“heresy” not only means no longer being worse; it practically means
being cleared-headed and courageous. The word “orthodoxy” not only no
longer means being right; it practically means being wrong. All this can
mean one thing only. It means that people care less for whether they are
philosophically right. For obviously a man ought to confess himself crazy
before he confesses himself heretical. The Bohemian, with a red tie, ought
to pique himself on his orthodoxy. The dynamiter, laying a bomb, ought to
feel that, whatever else he is, at least he is orthodox."
is quite certain the realities like Zola do in one sense promote
morality-they promote it in the sense in which the hangman promotes it, in
the sense in which the devil promotes it. But they only affect that small
minority which will accept any virtue of courage. Most healthy people
dismiss these normal dangers as they dismiss the possibility of bombs or
microbes. Modern realists are indeed Terrorists, like the dynamiters; and
they fail just as much in their efforts to create a thrill. Both realists
and dynamiters are well-meaning people engaged in the task, so obviously
ultimately hopeless, of using science to promote morality. "
does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. . . .
if the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane.
Every one who has the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on
the edge of mental disorder, knows their most sinister quality is a
horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a
map more elaborate than the maze. . . . Perhaps the nearest we can get to
expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow
circle. . . The lunatic's theory explains a large number of things, but it
does not explain them in a larger way."
adjures us to be bold creative artists and not care for laws or limits.
But it is impossible to be an artists and not care for laws or limits. Art
is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. . . . The moment
you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can
free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their
- A series of political and philosophical movements
beginning in the late 18th century, though having their greatest
influence between the 1840s and 1930s. Anarchism holds that all forms
of social coercion should be dismantled or even destroyed--civil
government, law enforcement, the legal system, etc. Typically,
anarchists hold that free of these institutions, humans would form
independent free associations in which people tend to act rightly.
- While some anarchists were pacifists, many held
that organized terrorism was a necessity to overthrow corrupting
leaders and institutions. A number of anarchists cells were
responsible for the murders of public officials in Europe and Russia.
- Some, but not all, were philosophical nihilists
and/or proponents of Nietzschean ideas, such as the superman, a
transvaluation of ethics, and the will to power.
- Some anarchists were radical individualists,
while others valued a collectivist approach. Most believed that order
would arise in spontaneous fashion once free of compulsive government.
- Anarchists were also divided over whether
individuals should control the means of production.
Anarchist world, I admit, is our dream; we do believe - well, I, at any
rate, believe this present world, this planet, will some day bear a race
beyond our most exalted and temerarious dreams, a race begotten of our
wills and the substance of our bodies, a race, so I have said it, 'who
will stand upon the earth as one stands upon a footstool, and laugh and
reach out their hands amidst the stars,' but the way to that is through
education and discipline and law. Socialism is the preparation for that
higher Anarchism; painfully, laboriously we mean to destroy false ideas of
property and self, eliminate unjust laws and poisonous and hateful
suggestions and prejudices, create a system of social right-dealing and a
tradition of right-feeling and action. Socialism is the schoolroom of true
and noble Anarchism, wherein by training and restraint we shall make free
--H.G. Wells, New Worlds for Old (1908)
Chesterton, like his good friend Hillaire Belloc,
considered himself neither a capitalist nor a socialist, but embraced a
position known as distributism, which was inspired by the teachings of Leo
XIII in encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum and in the 1930's by Pius
XI in Quadragesimo Anno. While not all distributists were
Catholics, the position was most often associated with Catholic thinkers
and activists, such as Eric Gill, Vincent McNabb, and Dorothy Day. Its key
- The distribution of property across the widest
possible number of people. This was thought to be maximized by small
farms, independent shopkeepers, craft guilds, and so on.
- The principle of subsidiarity, which holds that
all power and action should be carried out at the lowest level of
organization necessary. Big government should be strictly limited to
matters of national concern. Not all distributists were anti-monarchical.
- Centralization is the least efficient way to take
care of things--"Small is beautiful." Act locally.
- The Napoleonic division of property among all
heirs is best.
- Workers should all have disposable shares in a
- House and homeland are more important values than
race and empire. Family is at the center of production and social
- Economic and political arrangements should
maximize human freedom and its responsibilities.
- All human beings are equal and made in the image
of God. All the above follows from this truth.
- Distributists were divided over the role of
machinery in work and common life. Chesterton was more open to the
benefits of modern machinery.
- Likewise, not all distributists were agrarian in
their ideals. Chesterton was more comfortable in town life.
- What does the opening poem to Clerihew Bentley
reveal about the friends' past and present intellectual lives? What
does it suggest about Chesterton's current view of Western culture?
- Why open the novel in Saffron (i.e. Bedford)
Park, a fashionable neighborhood for intellectuals and artists?
- What makes Gregory and Syme alike? How do they
- What do Syme's choices of vocation reveal about
him? What do they reveal about fin-de-siécle Europe?
- What is the philosophical police? Should we take
- Why does Syme want to strike down Sunday? Are his
- Can one parallel Syme's relation to Gregory with
Wilks' to the real Professor de Worms?