a square shape; the heart’s order naturally takes the shape of a spiral, a round shape. The hunter spirals in on his quarry, his beloved, from every angle; thus, the form of his journey is “digressions upon each point which relates to the end” like the wheel’s spokes leading to the hub.

The order of theoretical thinkers is from premise to conclusion; the order of practical thinkers is from problem to to solution, from unhappiness to happiness, from diagnosis to prognosis, from disease to cure.

-Peter Kreeft

On Reading, with GKC

THE highest use of the great masters of literature is not literary; it is apart from their superb style and even from their emotional inspiration. The first use of good literature is that it prevents a man from being merely modern. To be merely modern is to condemn oneself to an ultimate narrowness; just as to spend one’s last earthly money on the newest hat is to condemn oneself to the old-fashioned. The road of the ancient centuries is strewn with dead moderns. Literature, classic and enduring literature, does its best work in reminding us perpetually of the whole round of truth and balancing other and older ideas against the ideas to which we might for a moment be prone. The way in which it does this, however, is sufficiently curious to be worth our fully understanding it to begin with.

Speak the Truth, with GKC

“That a heresy is a half-truth is a very old and familiar example of a whole truth, but a truth that is not often realized as a whole. Most mistaken people mean well, and all mistaken people mean something. There is something to be said for every error; but, whatever may be said for it, the most important thing to be said about it is that it is erroneous.”


#IllustratedLondonNews (On Modern Half-Truths) March 25, 1931

Re: Good Argument, with Chesterton

“All good argument consists in beginning with the indisputable thing and then disputing everything else in the light of it.”

Instead of

“Because the tramp is dishonest, he must somehow be secretly fat.”


This is the essential idea, that all good argument consists in beginning with the indisputable thing and then disputing everything else in the light of it. It is of great working value in many modern discussions, if its general principle is understood. First of all, of course, one must leave out the element of the supernatural or the element of the insane. The element of the supernatural in practical affairs has always been regarded (even by those who most strongly believed in it) as exceptional. If a miracle is not exceptional, it is not even miraculous. Nobody was ever taught by any sane creed to count upon or expect anything but the natural. To put the point briefly, we are commanded to put our faith in miracles, but not to put our trust in them. The other alternative of mania or some mental breakdown must also be allowed for. If we have been seriously assured that there are no snakes in Iceland and in spite of that we see snakes in Iceland, it is always reasonable to ask ourselves if our past life has pointed towards “D.T.” (Delirium Tremens) But supposing that those two abnormalities, the mystery that is above humanity and the madness that is below it, are fairly and honestly out of the question, then the right line of argument certainly is that seeing is believing and that the things we have experienced are true in quite another and more pungent sense than the things into which we can merely be argued. If I am sitting opposite my aunt in Croydon, a telegram may come from her in Highgate, a newspaper may announce that she is taking part in a Highgate Pageant, an expert may prove that it was impossible for her to have reached Croydon in the time, a statistician may say that he has counted all the aunts in Highgate, and there is not one missing; but all these facts are facts of a secondary degree of evidence. They have the expert, but I have the aunt. Unless my aunt is a devil, or I am a lunatic, I have possession of the primary fact in the discussion.

I have already said that this very plain principle of thought is useful in connection with many current problems. Take, for example, the problem of the Unemployed. It is very common to meet a prosperous gentleman who will point to a seedy and half-starved loafer in the street, and say: “This unemployment business is all bosh: I offered that man work the other day, and he wouldn’t take it.” Now, this may possibly be true; but it is always used in order to disprove the idea that the man is miserable. But to disprove that is simply to disprove the one thing that is proved. You have only to look at the man to say that, for some reason, by somebody’s fault, or nobody’s fault, he has not eaten enough to be a man, or even to be an animal. That he refused work is a curious circumstance, to be reconciled, if possible, with the palpable fact that he wants money. He may have refused it because he is half-witted, or because fatigue has killed all power of choice, or because wrong has moved him to an irrational anger, or because he is a saint, or because he is a maniac, or because he is terrorised by a secret society, or because he has a peculiar religion which forbids him to work on Wednesday. But whatever the explanation is, it is not that he is jolly and full of meat and drink; because you can see that he isn’t. His impotence may have this cause or that cause, or the other; but his impotence is no defence of the existing system of wealth and poverty. To use the modern cant, it does not destroy the problem of the unemployed; it only adds to the problem of the unemployable. But our main point here is this: that people ought to begin by the thing that they can see. It may take you twenty years to find whether a man is honest. But it does not take you two seconds to find out that he is thin. The ordinary rich man’s argument is that because the tramp is dishonest, he must somehow be secretly fat. That is the great fallacy. Believe me (I speak as an expert), it is impossible to be fat in secret.


“There is a doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand. Yet I, too, believe that the gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not agree ?”

—from PHAEDRUS by Socrates

It has been said that, after the Bible, Plato’s dialogues are the most influential books in Western culture. Of the dialogues, the Symposium is the most delightful and accessible, requiring no special knowledge of ancient Greek philosophy or customs. Dramatizing a party in fifth-century B.C. Athens, the deceptively unassuming Symposium introduces—in the guise of convivial after-dinner conversation—profound ideas about the nature of love. In Phaedrus, here published together with the Symposium, Plato discusses the place of eloquence in expounding truth. In both dialogues, Socrates plays the leading role, by turns teasing, arguing, analyzing, joking, inspiring, and cajoling his followers into understanding ideas that have remained central to Western thought through the centuries. READ more here: