Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Universe and Mr. Chesterton

From the Combox, Nick asked:
"Do you know of any systematic theologians or philosophers who have done in depth explorations of Orthodoxy?"

And Mr. Ahlquist answered:
The Universe and Mr. Chesterton by Randall Paine is about the closest he’s going to come.
I hope that helps.


  1. Nancy,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I have to admit, though, to being surprised that there haven't been more sustained attempts to philosophically engage with Orthodoxy, since it seems as close as Chesterton comes to forming a full fledged philosophical treatise.

  2. I have not read Paine's book (another book that I will have to add to my collection--my wife will be so happy), but if I may add my two cents here...

    He is neither a theologian nor a philosopher but for my money the best book ever written on Chesterton's thought is "Chesterton: Man and Mask," by Garry Wills (1961). It is the only work I have encountered that takes full account of Chesterton's Thomism. I regret to say that I am not as up on recent Chesterton books such as Mr. Ahlquist's, so this judgment is necessarily tentative.

    Also, "Paradox in Chesterton," literary critic Hugh Kenner's first book, and Hillaire Belloc's "On the Place of Gilbert Chesterton in English Literature" are good, although Belloc's perspective is a little too close to his subject in both time and relationship to be considered.

    And one more: Michael Aeschliman's "The Restitution of Man: C.S. Lewis's Case Against Scientism" is as much about Chesterton as Lewis, and remains one of my favorite secondary sources on Chesterton.

    Thanks for the great blog.

  3. I didn't finish my sentence on Belloc. What I meant to say is "to be considered terribly authoritative."

    Also, on Mr. Steffan's comment, I think the lack of systematic treatments of Chesterton's thought in general stems from the lack of systematic organization in Chesterton's own writing. He was, after all, very literary in his presesntation, and not very philosophical. His thought was philosophical, but his writing wasn't--if that makes sense.

    The writer hoping to capture any particular aspect of Chesterton's thought soon comes face to face with the fact that his comments on this or that issue are scattered throughout numerous books, themselves on various and sundry topics. In order to have a good grasp of any particular aspect of Chesterton, in other words, it is necessary to have a general grasp of the whole of Chesterton. And given the size and scope of his writing, that isn't an easy proposition.

  4. In Man and Mask Garry Wills pointed to the mutually incompatible views of the author’s critics up to that time. Wills promised in the Introduction to his book that he would lift this veil of mystery. At the end of the book he apologized for his failure to do so.
    ~ Gramps


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