Chesterton in Brief – Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton
The Apostolate of Common Sense

Chesterton in Brief

A Guide to Chesterton's Philosophy of Thought

Brief Summaries Compiled by John Peterson, Dale Ahlquist, and the Staff of Gilbert!

Detective Stories

It strikes some readers as strange that Chesterton, a highly respected literary critic, could take seriously the lowly detective story. But he did take it seriously.

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“The horror of war,” Chesterton wrote, “is the sentiment of a Christian and even of a saint.”

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Chesterton wrote that if he had just one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against the sin of pride.

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Career Women

It was quite clear to Chesterton that having a job might make a woman independent of husbands and families, but it also made them dependent on employers, dependent on wage-earning, and servants to a business as most men already were.

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Hudge and Gudge

Hudge and Gudge, Big Government and Big Business (and sometimes Sludge–Big Science) overstep their bounds and interfere with the average family, whom Chesterton calls the Jones family.

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Crime and Punishment

If heredity and environment account for all crimes, Chesterton argued, then law enforcement would become focused on certain types of people (perhaps the poor) and in certain neighborhoods (perhaps the slums). Chesterton was opposed to such views.

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The Common Man

Chesterton called plain folks “the million masks of God” and praised them for their common sense, common decency, and their humble institutions: hearth and home, the family, the church, and the pub.

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If there is a spiritual presence in the material world, physical science will not discover it; and if we discover it, physical science will have no idea of what it means.

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Scientific Determinism

Chesterton argues against the theory of scientific determinism: that a man’s life is determined for him by factors beyond his control, be they the environment, heredity, or a host of other external forces that play upon him.

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Puritans argue against the goodness of creation, finding the source of evil in material things of pleasure (as tobacco, alcohol, art, and so on) rather than in the disordered human will to misuse the good things nature affords us.

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The Family

Liberty, Chesterton argued, is merely the right to choose between one set of limitations and another. It is limitations, he wrote, that create “all the poetry and variety of life.”

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The Deadly Sins

Unlike the pleasure-seeking hedonists, Chesterton believed in the reality of sin. Unlike the prohibition-minded Puritans, he believed in enjoying God’s pleasures to the full.

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Chesterton reminds us that the end purpose of work is a product, not a wage, and that all the exchanges in which people exploit one another, both socially and financially, are also opportunities for people to dignify one another.

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