G.K. Chesterton, the Complete Thinker | An Interview with Dale Ahlquist | Catholic World Report
The author of The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton discusses relativism, good thinking, bad thinking, global economics, and more.
Dale Ahlquist is president of the American Chesterton Society. Through his popular television series, The Apostle of Common Sense, as well as his many books and lectures, he has helped foster a renewed interest in the works of G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), the prolific English essayist, novelist, poet, apologist, pundit, critic, and commentator. Ahlquist has authored and contributed to several books on Chesterton, including Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton, G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, and In Defense of Sanity: The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton. He recently spoke with Catholic World Report about his new book, released today by Ignatius Press, The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G. K. Chesterton.
CWR: In the introduction to your latest book, you write of Chesterton: “In an age of relativism, he speaks in absolutes.” Although relativism has made its reputation in the late 20th century, isn’t it true that Chesterton dealt with many forms of it in his own time?
Dale Ahlquist: In Chesterton’s third novel, The Ball and the Cross, published in 1909, he stages a debate between a monk named Michael and a professor named Lucifer. Even the symbolically challenged should figure out who they represent. At one point in the debate, Lucifer attempts to parry one of Michael’s points with the comment, “Of course, everything is relative…” So you see how long ago Chesterton is already aware of this argument forming, and he puts the argument into the mouth of the devil. Just as Chesterton warned that the popularization of Darwin would lead to a belief in mindless progressivism in politics, he warned early on that the popularization of Einstein would lead to an acceptance of relativism in philosophy.
CWR: You state, “Chesterton’s great accomplishment is that in addition to writing about everything, he puts it all together. He is a complete thinker.” How, in light of Chesterton’s writings, does one go about being a complete thinker?