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. 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).
"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
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
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Roger Scruton: