The Soul of the World

The Soul of the World

Roger Scruton
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Soul of the World
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5000-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Believing in God
    (pp. 1-26)

    The currently fashionable discussions of religious belief arose partly in response to the confrontation between Christianity and modern science, and partly in response to the attacks of 9/11, which drew attention to another confrontation, between Islam and the modern world. In both confrontations, as popularly understood, reason points one way, and faith the other. And if faith justifies murder, faith is not an option.

    However, the two confrontations have entirely different origins. One is intellectual, the other emotional. One concerns the nature of reality; the other concerns how we should live. Public intellectuals who have espoused the atheist cause often...

  5. 2 Looking for People
    (pp. 27-50)

    My argument so far has concerned a set of difficult notions that are not always given a central role in religious experience: notions of the sacred, the real presence, and the search in this world for God. Whatever we think of the evolutionary significance of religious belief, and its role in natural selection, we should recognize that there is another and far more transparent function that religion seems to perform: the maintenance of the life of the person. Every aspect of religious belief and obedience contributes to this. Religions focus and amplify the moral sense; they ring-fence those aspects of...

  6. 3 Looking at the Brain
    (pp. 51-75)

    When we consider nonhuman animals, it is hard to doubt that they receive information from their body and their environment, that this information is processed in some way by their central nervous system, of which the brain is the most important part, and that behavior issues as a result of this. When speaking of animal minds, therefore, we could as well be speaking of animal brains. And if this is true of animals, is it not also true of humans? Why should we resist that conclusion, once we have abandoned the ontological dualism that I rejected in the first two...

  7. 4 The First-Person Plural
    (pp. 76-95)

    In the previous chapter I gave reasons for thinking that our self-understanding as persons cannot be replaced by any natural science of the human being. I did not deny that we are animals, or that our behavior and mental life are largely governed by the computational processes that occur in our brains. But, I suggested, we know ourselves, and each other, under a concept that denotes no natural kind and which takes its sense from the network of our free interactions: the concept of the person, itself to be explained in terms of firstperson knowledge and the I-to-You encounter. One...

  8. 5 Facing Each Other
    (pp. 96-114)

    The facts conjured by Shakespeare in those lines are indeed not strange, for they are the constantly repeated refrain of personal life. But as soon as we examine them, we discover them to be as strange as anything we know. I have suggested that our way of understanding the person employs concepts that have no part to play in the explanatory sciences, and situates people—both self and other—in some way on the edge of things. People are objects in the world of objects, certainly. But we address them as subjects, each with its own distinctive perspective on the...

  9. 6 Facing the Earth
    (pp. 115-139)

    Myths of origins are not ordinary fairy tales or explorations of the supernatural. They are attempts to make sense of the human condition, by projecting human nature back to an imaginary origin unencumbered by history and institutions. The myth displays a world in which persons existfrom the beginning, and uses that device to explore the predicament of persons here and now. Rousseau’s story of the “noble savage” is such a myth; so too is the “social contract” theory of the state. And because it is in the nature of persons to flourish only in a state of mutual recognition...

  10. 7 The Sacred Space of Music
    (pp. 140-174)

    The argument of the two previous chapters contains a suggestion about the sacred, namely, that it comes to us as part of the “over-reaching intentionality” of our interpersonal states of mind. The embodied form of the other, as this comes before us in love, anger, and desire, is understood as a revelation. The other haunts his body, and is revealed in it, not as something seen in a window, but as something that flits out of sight, inhabiting the “space of reasons” alone.¹ The many French philosophers who have meditated on the role of the “other” in our attitudes and...

  11. 8 Seeking God
    (pp. 175-198)

    In this book I have been developing a conception of self-conscious subjects and their world. I have tried to show that the overreaching intentionality of interpersonal responses presents us with meanings that transcend the domain of any natural science. The “order of the covenant” emerges from the “order of nature” in something like the way the face emerges from the flesh or the movement of tones from the sequence of sounds in music. It is not an illusion or a fabrication, but a “well-founded phenomenon,” to use the idiom of Leibniz. It is out there and objectively perceivable, as real...

  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 199-202)
  13. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 203-205)