‘The Soul of the World’ by Roger Scruton
We may have lost God, argues philosopher of aesthetics Roger Scruton, but we still need a sense of ‘the sacred’. Don’t be so quick to dismiss such a concept as vague nonsense. Like much of Roger Scruton’s thought, it is impeccably nuanced and rewards close examination. He argues that the sacred is of fundamental relevance to a life well-lived, and then plunges into a definition and defence of it that weaves together human experience of other people, civilisation, society, law, architecture, art, music and religion. Mechanistic explanations of the world have served us well, he says, but fall far short of a full human understanding of it. Important features emerge from the mechanics, but are not reducible to them. A full understanding of music cannot be reached by describing a sequence of pitched sounds. A painting is more than an arrangement of pixels. Consciousness is more than the firing of neurons. There is something missing — something that is crucial to the way we humans interact with the world. Much valuable insight ensues, even if you worry that Scruton has opened up a chasm which he cannot quite fill.