Sir Roger Scruton on Connection Between Modern Art and Loss of the Sacred

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“I think we are losing beauty and there is a danger that, with it, we will lose the meaning of life,” the late English philosopher warned.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 1/13/20 

The English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, who died yesterday at the age of 75, was a prolific author on philosophy, art, music, politics, culture and religion, as well as a novelist and the composer of two operas.

In 2009, he attended a Rome conference titled “God Today: With Him or Without Him, That Changes Everything” that brought together thinkers, artists and Church leaders.

While in Rome, Scruton, who had been a professor of aesthetics, discussed his theory that the deeper reasons for the ugliness of modern and contemporary art are attributable to a general loss of the Christian faith and the sacred. “I think we are losing beauty and there is a danger that, with it, we will lose the meaning of life,” he warned in an acclaimed BBC documentary on the same theme. (See the full program here.)

Here is an excerpt of my short interview with him on the sidelines of that Rome conference, published at the time on Zenit:

The essence of Scruton’s talk was how, until relatively recently, artistic creation of beauty was about giving glory to God, but now is often about desecrating the human form. He explored the reasons why.

“Artists in the post-enlightenment period tried hard to hold on to the idea of beauty precisely to compensate for the loss of their faith,” he explains. Musicians such as Wagner, he adds, saw it as “the unique vestige of the sacred in our world,” and modernism tried to reconnect with the sacred through art created by writers and musicians such as Eliot, Messiaen and Britten. ….

Read more here