Deep from the Atlantic, Megan McArdle writes, “Next to a considered book of philosophy, Chesterton seems a little smug. Next to a cartoon and letters to the editor and in response to his actual opponents, he’s not only a genius, but a delightful one:”
Chesterton is rather a publicist and a polemicist on behalf of those ideals. He is not joining some great conversation with Don Scotus, Aristotle, and Nietszche. Rather he is in a constant scrum with Bertrand Russell, Benjamin Kidd, Cecil Rhodes, H.G. Wells, Sidney Webb, Edward Carpenter, W.T. Stead, etc… Notably, only half those names live on and most are dimmer than Chesterton’s. Judged in that company he is sterling. When was the last time you saw an H.G. Wells insight applied to anything?
Oh, I can think of something. How ’bout you?
There’s also a quote that history has misattributed to Chesterton, that comes to mind. As Umberto Eco wrote in 2005:
G K Chesterton is often credited with observing: “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.” Whoever said it — he was right. We are supposed to live in a sceptical age. In fact, we live in an age of outrageous credulity.
Related: “Twilight of the Rubes.”