Archives For Ontology

G.K. Chesterton Recording @ The BBCIt’s unique to find a British writer from the early 20th Century, who says things as Gilbert does.

Heretics doesn’t flow as well as Orthodoxy. (Which was published in 1908; three years later).

What’s he taking aim at?

Why, it’s pesky inconsistent aristocrats, self-absorbed intellectuals, scientism, self-important writers, progressiveness-{ness}-{ness}, Nietzschean ideology, ignoring the truth of paradoxes, and among other things, something that H.G Wells said about a modernist Utopia.

Here’s post one outlining ten quotes that are, by and large, the most agreeable and challenging elements of HeReTiCs.

 

1. On Progress:

‘The weakness of all Utopias is this, they take the greatest difficulty of humanity and assume it to be overcome, and then give an elaborate account of the overcoming of the smaller difficulties. Mr [H.G] Wells asserts that Utopia must be a world-state, or else people might make war on it. It does not seem to occur to them that, for a good many of us, if it were a world-state we should still make war on it to the end of the world. For if we admit that there must be varieties in art or opinion what sense is there in thinking there will not be varieties in Government? The fact is very simple. Unless you are going deliberately prevent a thing from being good, you cannot prevent it being worth fighting for. It is impossible to prevent a possible conflict of civilizations, because it is impossible to prevent a possible conflict between ideals. If there were no longer our modern strife between nations, there would only be strife between Utopias.’ (p.19)
‘It does not so very much matter whether a man eats a grilled tomato or a plain tomato; it does very much matter whether he eats a plain tomato with a grilled mind.’(p.28)
‘If there really be anything of the nature of progress, it must mean, above all things, the careful study and assumption of the whole of the past.’ (p.89)
‘The wrong is not that engines are too much admired, but that they are not admired enough. The sin is not that engines are mechanical, but that humans are [become] mechanical.’ (p.126)

2. On Being:

‘Positivism is the worship of humanity.’ (p.48)
‘So long as a tree is a tree, it does not frighten us at all. It begins to be something alien, to be something strange, only when it looks like ourselves. When a tree really looks like a man our knees knock under us. And when the whole universe looks like a man we fall on our faces.’ (p.81)
‘Our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, “to be continued…” (p.102)
‘Frederick Nietzsche, attributes to the strong man that scorn against weakness which only exists among invalids.’ (p.104)
‘A great man is not a man so strong that he feels less than other men; he is a man so strong that he feels more. And when Nietzsche says, “a new commandment I give to you, ‘be hard,’ he is really saying, “a new commandment I give to you, ‘be dead.’” Sensibility is the definition of life.’ (p.105)
‘When Jesus Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its corner-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it.’ (p.110)

3. On Intellectualism:

‘Many eminent, and deservedly eminent, modern novelists must accept responsibility for having supported the worst form of snobbishness – an intellectual snobbishness.’ (p.105)
‘The kind of man who had the courage to write so badly in the one case is the kind of man who would have the courage to write so well in the other.’ (p.110)

4. On Moralism:

‘When we are seeking for the real merits of a man it is unwise to go to his enemies, and much more foolish to go to himself.’ (p.19)
‘What is the good of telling a community that it has every liberty except the liberty to make laws? The liberty to make laws is what constitutes a free people. And what is the good of telling a man (or a philosopher) that he has every liberty except the liberty to make generalisations. Making generalisations is what makes him a man.’ (p.28)
‘A man or a woman must be something of a moralist if he, or she, is to preach unmorality’ (p.126)

5. On Hope:

‘The man who said, “blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed,” put the eulogy quite inadequately and even falsely. The truth is: “Blessed is he that expects nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised.’ (p.32)
‘Like all the Christian virtues, hope, is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.’ (p.62)
‘Exactly at the instant when hope ceases to be reasonable it begins to be useful.’ (p.84)

The more I think about these, the more I’m made aware of Chesterton’s forward-thinking insight and rapier wit. His work is rarely boring. His references are slightly dated now and skipping over them can mean having them taken dangerously out of context.

Still, Heretics stands.

It is where Chesterton shows he’s not one for being boxed into any ideological  or literary straightjacket.


Source:

Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

Related posts:

G.K. Chesterton’s War & Parker J. Palmer’s Objection To Objectivity

You Don’t Have To Be A Progressive, To Be For Progress

G.K Chesterton’s Resolve (Or, Early Gastronomic Activism)

Image: BBC.co.uk

 

forgiveness is empowerment


Related Reading:

Confronting Disagreement Responsibly: The Real Content & Value of Forgiveness

Breathing Forgiveness

The Blast Radius Of Forgiveness

Grasping Existence As We Are Grasped By Forgiveness

Breathing Grace


‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ (John 8:31-36, ESV)

Rembrandt_1633 Christ in the storm on the sea of GalileeAlthough I’ve browsed through ‘City of God’ and ‘On Christian Doctrine’, my main interaction with Augustine’s work centres on his ‘Confessions’.  (A phenomenal read if you ever get the chance to dig into it.)

I like many of the things Augustine says and wrestle with some of his more introspective reflections.

One of those is his statement:

‘The appearance of what we do is often different from the intention with which we do it, and the circumstances at the time may not be clear’[i]

Augustine seems to be saying that what we intend is not always what we do. Circumstances pending, what we do is sometimes only for the sake of what we want others to see and therefore say about us.

Avarice overrides responsible action as pride corrupts intention. Thus leading us onto a path where we turn ‘the loss of confessing self in order to be for others, into an all consuming self, an expressivist exhibition’[ii]

The divide between appearances and intentions, then, forms the basis of his point. This existential division creates an ethical-theological tension perpetuated by the sometimes fog of circumstances.

This is identified by Jean Bethke Elshtain in ‘Augustine and the limits of politics’:

 ‘Augustine lays the miseries of human life at the doorstep of sin, our division (within selves and between self and others), our enthrallment to cupiditas[iii] and our all-too-frequent abandonment of caritas[iv]. We are, in other words, ignorant but it is ignorance of a particular kind, not innocent naiveté but prideful cognitive amputation.[v]

What Elshtain means by ‘prideful cognitive amputation’ is ‘philosophical solipsism’ (extreme subjective idealism)[vi]; thoughtlessness (not to be confused with mindlessness), but understood as ‘the banality of evil.(Hannah Arendt’s controversial assessment of Adolf Eichmann) [vii]

Elshtain, a feminist, presents her analysis of Augustine as an attempt at rescue. Saving Augustine from the ritualistic frown passed on to our forebears by the hubris and suspicion of post 60’s modernity.

For her, Augustine is relevant and worthy of a second look:

‘He confesses what he knows and what he does not know. He does know that the world isn’t boundlessly subjectivist; it does not revolve around the “me, myself and I”[viii]

Augustine himself thunders the point home:

‘I flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it so that you might bring healing to a soul that had sinned against you. I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner’[ix]

Elshtain brilliantly adds, ‘when we start to regard ourselves in our own light, our light dims’[x]

Reading this in the emerging light of advent we might be called back to Karl Barth’s assertion

‘To thank means to accept with confession,… to acknowledge the gift, the goodness and the kindness of the Giver’[xi]

God makes himself known in Jesus Christ, ‘the sign of all signs[xii]

In Augustine’s sigh we hear that the heart has ears. Before the beauty of Christmas this can only mean an awakening to an awareness of our own need for grace; an acknowledgement that we are carried, firmly, lovingly held above the abyss.

Confronted by such a grace we learn that God is God and we are not. Yet, by Divine decision; a fierce and free decree. In Jesus Christ, we are spoken to, spoken for and therefore not given up on.

In His example we see in part, the point of Christmas. That the ‘principle of charity requires nothing less than to make one’s best effort.’[xiii]

Jesus is Victor!


Source

[i] Augustine, St. Confessions Penguin Classics III/XIX 1961:67

[ii] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’ p.6

[iii] Latin for desire, eagerness, enthusiasm; passion; lust; avarice; greed; ambition; partisanship (Source: Collins Latin Dictionary App)

[iv] Latin for charity, grace, dearness, high price; esteem, affection (Source: Collins Latin Dictionary App)

[v] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’ p.37

[vi] Ibid, p.59

[vii] Ibid,

[viii] Ibid, p.5

[ix] Augustine, St. 1961 Confessions Penguin Classics V/X p.103

[x] Elshtain, ibid pp.11, 66 &62

[xi] Barth, K. 1940 The Limits of  the Knowledge of God C.D II/I Hendrickson Publishers p.198

[xii] Ibid, p.199

[xiii] Elshtain, ibid p.55

*I’ve borrowed the second part of the title to this blog post from Elshtain, who uses it on page xiii in her introduction.

Image: Rembrandt, 1633 ‘Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee’