The Soul of the World

Princeton University Press
2
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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.

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About the author

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).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 6, 2014
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Pages
216
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ISBN
9781400850006
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Religious
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In Are You an Illusion? today’s scientific orthodoxy, which treats the self as nothing more than an elaborate illusion, comes under spirited attack. In an impassioned defence of the importance of our own thoughts, feelings and experiences, Mary Midgley shows that there’s much more to our selves than a jumble of brain cells.

Exploring the remarkable gap that has opened up between our understanding of our own sense of self and today’s science, she exposes some very odd claims and muddled thinking on the part of cognitive scientists and psychologists when they talk about the self and shows that many well-known philosophical problems in causality and free have been glossed over.

Midgley argues powerfully and persuasively that the rich variety of our imaginative life cannot be contained in the narrow bounds of a highly puritanical materialism that simply equates brain and self. Engaging with the work of prominent thinkers, Midgley investigates the source of our current attitudes to the self and reveals how ideas, traditions and myths have been twisted to fit in, seemingly naturally, with science’s current preoccupation with the physical and, in doing so, have made many other valuable activities and ideas appear as anti-scientific. Midgley shows that the subjective sources of thought – our own experiences – are every bit as necessary in helping to explain the world as the objective ones such as brain cells.

Are You an Illusion? offers a salutary analysis of science’s claim to have done away with the self and a characteristic injection of common sense from one of our most respected philosophers into a debate increasingly in need of it.
A brief, radical defense of human uniqueness from acclaimed philosopher Roger Scruton

In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists, utilitarian moralists, and philosophical materialists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, Scruton argues that human beings cannot be understood simply as biological objects. We are not only human animals; we are also persons, in essential relation with other persons, and bound to them by obligations and rights. Our world is a shared world, exhibiting freedom, value, and accountability, and to understand it we must address other people face to face and I to I.

Scruton develops and defends his account of human nature by ranging widely across intellectual history, from Plato and Averroës to Darwin and Wittgenstein. The book begins with Kant's suggestion that we are distinguished by our ability to say "I"—by our sense of ourselves as the centers of self-conscious reflection. This fact is manifested in our emotions, interests, and relations. It is the foundation of the moral sense, as well as of the aesthetic and religious conceptions through which we shape the human world and endow it with meaning. And it lies outside the scope of modern materialist philosophy, even though it is a natural and not a supernatural fact. Ultimately, Scruton offers a new way of understanding how self-consciousness affects the question of how we should live.

The result is a rich view of human nature that challenges some of today's most fashionable ideas about our species.

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