“What Is Wrong Is That We Do Not Ask What Is Right.”

Guest post by E2

[Introduction: G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936) is one of the greatest of all English language writers and thinker, as well as one of the most entertaining. He wrote about literary and visual art, history, religion, politics, economics, science, and ethics, and if this is his first appearance on Ethics Alarms as I suspect, I am awash with shame. E2, in this guest post, does us all a great service by presenting this example of his thinking regarding the ethical problem of deciding how to construct better cultures and societies. The title is taken from the conclusion of the Chesterton quote offered—JM]

I have known about G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) for a long time, as a brilliant British philosopher and social critic (and the author of the witty and wry and silly “Father Brown” stories – though obviously not of the TV version), but I never bothered to actually read him. I admit that it was only recent chance and a cheap Kindle book that finally allowed me to do so.

The first chapter of his 1910 book “What’s Wrong With The World” was a ‘bright-light’ experience for me. Though hopelessly outdated in some 21st century factual respects, it is interesting because Chesterton takes the time to examine the thought process and how it affects the outcomes of different kinds of thinking, reminiscent of the “observer effect.” (Though he was, in 1910, much more trusting of science and medicine than we are now, e.g., and did not address 21st century thought process issues like the scientists’ dilemma about doing something simply because they can, without considering if they should.)

Herewith a short sample of G.K. Chesterton’s “What’s Wrong With The World,” now in the public domain in the US and considered to be one of his more interesting works. (So why did I pay anything at all for the book when I could have downloaded it for free? Because I wouldn’t have thought that day to google him or it and so have had this happy accident.) If you check the internet today you will find articles as recent as Christmas Eve 2021 about GKC and Santa Claus… Final note: succeeding chapters are just as fun.

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