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In search of order

In search of order

Required reading

Who: Oscar van den Wijngaard, philosopher at UCM

What: The Man Who Was Thursday, G.H. Chesterton

Target group: UCM students

“The main character is a young inspector for Scotland Yard. He infiltrates an anarchist terrorist group, the Supreme Anarchist Council. Everyone in the group has a code name based on the days of the week and he is given the chance to become the new Thursday. Even though he joined the police to combat anarchism, he holds a passionate plea for the execution of society and is accepted as a member of the group.”

Oscar van den Wijngaard does not want to give too much away about the story of The Man Who Was Thursday. “Nothing is as it seems, things change all the time. Chesterton is a very good storyteller. He draws you into a vortex. The book contains dream-like aspects; sometimes the whole story appears to be a hallucination of the main character. It also has a hectic feeling about it because of the numerous chases, but you should not be tempted to quickly read on. It contains a lot of food for thought.”

According to Van den Wijngaard, the book is a quest for an underlying order. “It shows how people wrestle with the idea that the reason is only an assumption. The book was written in 1908, the age of relativism. If everything is relative, then nothing is certain.” That is what makes the book interesting for UCM students. “They are often very inspired and enthusiastic and because of that they can have a tendency to base themselves on unshakeable assumptions. For example, a distinct conviction of what is good and what is evil. This book immediately incites the reader to pose philosophical questions.”

Van den Wijngaard thinks that it is also a consolatory book. “Chesterton was a religious man, for whom the underlying order of life lay in religion. The book was not written as proof for the existence of God, but it does have something reassuring, suggesting that life is worthwhile.”  

In this column lecturers recommend a novel that throws a different light on their field than textbooks do

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