Roger Scruton – Why Beauty Matters

In “Why Beauty Matters,” Roger Scruton argues that a cult of beauty that dominated Western civilization for two thousand years was replaced by a cult of ugliness in the twentieth century. Originality came to be considered key, and ugliness came to dominate language, music, manners and architecture.

For anyone interested in a transcript of the video which I have made for educational purposes, write a “comment” telling me you would like one. Since comments are moderated, I’ll catch it and write to you using your email address that editors, but not anyone else, can see.

Scruton suggests that in losing beauty, the meaning of life is lost. “Philosophers have argued that through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home. We come to understand our own nature as spiritual beings.”

Beauty is not subjective, but a universal human need. It can redeem the chaos, suffering and sorrows of life in the joyful affirmation of beauty. The creative and skillful artist can transform the real in the light of the ideal.

Michelangelo Pieta

A mistake is made in prioritizing the useful over the merely beautiful because, particularly in architecture, beauty is useful. A merely functional building that is ugly is a place that no one wants to work in or live in, if given a choice. Beautiful buildings will always be valued and inspire people to preserve them. Brutalism, the architecture of exposed raw concrete buildings, and glass walled eyesores cause people to eagerly look forward to their demolition.

12 thoughts on “Roger Scruton – Why Beauty Matters

  1. Pingback: Roger Scruton – Why Beauty Matters | @the_arv

  2. Pingback: Roger Scruton – Why Beauty Matters | Reaction Times

  3. All civilizations Christian and others. Instinctively bring forth beauty in all the constructions and manufacturing. Yet it seems the modernist corruption of the west alone brings forth deliberate ugliness. A uniquely western originating malaise that has imposed itself hegemonically on the entire world.

  4. I’ve watched the documentary at least a dozen times in the last year or so. There is something about the brooding subject matter, Sruton’s narration, the visuals and the somber classical music that makes me well up in tears every time. It truly is a masterpiece.

  5. C. S. Lewis’s essential little book The Abolition of Man argued forcefully for the universal awareness of Natural law or “Tao” — objective morality. Lewis provided a non-exhaustive but instructive compilation of testimonies from widely separated cultures that, however, perceived common moral truths. It’s modernity that wants to do away with objective morality.

    As, similarly, it wants to do away with understanding beauty as something perennial and essential. It seems that moderns have trouble differentiating between true beauty and passing fashion and taste. You see this when someone invokes the obese women of Titian, for example, to assert that notions of beauty are endlessly varied. (The first thing to be said about that, by the way, is that the women in Titian’s paintings -are- beautiful; these are not ugly women, although they are unusually fleshy.)

    The beautiful is a a category of the real. Under the conditions of time and space, however, no one object can embody all that is beautiful. Moderns, as heirs of nominalism, may deny that there is any transcendent beauty, but they are typically making a philosophical assumption without being philosophers. The witness of human endeavor, to name one thing, suggests that they are quite wrong.

    • @ Dale: Nice points. I love the Abolition of Man and have taught it maybe half a dozen times quizzing the students paragraph by paragraph. I agree with everything you said. A few days ago I caused an uproar among my students when I said that beauty is objective. As you note, they all assumed the mantle of little philosophers and claimed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is subjective.

  6. Please send the transcript sir! will@buskerhat.com — I am only 3mins in and thoroughly enjoying it. I do better reading than watching video.

    The cult of ugliness, as referred by you, I suspect will coincide with what articulate as a systemic mutiny against humanity.. conviction as such.. suppression of family dynamics / “it takes a village”..

    .. as you suggest — a worthwhile opinion must bloom & fester in tandem with diligent dedication; research, mastery, courage.. the necessary ingredients that tend to turn heads of the ambitious. all of this to say — THANKS for spending the time to produce this output!

    • @ Will Milne – I prefer reading to videos too – though, in this case, because of the visual content, I quite like having both. It was only after reading my own transcript that I could really remember the actual details of Scruton’s argument, rather than just nodding in agreement.

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