What do sin, madness, and rationalism have to do with each other? Quite a lot if you ask Chesterton. In this chapter, Chesterton finally begins with his own deep intuitions about the world, for which he will seek a philosophy to satisfy or answer these convictions. The first conviction he begins with is that of sin: that something is terribly wrong with the world and with ourselves. The trouble that Chesterton observes, however, is that we’ve lost the ability to describe this problem in spiritual terms. So, he seeks terms that moderns can understand: sickness, and more specifically, mental illness. He describes madness as a kind of minute, infinite rationality. The man who thinks he is Jesus Christ sees everything as evidence of this fact: he cannot be refuted.
Madness, then, cannot be fixed by more rationality, but by an acknowledgement of its limits. The opposite of madness is health. Chesterton then argues that the modern world is afflicted with this kind of madness. It is stuck in the single, suffocating argument of materialism which explains everything and makes everything not worth explaining. For Chesterton, then, we must seek a philosophy which gets our heads into the heavens, and doesn’t attempt to get the heavens into our heads. We must value not only truth, but health. We must prize mystery.
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