Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Beauty Matters: Roger Scruton

In debates and discussions around beauty, I have often commented that if one were to view the concern for beauty as "shallow" then one is in fact viewing beauty itself too shallowly -- for it most certainly is not a shallow concern.

In that vein, NLM readers will be interested in the following which was aired on BBC with philosopher Roger Scruton hosting the programme: Why Beauty Matters.

In the hour long programme, Scruton considers why beauty matters and further gives a critical consideration of modern culture and some of the most extreme expressions of the modern art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Now here I feel compelled to note that "modern art" is a broad category seeing multiple expressions and influences and there is sifting which needs to be done as they are not all one and the same; thus, for example, when the Holy Father praises the work of Marc Chagall, this is in a much different category than the work of, say, Marcel Duchamp.

One of the takeaway quotes from the presentation -- which I find wonderfully Chestertonian -- comes within an architectural context:

...if you consider only utility, the things you build will soon be useless...

Now, please note, Scruton does not approach this subject from a theologically Catholic point of view, but much of what he says is certainly "catholic" in the broadest sense of the word and it is well worth the one hour investment of your time.

We often face even within the Church a very modern distrust of beauty as some sort of superficial category; a mere 'aestheticism'. (I have spoken of this at various times, but may I particularly point you back to the following two pieces I wrote: A Modest Proposal: Speaking About Beauty within the Sacred Liturgy, April 2010; The Rebellion Against the Self-Evident, February 2009.) One of the particular reasons for which I wish bring this programme to your attention is precisely because of the fundamental point: that beauty is not inconsequent and does indeed matter.

(Please note: there are some images in the video which you will likely not want your children to watch. They are shown in the programme, however, to illustrate the point which Scruton wishes to address.)



Those who are interested in more of Roger Scruton's thought may want to look at the publishing offerings of St. Augustine's Press.