Thursday, November 22, 2007

Orthodoxy Excerpts

Some artful philosophy from GK Chesterton, which I might only ruin with further comment:

On the freedom that is only found by having rules: "We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over, but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased" (Orthodoxy, 216).

On the denied presuppositions that enable evolutionism: "Nature does not say that cats are more valuable than mice; nature makes no remark on the subject. She does not even say that the cat is enviable or the mouse pitiable. We think the cat superior because we have (or most of us have) a particular philosophy to the effect that life is better than death. But if the mouse were a German pessimist mouse, he might not think that the cat had beaten him at all. He might think he had beaten the cat by getting to the grave first. Or he might feel that he had actually inflicted frightful punishment on the cat by keeping him alive. . .

. . . Just as a microbe might feel proud of spreading a pestilence, so the pessimistic mouse might exult to think that he was renewing in the cat the torture of conscious existence. It all depends on the philosophy of the mouse. You cannot even say that there is victory or superiority in nature unless you have some doctrine about what things are superior. You cannot even say that the cat scores unless there is a system of scoring. You cannot even say that the cat gets the best of it unless there is some best to be got" (150).

On miracles and the presuppositions of science: "The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them" (224).

On rejecting faith on the basis of convenient caricatures: "The ordinary agnostic has got his facts all wrong. He is a non-believer for a multitude of reasons; but they are untrue reasons. He doubts because the Middle Ages were barbaric, but they weren’t; because Darwinism is demonstrated, but it isn’t; because miracles do not happen, but they do; because monks were lazy, but they were very industrious; because nuns are unhappy, but they are particularly cheerful; because Christian art was sad and pale, but it was picked out in peculiarly bright colours and gay with gold; because modern science is moving away from the supernatural, but it isn’t, it is moving towards the supernatural with the rapidity of a railway train" (223).

1 comment:

Tony Tanti said...

These are great, I really like the cat and mouse thing, GK has such a way of seeing things from a fresh perspective.

3 out of 5 for Oceans 13 eh? I guess that's fair. I thought it was great though.