G.K. Chesterton was a very engaging writer with a lovely prose style, but he was also a very shallow thinker who specialised in dressing up fallacies and bigoted prejudices in quaint costumes to make them seem attractive, and was very fond of clever syllogisms that were actually meaningless except to make him seem superior to everyone else around him. Examples?
The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.
Aesthetes never do anything but what they are told.
When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven’t got any.
I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.
Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.
Do you see his pattern? But even this I could live with if it wasn’t for his outright lying in order to defend his conservative political and religious beliefs. For instance:
There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.
You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants.
(Note: nice to see a man born in one of the wealthiest parts of London acknowledge all those contented peasants throughout history.)
If there were no God, there would be no atheists.
The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.
(Note: this quote is especially galling because he was writing about the Book of Job.)
The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.
(Note: by this tortured reasoning, Chesterton convinces himself that a list of commandments that begins with “You shall have no other gods before me,” forbids all religious art, and forbids working on a certain day, is a liberal work. He also ignores that the Bible is full to the fucking brim with things forbidden. Just because the Top Ten List of Forbidden Things has only ten items, doesn’t mean that Leviticus doesn’t exist.)
Puritanism was an honourable mood; it was a noble fad. In other words, it was a highly creditable mistake.
Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.
Modern broad-mindedness benefits the rich; and benefits nobody else.
[No society can survive the socialist] fallacy that there is an absolutely unlimited number of inspired officials and an absolutely unlimited amount of money to pay them.
(Note: this is about as cartoonish a straw man as you’ll ever see.)
Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.
(Note: this is an excellent example of Chesterton’s rhetorical style; write something outrageously, even obviously self-contradictory, and dress up the logical error as a witty verbal paradox!)
I would give a woman not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.
There are many more examples to choose from (Chesterton was quite prolific) but I think I’ve made my point…