Chesterton on Timeless Virtues and Vices

book recommendations Jan 25, 2021

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874- 1936) penned around 80+ books, wrote hundreds of poems, an estimated 200 short stories, and about 4,000 essays (largely in the form of newspaper columns). He also wrote a handful of plays.

He was a critic (of literature and society itself, a historian, a novelist, and a lay theologian.

He’s been referred to as the “prince of paradox.”

And, Time said that: "Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out.

Here are some of his best one-liners—


“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” 

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” 

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” 

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

“Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.” 

“Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.” 

“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.” 

“It’s not that we don’t have enough scoundrels to curse; it’s that we don’t have enough good men to curse them.” 

“The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice.” 

“It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.” 

“There are some desires that are not desirable.”


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