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.
Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher and the author of more than forty books, including The Aesthetics of Architecture (Princeton), The Aesthetics of Music, The Face of God, and Green Philosophy. He is a visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.
"[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
Table of Contents:
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
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Roger Scruton: