“Woman and the Philosophers” by G.K. Chesterton

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Simon Glücklich “Paar im Gespräch”

Woman and the Philosophers by G.K. Chesterton 

The Speaker, January 26, 1901

The title of the work before us is Woman: a Scientific Study and Defence. It never occurred to us before that woman stood in need of a defence of any kind; and what the women of our acquaintance would think of being made the subject of a “scientific defence” we shudder to conceive. The work which Mr. Seed has adapted from M. Fouillee contains a considerable amount of sound and suggestive argument against the scientific theories of the inferiority of woman; but the plan of the book is a mistake. Instead of attempting to base the equality of the sexes on the domestic habits of some wretched amoeba in the primeval twilight, the author should have turned on the men of science and told them, with all possible respect, that they have nothing whatever to do with questions of superiority and inferiority. Obviously they have not. Whether woman is structurally different to man is a matter of physical science, whether she is superior or inferior or equal is not a matter of physical science; it is a question of what you happen to want. Science does its duty in saying that monkeys have tails and men have not; but as for saying that it is better not to have tails, that is a matter of taste and imagination, and by no means certain even at that.

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G.K. Chesterton on Woman at Work and at Home

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“…if education is really the larger matter, then certainly domestic life is the larger matter; and official or commercial life the lesser matter.”

Chesterton was contending with feminist arguments of his day that painted domesticity as dull and prosaic as a way to promote emancipating women to work in the public realm. Although he didn’t disagree that women could certainly work outside the home (and quite possibly put men to shame with their diligence and loyalty), he questioned the arguments used to advance it. Is this truly emancipation?

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G.K. Chesterton on Marriage

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“The Party Wall” 1906 by Gibson

“Incompatibility in Marriage”

G.K. Chesterton

from The Illustrated London News, September 19, 1908

“They break the law not because they are stronger than the law, but because the law is too strong for them.”

I have always heard from my youth that in America it is possible to get a divorce for incompatibility of temper.  In my childhood I always thought it was a joke; but I thought it even more of a joke when I discovered that it was true. If married people are to be divorced for incompatibility of temper, I cannot imagine why all married people are not divorced. Any man and any woman must have incompatible tempers; it is the definition of sex. It is the whole point of being married. Nay, it is the whole fun of being engaged. You do not fall in love with a compatible person. You do not love somebody exactly like yourself. I am prepared to bet that no two people were ever betrothed for a week without discovering that they suffered from incompatibility of temper. As long as a marriage is founded on a good solid incompatibility, that marriage has a fair chance of continuing to be a happy marriage, and even a romance. Someone said, “As long as lovers can quarrel they are still lovers.”  Whoever said it had, at least, more wisdom and knowledge of human nature than some of the legislators in America.

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Discrimination Begins At Conception

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“I just strangled it soon after it was born,” she says.

On the edge of a lush, green field in Southern India, a woman smiles as she talks into a camera. The shades of pink in her saree shine brilliantly in the bright sunlight. With her husband standing nearby, she speaks with an eerie calm about the small row of graves that lie a few feet away in the dark cool of the shade.

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The Sanctity of Human Life

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Amalie Mathilde Bauerle (12 November 1873 – 4 March 1916)

“When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

“When it comes to alleviating suffering, we must prioritize the needs of the thinking, feeling, actual person walking around on two legs over that of the potential person in the womb.” This statement represents a cogent summary of one of the most powerful arguments for abortion one will find today. Framed in both emotionally dense and philosophically loaded language, it puts the pro-life advocate into several difficult positions at once—first, to seem to not care about another’s suffering and second, to have to wade into the deep, philosophical waters of defining personhood. This argument reveals many things about the debate, not the least of which that it hinges upon the disputed concept of personhood and an impossible calculation of suffering. While the latter must be responded to delicately and with compassion for it is a species of the problem of evil, we often do not have to luxury of sidestepping the personhood aspect of the argument. This is primarily because the connection between personhood and abortion has been codified into our legal system and thus, it shapes the thinking of many in our culture (as the opening quote reveals). I propose that questions of personhood can indeed be engaged from practical, philosophical, and scientific standpoints and that the cumulative results of such an engagement form a powerful existential case against abortion.

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Chesterton on Motherhood

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Gustav Klimt

Chesterton reminds us of the wonder and awe of motherhood.  I find myself continually returning to this passage.  Perhaps it’s because our culture tends to sacrifice motherhood on the altar of equality.  Whether or not this is on purpose, it happens and it’s difficult not to internalize.  This passage helps me return to this fundamental “first thing” – the beauty of motherhood.  Enjoy!

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