G.K.Chesterton quotation---appropriate for YBQ?

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Mon Aug 31 13:44:24 UTC 2009

It seems to me that the Chesterton quote suggests the exact opposite of what chaos theory postulates, which is that seeming disorder has some underlying order. Personally, I find the quote stodgy and more arch than perceptive (I having been corrupted by the more current notion that order is entirely the projection of the human mind upon the data of experience). So I would vote for keeping Chesterton's chestnut out of any collection of memorable quotations. You ready have "God's in her Heaven, all is basically right with the world" (or something like that) I'm sure. Though adding the C quote could perhaps further the notion that the universe of quotation books is more disordered than it seems. Or less.
------Original Message------
From: Fred Shapiro
Sender: ADS-L
ReplyTo: ADS-L
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] G.K.Chesterton quotation---appropriate for YBQ?
Sent: Aug 30, 2009 8:47 PM

Thanks, Jerry.  This quote has a fair number of Google hits, and is mildly provocative, so I will certainly consider it for the second edition.  I must say that I have some problems with Chesterton in that the best quotes tend to be skeptical in nature whereas devout Catholics such as Chesterton, or devout Communists or devout anythings, tend to be unskeptical.  But the fact that I had 25 quotes from him in the YBQ must mean that I was able to overcome my feelings about Chesterton to some extent.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Cohen, Gerald Leonard [gcohen at MST.EDU]
Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2009 2:13 PM
Subject: G.K.Chesterton quotation---appropriate for YBQ?

Today a colleague sent me a quotation by the English writer G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936).  I then promptly checked the unfailingly excellent Yale Book of Quotations and found 25 Chesterton quotations there but not the one below.  Should it perhaps be included in a future edition?

Gerald Cohen

[Chesterton quote]:
"The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite...
It looks just a bit more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait."

My colleague (and good friend) then commented:

Chesterton died in 1936 when I was two years old; you hadn't been born yet. He seems to have anticipated chaos theory a long while before the mathematicians and physicists actually came up with it about years later...   basically the story is that small changes in conditions can produce large and unexpected effects. however, old Herbert Spencer had something of the idea in this law of unanticipated consequences; ...

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