26 December 2009
Roger Scruton, Beauty
From the dust jacket ...
"Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane," writes Roger Scruton. "It can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It is never viewed with indifference: beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks to us directly like the voice of an intimate friend."
In a book that is itself beautifully written, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores this timeless concept, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful. This compact volume is filled with insight and Scruton has something interesting and original to say on almost every page. Can there be dangerous beauties, corrupting beauties, and immoral beauties? Perhaps so. The prose of Flaubert, the imagery of Baudelaire, the harmonies of Wagner, Scruton points out, have all been accused of immorality, by those who believe that they paint wickedness in alluring colors. Is it right to say there is more beauty in a classical temple than a concrete office block, more beauty in a Rembrandt than in an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can? Can we even say, of certain works of art, that they are too beautiful: that they ravish when they should disturb. But while we may argue about what is or is not beautiful, Scruton insists that beauty is a real and universal value, one anchored in our rational nature, and that the sense of beauty has an indispensable part to play in shaping the human world.
I came across Scruton this year while researching and reading Dutton's The Art Instinct. A classical conservative, Scruton rails against the "Me" in art and its degradation of beauty. Edification is taught here, if we will listen.