Sunday, August 07, 2022

Modern Problems

 A man called Smith goes out for a walk, and stops by a bookstall, where he sees a book called "The Great Problem Solved". If Smith finds that this book solves a problem in crime, he is entranced. If Smith finds that it solves a problem in chess, he is interested. If Smith finds that it solves the problem in the last issue of Answers, he is genuinely excited. But if Smith finds that it solves the problem of Smith, that it explains the stones under his feet, and the stars over his head, that it tells him suddenly why it really is that he likes chess or detective stories, or anything else; if I say, Smith finds that the book explains Smith--then we are told he finds it dull. It may be a democratic prejudice, but I do not believe this. I think that Smith likes modern chess problems more than modern philosophical problems for the very simple reason that they are better. I think he likes a modern detective story better than a modern religion simply because there are some good modern detective stories and no good modern religions. In short, he buys "The Great Problem Solved" as a police novel, because be knows that in a police novel, in some shape or form, the great problem will be solved. And he does not buy it as a book of modern philosophy, because he knows that in a book of modern philosophy, the great problem will certainly not be solved.

G. K. Chesterton, "Reading the Riddle", The Common Man.