.. choleric correspondent who rebuked me for being too frivolous about the problem of Spiritualism. My correspondent, who is evidently an intelligent man, is very angry with me indeed. He uses the strongest language. ... The main substance of his attack resolves itself into two propositions. First, he asks me what right I have to talk about Spiritualism at all, as I admit I have never been to a seance. This is all very well, but there are a good many things to which I have never been, but I have not the smallest intention of leaving off talking about them. I refuse (for instance) to leave off talking about the Siege of Troy. I decline to be mute in the matter of the French Revolution. I will not be silenced on the late indefensible assassination of Julius Caesar. If nobody has any right to judge of Spiritualism except a man who has been to a seance, the results, logically speaking, are rather serious: it would almost seem as if nobody had any right to judge of Christianity who had not been to the first meeting at Pentecost. Which would be dreadful. I conceive myself capable of forming my opinion of Spiritualism without seeing spirits, just as I form my opinion of the Japanese War without seeing the Japanese, or my opinion of American millionaires without (thank God) seeing an American millionaire. Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed: [See John 20:29] a passage which some have considered as a prophecy of modern journalism."Don't judge a man before you've walked a mile in his moccasins" is a useful aphorism inasmuch as it reminds us to be compassionate to those in different circumstances, but as a guide for making moral decisions it leaves much to be desired. I don't have to engage in stupid behavior to be able to declare it stupid -- indeed, it strengthens my reputation for sense to avoid stupidity in the first place. Being able to decide from the description of a book or a movie whether or not I want to spend time and money on it means that I save a lot of time and money. I like to be challenged intellectually, but I expect an intellectual challenge to be intellectual, not a hackneyed rehashing of popular misconceptions.ILN June 9, 1906 CW27:207-8
Monday, May 08, 2006
Why I Keep Talking
On a thread about the Da Vinci Code movie at Happy Catholic, Dr. Thursday posted an extended quote from Chesterton on why it's perfectly defensible to have an opinion on something one has never experienced.