For a work of philosophical criticism, Heretics concludes on a surprising note: “There are no rationalists,” G. K. Chesterton declares. “We all believe fairy-tales and live in them.” Like so many things Chestertonian, the remark appears fanciful, but is in fact mortally serious. The foundation for this remark in particular is the series of essays which constitutes Heretics: investigations of men whose viewpoints and doctrines have “the hardihood to differ” from Chesterton’s. With all the ebullience and brashness typical of its author, Heretics contends with such giants of twentieth-century thought as Joseph McCabe and Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, and Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin, and their ideological progeny—atheism, militarism, vitalism (the philosophy of the “life force”), scientism, nihilism, and evolutionism—and the expansive effects of their power and influence.
Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. (G. K. Chesterton)
First appearing in 1905, three years before the universally acclaimed Orthodoxy, Heretics serves as both proof of the colossal reason and wit of Gilbert Keith Chesterton and an eloquent preamble to his humble faith in the ultimate paradox which is also the ultimate truth.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936) was an immensely prolific English writer, poet, and journalist. A convert to Roman Catholicism, he is best known for his influential works in apologetics, such as Orthodoxy, Heretics, and The Everlasting Man; his biographical studies of Charles Dickens and Robert Browning; and his ingenious Father Brown detective stories.