Author(s): Roger Scruton
In The Soul of the World, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends the experience of the sacred against today's fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive--and to understand what we are--is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things. Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life--and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are? Drawing on art, architecture, music, and literature, Scruton suggests that the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need, and of our quest for the being who might answer it, and that this search for the sacred endows the world with a soul. Evolution cannot explain our conception of the sacred; neuroscience is irrelevant to our interpersonal relationships, which provide a model for our posture toward God; and scientific understanding has nothing to say about the experience of beauty, which provides a God's-eye perspective on reality. Ultimately, a world without the sacred would be a completely different world--one in which we humans are not truly at home. Yet despite the shrinking place for the sacred in today's world, Scruton says, the paths to transcendence remain open.
One of The Times Literary Supplement's Books of the Year 2014, chosen by Jonathan Clark One of Flavorwire's 10 Best Books by Academic Publishers in 2014 One of the Scotsman's Books of the Year 2014, chosen by Alexander McCall Smith "The interest of his project lies not so much in the conclusions themselves, but rather in the way he attempts to establish them. Most conservatives place great weight on contingent features of the human condition. They emphasize our cognitive limitations, our anti-social impulses and the sheer extent of our ignorance, or they delve into the details of human history in order to establish that the old ways cannot be abandoned so quickly. Scruton's conservatism is more rationalistic."--David Owens, Times Literary Supplement "[A] stately and often beautiful journey through various areas of human experience... [W]ide-ranging and intellectually impassioned."--Sarah Bakewell, Financial Times "[I]n no previous work has he woven together so successfully his thoughts on aesthetics, personhood, politics, and religion... [A] book that--for its richness, scope, and beauty--may be remembered as among his best."--Spencer Case, National Review Online "Reading Scruton is to take delight in his clarity of expression and linguistic economy, and it's to feel as though you're in the hands of a guide who is unafraid of doubts and uncertainties."--Laura Keynes, Standpoint "[F]ascinating."--Christopher Hart, Sunday Times "[C]onvincing."--Jonathan Derbyshire, Prospect "The Soul of the World is a rich and rewarding work, one composed by a scholar clearly possessing exceptional depth and broad learning."--Jerry Salyer, Catholic World Report "[T]he English conservative philosopher ... really is a gift and a wonder."--Rod Dreher, American Conservative "Once again drawing on insights offered by his conservatism he inquires into the nature of intimacy, relatedness, inter-subjectivity, moral intuitions and the capacity for aesthetic appreciation, and their implications for the sacred and transcendent in a society besotted by an arrogant scientism unprepared to accept its own profound limitations."--Mervyn Bendle, Quadrant Magazine "[A] small but elegant volume which brings to the fore Scruton's central themes of art, music, and mystery, built on the interlocking, though unfashionable, notions of beauty and truth."--Joe Gelonesi, ABC Radio National's "The Philosopher's Zone" "Scruton as usual mounts broad challenges to the conventional wisdom about nearly everything."--Steven Hayward, Power Lines "It is immensely entertaining to see Scruton run the reductionists to ground, then eviscerate them with the appetite of a hungry beagle. The Soul of the World is worth reading for the blood sport alone; but Scruton is after bigger game. His ultimate objective is the philosopher's trophy: meaning. And that, Scruton believes, lies in our experience of the sacred... The Soul of the World is a highly personal vision of a reconstructed Lebenswelt. In a series of cogent, fascinating chapters, he explains why we should set our sights on the beautiful horizon."--Dominic Green, Weekly Standard "The beginning of Scruton's book is exciting because he immediately acknowledges the emotional core of religion... Scruton gives us a welcome refocusing of the religion debate on the personal level rather than the genetic and group-selection levels... This territory--the phenomenology of religion--is where Scruton is most interesting and nuanced."--Stephen T. Asma, Chronicle Review "There is a crying need for Scruton's sort of attitude that understands that everything rests on human subjectivity."--Angus Kennedy, Spiked Review of Books "For a vigorous, challenging, at times infuriating essay at recovering the order for human existence in its full dimensions from what can seem to be the overwhelming successful technological and scientistic culture we all live in, Scruton's extended meditation can hardly be bettered."--Brendan Purcell, VoegelinView "Scruton's range of learning is truly remarkable."--Thomas D. Senor, Philosophers' Magazine "Scruton's strongest ideas prove intriguing and thought-provoking in this relatively short book... In the end, he has done both philosophy and religion a great service."--Arlice Davenport, Wichita Eagle "Roger Scruton is one of the most lucid articulators of this discomfort at a purely materialist account of human origins."--Nick Spencer, Tablet "Scruton is on particularly strong form on music: for instance, on how necessity and freedom function in it. On this territory, he is as worthy of attention as anyone currently writing on music."--Andrew Davison, Church Times "[R]efreshing... The Soul of the World is a short book that contains many insights about classic religious concerns. Clearly written and carefully argued, the text is rich and subtle, well worth reading and rereading."--Dennis O'Brien, Christian Century "The Soul of the World is a stimulating read and will be helpful to anyone who wants some original insights into the emptiness of Naturalism. I anticipate, however, that the solution Scruton offers will not satisfy the Evangelical reader."--Thom Atkinson, Churchman "For a vigorous, challenging, at times infuriating essay at recovering the order of human existence in its full dimensions from what can seem to be the overwhelmingly successful technological and scientific culture we all live in, Scruton's extended meditation can hardly be bettered."--Brendan Purcell, VoegelinView "[A] beautifully written, elegant, and exceptional essay... The essay is essentially an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is integral to human life... Scruton's essay calls for a level of spiritual attentiveness to our surroundings."--Martyn Percy, Journal of Contemporary Religion "An erudite ... book... Recommended for its scope, ingenuity, and Scruton's inimitable style."--Charles Taliaferro, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies "The Soul of the World is stimulating for the mind and nourishing for the soul."--William J. Meyer, Sophia
Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher. He is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, and a senior fellow of the Future Symphony Institute. Among his more than forty books is The Aesthetics of Architecture (Princeton).
Preface vii 1 Believing in God 1 2 Looking for People 27 3 Looking at the Brain 51 4 The First-Person Plural 76 5 Facing Each Other 96 6 Facing the Earth 115 7 The Sacred Space of Music 140 8 Seeking God 175 Index of Names 199 Index of Subjects 203