Roger Scruton on Beauty

Editor’s note: I’ve seen several tributes to Roger Scruton, who died a few days ago, here is one worth reading — here are John Stonestreet and Shane Morris:

‘A Path that Leads to Home’

On Sunday, Western Civilization lost a giant of a man, and a giant of a mind. Sir Roger Scruton was a philosopher and a prolific author on topics ranging from the history of philosophy, to music, to wine, to hunting, the true meaning of conservatism, the human soul, and more.

Scruton was no mere ivory tower intellectual. What he believed deeply, he put into action. During the 1970s, he smuggled books into Communist Czechoslovakia and helped run an underground network of seminars, offering “courses in philosophy, Hebrew, history, musicology, classical architecture, fine art, theatre, and anything else asked for.” No doubt his experiences with Communism helped make him the ardent and courageous critic of more recent forms of intellectual totalitarianism, too.

Among the things Scruton fought most intensely for, and what I think could be his most enduring contribution, is his defense of beauty.

In a 2009 BBC documentary entitled “Why Beauty Matters,” Scruton argued that Western culture’s loss-of-touch with beauty is a symptom of its loss-of-touch with reality, especially any reality beyond the material world.

In the documentary, which everyone should watch, Scruton contrasts great paintings, sculptures, music, and architecture with the modern and postmodern embrace of ugliness that fills too many museums today: cans of human excrement, urinals, dead animals in tanks, sterile buildings, and literal piles of trash. To call these things “art,” says Scruton, as too many do, isn’t just to rob that word of any meaning. It is to rob our world of meaning.

Read more: Breakpoint