Saturday, October 8, 2022

An intellectual polemicist

Patrick Kurp's son, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, has been reading G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy.
Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving the vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who are walking about.
.... Chesterton is not a systematic thinker; more of an intellectual polemicist. He revels in paradox and writes aphoristically. Like his hero, Dr. Johnson, he is eminently quotable, and Orthodoxy is rich in memorable sentences, like this:
Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.
.... Chesterton is no saint, though some admirers have called for his beatification. His occasional anti-Semitism cannot be pardoned. The late Terry Teachout described it as “the only blot of any significance on the character of the man George Bernard Shaw described as ‘friendly, easy-going, unaffected, gentle, magnanimous, and genuinely democratic.’” ....

Getting back to the centrality of tradition to his thinking, Chesterton writes in Orthodoxy: “It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time. It is trusting to a consensus of common human voices rather than to some isolated or arbitrary record.”
Patrick Kurp, "The Most Obscure of All Classes," Anecdotal Evidence, Oct. 8, 2022.

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