Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Wind and the Trees

The great human dogma, then, is that the wind moves the trees. The great human heresy is that the trees move the wind. When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change. For if my circumstances have made me wholly stupid, how can I be certain even that I am right in altering those circumstances?

The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts--including that one. To treat the human mind as having an ultimate authority is necessary to any kind of thinking, even free thinking. And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realise that the moral fact comes first.

G. K. Chesterton, "The Wind and the Trees," Tremendous Trifles.


  1. Greta1:51 AM

    This is a wonderful excerpt; I also find it fascinating how often I read Chesterton and nod my head in agreement or marvel at his formulations.
    On an only vaguely connected note, it occurred to me as I read this that while the human mind has authority, circumstance can be very tricky to contend with particularly as many (like the sophists in the dialogues we read this summer... sadly, I do not think I will have time before Christmas to catch up on the post-summer dialogues I missed) have it as their interest to cover up causes so that they may dress the immoral in the Emperor's Clothes, making it doubly hard to call such out for what it is. So in addition to the responsibility for one's mind is also the responsibility of learning how to get the practical knowledge needed to extricate one's persons from compromising situations.

  2. branemrys8:18 AM

    There does seem to be an important link between intellectual integrity and moral integrity. We see this displayed in the Gorgias: for instance, Socrates' insistence that it is always better to be punished if you have done wrong, is closely tied to his view that it is best to be refuted if you are in error.


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