Why Beauty Matters

Roger Scruton is one of the more brilliant men of our age, one who thinks deeply about our culture and its effects upon us. One of the things he often considers is the state of art, something I’ve publicly pondered here from time to time (because I can’t help it, and because if you don’t care, I don’t know about it!). Someone sent me a documentary featuring Mr. Scruton discussing the very same thing; he considers the art of the past and present, speaks to artists, and even looks at the physical world in which we live, something else that’s important to me. In short, we live in a world where the cult of ugliness reigns. Why is this? Is it a normal human response to dislike it? And what, if anything, can be done?

This is a marvellous documentary, as one should expect from one of the most thoughtful people alive today; to be honest, I found myself wishing it were longer!



2 thoughts on “Why Beauty Matters

  1. I agree with most of what he’s talking about when it comes to art … but at what point does deviation become beautiful, or just plain ugly? I can see a starving artist in the 1600s trading that million dollar painting for a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine … both of which may have had more meaning to him at the time . And as far as architecture goes … it matters not how beautiful, or how ugly a building is … it has to have a purpose for being there. Many a beautiful building has met the wrecking ball simply because it had no further use. Detroit is a perfect example on how that can happen. Buildings made useless by the ugliness of people in their deeds. It is far easier to take a wrecking ball to a block of modernist buildings than a block of Victorian homes, but both a just as useless as empty shells.

    • Hi Indy! No doubt many an artist would happily swap a masterpiece for food or a few nights’ shelter. I do not think that the price tag makes something valuable (or not—IIRC, Van Gogh could barely sell his works). There’s something deeper there—skill, the eye, meaning.

      You are right about buildings needing a purpose—but lovely ones, built on a human scale and meant for human eyes, are much less likely to drive people away, instead drawing people to them. Of course, even the grandest of these are lost, either through time, upheaval (as is the case in my hometown of Detroit, once renown as not only one of the richest cities on earth but as the Art Deco Capitol of the World), or, frankly, through human stupidity, as in the case of New York’s long-lamented Penn Station, felled for Madison Square Garden (which is hardly a garden). I do not think the buildings in Detroit have become useless so much as stranded—or isolated by crime both individual and city-approved.

      Thanks for watching this, though. I really like Scruton, even when I go, “Hmm…is that so?”.

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