Why Beauty Matters

Philosopher Roger Scruton presents a provocative essay on the importance of beauty in the arts and in our lives.

In the 20th century, Scruton argues, art, architecture and music turned their backs on beauty, making a cult of ugliness and leading us into a spiritual desert.

Using the thoughts of philosophers from Plato to Kant, and by talking to artists Michael Craig-Martin and Alexander Stoddart, Scruton analyses where art went wrong and presents his own impassioned case for restoring beauty to its traditional position at the center of our civilization.

41 thoughts on “Why Beauty Matters

  1. My name is Giselle Hasel and I teach art history at the school of visual art and design at a university. I would like to purchase this video to use it in my class discussion. I like several of Roger Scruton’s points of view and think it would be a positive video to show my students.

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    • Greetings Ms. Hasel,

      After some searching, I have been unable to locate this video in DVD form – or anywhere else other than my site. It was briefly on YouTube which is where I got my copy from.

      Let me recommend the following: Since you would be using it for educational and discussion purposes, you can download and make your own DVD under the Fair Use Doctrine.

      Let me know if I can be of any additional assistance.

      Regards, Hans Gruen

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  4. Thanks for sharing this video. It is “beautifully” done and provides much fodder for reflection. Our turning away from beauty is reminiscent of our turning our backs on nutritional value in the foods we eat in favor of cheap quality, fast ready access, sameness and lots of empty calories.

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  5. Why beauty matters? This question could lead to a discussion on what is art, and what is truly beautiful. It also brings out this search and the longing for the beautiful vis-a-vis the world around us. Our world is allergic to “tradition” in many of its forms, but Roger Scruton reflects that “tradition” could fulfills man’s innermost longings, that the “useless” is the “useful” after all.

    In a theology class, we defined the humanities (especially philosophy and theology) as “useless, but meaningful”. But spending time to make sense of the world around you is not idleness, but a contemplation of “useless, but meaningful” aspects of man not explicitly present in everyday life and work: the true, the good and the beautiful.

    So, I have a deep respect and interest in the humanities even if I am a science major.

    What should happen is a dialogue between the traditional and the modern, between the real demands of this world and the deepest longings of our hearts, and between the sacred and the beautiful.

    Of course, Roger Scruton as a philosopher has his biases and his own lens and criteria for looking at art. But in many cases, he is right. I’m particularly curious as to how his philosophy would impact one’s understanding of literature, music and even Catholic liturgy.

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  8. I like his notion for the argument that certain things in this world are objectively beautiful in a Darwinian sense (like a flower or a pathway leading to water). I love his explanation of why our architecture is in a constant state of failure and decay. I completely agree that the art world today is full of branded fakes and ugliness cynically mocking classic art. But one thing I can’t get on board with is his constant push towards religion and god in this movie. Constantly referencing the Bible as if it is the sole reason beauty exists. He’s definitely one of those “classic music is the only true music!!!” kind of people which I hate. Awesome points were made but in the end I don’t think I’d ever want to share a cup of tea with Scruton.

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    • At first I also felt he was pushing a religious agenda. However, if you listen to every word, it becomes clear that he is simply using religion as a well-known subject to relate it to beauty. He even clearly states at the end that the two are different doors to the same room; both are substitutes for the other. You can pursue to enlightenment of the divine through typical following of religion. However, the video was not about this. It was about how the pursuit of true beauty will provide equal satisfaction.

      Beauty is its own religion, but yet not all. This is his message. Beauty is something the entire world can agree on and finds peace in. He mentions a lot of biblical references, but remember that many works of fine art back then were religious! As an atheist, I can still see the beauty in the painting of Christ. and I can still find peace in it’s sorrow. This is Scruton’s message.

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  10. Mr. Gruen, I teach college art appreciation. Can you help me save this video to my computer? Thank you so much for posting it – it is my favorite film to show in class. Best, Lane Berg.

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    • Hi professor Berg. My name is Giselle Hasel and I also teach at a university and like to show this video for discussion purposes but it was completely eliminated from the web with exception of this site. I do not know how to down load it and copy in onto my computer so if you find out how to do it could you share that knowledge?

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      • I certainly will. Again, thank you for posting this to your site. I hope it will remain here. Best, Lane Berg

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      • My pleasure Lane. Haven’t heard from the lads at BBC yet. I think my use of it in the context of this site qualifier under the Fair Use Doctrine. I’m sure gonna make an issue of it if they do :)

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    • I have created a Download page available via the menu bar or the Pages box on the right. Download instructions are on the page. If you need any additional help, let me know.

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  11. Beauty will always matter! Pity those whose
    eyes do not see it. Beauty enriches our
    lives and nourishes our souls.

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