Roger Scruton on Beauty

A reader, Alan, pointed out that I did not call attention to this passage from Scruton:

There is a liturgy of denunciation here that is repeated all across Europe by a ruling elite that trembles in the face of ordinary loyalties. But the fact is that national sentiment is, for most ordinary Europeans, the only motive that will justify sacrifice in the public cause. Insofar as people do not vote to line their own pockets, it is because they also vote to protect a shared identity from the predations of those who do not belong to it, and who are attempting to pillage an inheritance to which they are not entitled.

Motivation is indeed worth pondering. The EU has no motivational power for Europeans because its an artificial construct with no historic cultural, ethnic or linguistic ties.

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In the U.S. there are still national sentiments surrounding the flag and deeply felt historical memories, particularly of wars; the vast majority of these national memories are at least implicitly White; it is well-known that these emotions are felt mainly by conservatives. All this is much in evidence today, the Fourth of July, and especially from the Tea Partiers—the angry White folks. The ideology of the U.S. as a “proposition nation” dedicated only to certain abstract principles and promoted by the Jewish intellectual movements discussed in The Culture of Critique parasitizes the trappings of nationhood for their motivational value while unleashing the forces that will certainly destroy any sense of nationhood.

As an evolutionary psychologist, one looks for motivation in natural feeling states like group loyalty that are far stronger when based on ethnicity than on abstract ideas or even common interests. In his BBC series on beauty (currently featured at the TOO video corner), Scruton also emphasizes motivation—the importance of natural human emotions of love, grief, and appreciation for the human form. Evolutionary psychologist Randy Thornhill generalizes this to suggest that

Beauty experiences are unconsciously realized avenues to high fitness in human evolutionary history. Ugliness defines just the reverse. Greenough (1958), in reference to architectural structures, defined beauty as the promise of function. The Darwinian theory of human aesthetic value is that beauty is a promise of function in the environments in which humans evolved, i.e., of high likelihood of survival and reproductive success in the environments of human evolutionary history. Ugliness is the promise of low survival and reproductive failure. Human aesthetic value is a scale of reproductive success and failure in human evolutionary history, i.e., over the last few million years. (Downloadable from here.)

Assuming that this is at least roughly correct, it’s fascinating to think about Scruton’s comment in Part 5 of his video that the movement against beauty is a movement to create a “loveless” world—implying in terms of evolutionary psychology, a movement to remove adaptive human emotions from the world. It is also a movement to conflate beauty and ugliness which, in evolutionary terms, is an attempt to conflate adaptive and non-adaptive—a sure recipe for evolutionary disaster.

To take just one of the emotions that Scruton links to great art, evolutionary psychologists distinguish between sex and love—the latter an uplifting and adaptive human emotion that evolved because of the need for high-investment parenting, the former a natural and hence adaptive feeling but one that is much in need of social control in a civilized society (see Joe Webb’s article, “What Ails Us?“). I suspect that when all is said and done, psychologists will find that great art and even ordinary positive attitudes to our surroundings tap into  a number of natural human affinities—e.g., for symmetry and for healthy examples of the human form (definitely not on display in the painting by Lucien Freud shown below but certainly present in Scruton’s example of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus).

Detail from Botticelli's Birth of Venus

Scruton’s video highlights many of the artists that have been discussed on TOO as a very high profile part of the cultural degradation that has characterized the West for most of the last century—particularly by Lasha Darkmoon and Michael Colhaze: Marcel Du Champ, Piero Manzoni, Andrews Serrano, Tracy Emim, and Damien Hirst. Not surprisingly, Scruton does not discuss the role of ethnic outsiders like Charles Saatchi in creating and promoting the current malaise. As Colhaze (who, like Scruton, features Botticelli’s Birth of Venus as an example of healthy art) notes,

Lord Leighton was President of the Royal Academy from 1878 until his death in 1896. If you observe his art, and that of his contemporaries in Europe and America, you get a clear idea of the cultural pinnacle we were inhabiting then, and how deep we plunged from it only a century later. Because the present president of the RA is a trite modernist architect whose masterpieces are dreary concrete heaps resembling plastic sausages, and the art he peddles are gems like Damian Hirst’s Rotting Shark or Tracy Emin’s Stinking Bedstead, [both featured by Scruton] all chaperoned by that unspeakable grease-pot and carpetbagger Saatchi, nomen est omen, and financed through the Jerusalem Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation and similar maggots who have long since sequestered the hallowed halls and now gnaw at their very foundations. As to the [Royal Academy’s] present worship of feminine beauty and splendour, you only need to cast a fleeting glance at one of Lucian Freud’s chef d’oeuvres to know where we stand.

Cast in terms of this discussion, it is always problematic when ethnic outsiders promote behavior and feelings that are maladaptive for the society they inhabit—when indeed, they are part and parcel of an attack on the very foundations of the culture. This is particularly the case when that ethnic group forms a hostile elite well known to have a preeminent role in the production of culture. Indeed, as noted repeatedly on TOO (most recently here) and The Culture of Critique, hostile attitudes toward the traditional people and culture of the West are entirely mainstream among Jews and such attitudes pervade the organized Jewish community. Indeed, such attitudes may be seen as an integral aspect of contemporary Jewish identity in the Diaspora, motivated to a considerable extent by perceptions of historical anti-Semitism. Because Jews are prominent in the production of culture, these attitudes are toxic and lead to entirely reasonable negative reactions by the people who are thus under attack.

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29 Comments to "Roger Scruton on Beauty"

  1. CaptainEuro's Gravatar CaptainEuro
    July 11, 2011 - 7:14 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this post Kevin. How many times I have recommended this video myself? I don’t know. It’s good someone has taken noticed on it. It is so paradoxical the fact that the video itself is a BBC release.

  2. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    July 9, 2011 - 11:10 am | Permalink

    “Today, art has become democratized, and thus, vulgarized. The man on the street doesn’t understand a piece like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, but he does understand a urinal with graffiti on it.”

    With all due respect, I find it a little odd that someone who uses the handle “fender strat” would make a statement like that.

    The man on the street didn’t ask for urinal art. That was the product of the intelligentsia. Graffiti (ethnic minority vandalism) had little to do with art until university professors said it did.

  3. John hearns's Gravatar John hearns
    July 5, 2011 - 9:59 pm | Permalink

    [ United Nations’ latest report on ‘Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’, submitted to Israeli government in February 2011 – has criticized the Zionist regime for being biased toward its female population especially in matters of family laws. ]
    Rehmat , the UN is Zionist occupied territory . The UN feigns a little criticism towards Israel . Did you not notice that the UN is completely ineffective about Israeli crimes against Arabs of infinitely greater magnitude ?
    The UN is global secular humanist outfit . That’s the Zionist long term goal .
    You really are a bit of a fool .

  4. John hearns's Gravatar John hearns
    July 5, 2011 - 9:52 pm | Permalink

    [ The great majority of those who admire woman’s beauty on canvass – usually mistreat them in life

    Say what? I don’t know of any evidence for that assertion. ]

    Well , it must be true . Just cuz the famous Rehmat said so , and he put it on his web site .

  5. John hearns's Gravatar John hearns
    July 5, 2011 - 9:46 pm | Permalink

    [ Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. ]

    Oh no , not that egalitarian crap again !
    Rehmat you are nothing if not annoying .

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder… But most beholders agree on what is beautiful !

    [ The great majority of those who admire woman’s beauty on canvass – usually mistreat them in life. ]
    Where did you get that nonsense from ? N.O.W. central ?

    Rehmat , you’re kind of entertaining in that you are just so wacky – out to lunch and a genuine fish out of water . Or perhaps more like a camel in the Arctic ?

  6. Tom's Gravatar Tom
    July 5, 2011 - 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Abstract painter Cy Twombly who took inspiration from Ezra Pound dies in Italy: http://nyti.ms/iYMJyI

  7. HSC's Gravatar HSC
    July 5, 2011 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    A famous BBC documentary series made at the end of the 1960s and issued on DVD: Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation” should be required viewing for all who want to understand how Western Civilisation’s concept of beauty was formed and, by comparison with the depradations of the Jewish-led 20th Century onslaughts on art, literature, drama and music, how relentless have been the attempts to undermine, pervert and corrupt it.

    But the beauty remains, free for all to enjoy, and thanks to the net, more accessible now than at any time in the past.

    • Rehmat's Gravatar Rehmat
      July 5, 2011 - 9:14 pm | Permalink

      Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The great majority of those who admire woman’s beauty on canvass – usually mistreat them in life.

      United Nations’ latest report on ‘Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’, submitted to Israeli government in February 2011 – has criticized the Zionist regime for being biased toward its female population especially in matters of family laws.

      http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/un-slams-israel-on-gender-inequality/

    • Jason Speaks's Gravatar Jason Speaks
      July 5, 2011 - 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

      Not really. Beauty is a lot more objective than that. For example, what we find beautiful in the opposite sex is largely determined by genetics. Things like symmetry, hip to waist ratio, and other signs of fertility and health play a big role in the male evaluation of female beauty.

      The great majority of those who admire woman’s beauty on canvass – usually mistreat them in life

      Say what? I don’t know of any evidence for that assertion.

  8. tma_sierrahills's Gravatar tma_sierrahills
    July 5, 2011 - 1:20 am | Permalink

    Big History and the End of Beauty.

    I was beginning to read an e-book devoted to Big History, you know, from the Big Bang onward. So in the intro I’m reading that when the author was young she was active in the “civil rights movement.” Of course, I thought, naturally. I could be reading a work devoted entirely to the geological era when tree ferns merrily reigned supreme and would just as likely be dragged into White: Bad; Minority: Good.

    One tiny possible glimmer at the end of the tunnel is that so many baby boomers who feel down to their bones that civil rights was their premier coming-of-age event, when they really got to show their stuff, are now, like me, passing into retirement. And no matter how the generations that followed them might have been successfully propagandized, it is hard to see that they will feel as strongly about an ideology that to many of them must seem like something that was just repeated, ho-hum, by almost every person in authority who had a pulse and their talking parakeet.

    Same with some of these contemporary ‘art works.’ There also gets to be a point of exhaustion. Photography is a good example. To many Whites the ugliness was exciting because it signified daring rule-breaking and liberation. But how do you make things more graphic and rule-breaking after Mapplethorpe? Maybe boredom sets in and some of these supposedly great works start to become unintentionally comical, even to some of their target audiences.

  9. Rehmat's Gravatar Rehmat
    July 4, 2011 - 10:49 pm | Permalink

    EU is an alliance of different nations based on their fear of American economic domination. Each member of EU gives priority to its own nationality.

    United States is a confederated country and its Constitution demands ‘national loyalty’ from its all citizen – but perhaps with the exception of a ‘chosen minority’.

    American Jewish professor Terri Ginsberg was fired by the University of North Carolina (UNC) for criticizing a foreign country which she blieve works against the interests of America and disgrace her Jewish Jewish faith around the world by acting worse than Christian Nazis…..

    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/jews-against-jews-at-campuses/

  10. Mark Hess's Gravatar Mark Hess
    July 4, 2011 - 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much for posting “The Philosophy of Beauty.” It was wonderfully done. At times, it was so beautiful that it brought genuine tears.

    “Everywhere you turn, there is ugliness and mutilation.”

    - Roger Scruton

    This devastating statement is an amazingly apt description of huge swaths of the US. This reality is, literally, sickening.

  11. semi literate's Gravatar semi literate
    July 4, 2011 - 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Great Works of Art and What Makes Them Great by Ruckstull is essential reading for anyone who wants to recover the language of prejudice against ugly modern art.

  12. semi literate's Gravatar semi literate
    July 4, 2011 - 10:32 pm | Permalink

    When the High Museum of Art in Atlanta isn’t hosting Civil Rights photo exhibits showing suffering and vulnerable blacks being beating my evil White racist policemen, they are heavily promoting this as “art”- disgusting- his are has absolutely NO appeal at all, other than it is supposed to be important because the critics say it is- disgusting-

    http://www.high.org/Art/Exhibitions/Radcliffe-Bailey.aspx

    The High Museum is under control of the Jews, and Anglo Saxon rich White keep pouring money into it so they can get their names on lists and work their way up through the status apparatus in Atlanta, which is basically about buying ego gratification. Why should we care if their brilliant and beautiful White daughters don’t protect their White Privilege and instead date blacks and make mongrel mulatto grandbabies for their rich daddies?

    Really, why care if the richest, best, most accomplished Whites themselves don’t care? What is there to fight for and preserve if our best are racing to catch up with the worst? Why not embrace the dystopian future and turn our suffering into a sacramental religion like Jesus did?

    • Rehmat's Gravatar Rehmat
      July 5, 2011 - 9:30 am | Permalink

      The so-called ‘modern art’ is more vulgar than the western art in the past. However, both have exploited human body, especially female, to arouse sexuality by showing her naked or semi-naked body.

      True teachings of all three Abrahamic religion forbid using human for painting or sculpture.

      No doubt Jewish artist have played a major role especially in modern comic industry – using even porn. The list of Jewish comic artists include Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (Captain America), Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman), Art Spiegelman (Maus series), Steve Sheinkin (The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey – and Rabbi Harvey Rides Again), Trina Roberts (MAD magazine), Uri Fink (Sabraman), Eli Eshed (Tarzan in the Holy Land) and Israel’s Hasbara Dry Bones Comics.

      http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/berlin-jewish-comic-exhibition/

  13. That Old Fashion Religion, exclusive!'s Gravatar That Old Fashion Religion, exclusive!
    July 4, 2011 - 10:23 pm | Permalink

    We attended a college that had a Jewish history teacher who constantly railed against us for our “traditions”. We were supposed to emancipate ourselves from everything traditional. Why? For the benefits of the Jews? What were they offering in return for our surrender? What was their moral case? She never made one, other than that we need to be sensitive to the blacks. She talked a lot about SNCC and CORE and Veblen and the importance of the government providing public services. She had an overbearing demeanor, as though she were fully correct and no other opinions matter. She NEVER asked us to share our experiences or feelings. She dictated.

    She was unconvincing, and we only dedicated ourselves all the more to our “traditions” which were our native prejudices in our own favor. We intensified our Burkean faith long before we ever read anything he wrote. Now, his famous quotation about Prejudice is our Gospel.

    What do we do when we read our traditional books? We pray our Dixieland liturgies with these scriptures:

    “Negroes had come into the Southern Colonies in such numbers that people feared for the integrity of the white race. For the negroes were cannibals and barbarians, and therefore dangerous. No white man who had any contact with slavery was willing to free the slaves and allow them to dwell among the whites. Slaves were a peril, at least a risk, but free blacks were considered a menace too great to be hazarded. Even if no race war occurred, there was a dread of being submerged and absorbed by the black race.” Frank Lawrence Owsley, “The Irrepressible Conflict,” I’ll Take My Stand, 1930

    “The Georgian, when reproached for his intolerance, told himself that actually nobody outdid him for his tolerance of the Negro. Lynchings, the work of hotheads and roustabouts, were regrettable; but what did a few lynching count in the balance against the continual forbearance and solicitude that the Georgian felt he exercised toward the amiable children of cannibals, whose skins by no conceivable act of Congress or educational program could be changed from black to white. The presence of the Negro, which had its advantages in agriculture and domestic service, made the Georgian’s life both comfortable and ramshackle. It gave him devoted servants and social problems, cheap labor and hideous slums, and endless flow of folklore and anecdote, and eternal apprehension for the future.” Donald Davidson, “Still Rebels, Still Yankees,” 1957

    And for notions of loyalty for ourselves over the globe, it doesn’t get any better than this:

    “The question of whether one shall stand up for what is near and dear to him, which is the meaning of all patriotism, or, putting all sentiment aside, align himself with what is supposed to be the general drift of humanity, has produced divisions before and will produce them again.” Richard Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay, 1943, published 1968, post-humously

    • Pierre de Craon's Gravatar Pierre de Craon
      July 16, 2011 - 2:41 pm | Permalink

      You are bringing good stuff to TOO readers’ attention. There is moral and intellectual profit to be gleaned from every word that Richard Weaver ever wrote.

  14. Mark Hess's Gravatar Mark Hess
    July 4, 2011 - 9:01 pm | Permalink

    A very fine article.

    Sometimes, I am convinced that the decay, infrastructural rot, and general ugliness that surrounds us in America is, largely, designed– especially when considering all of the resources that we have had at our disposal for so long. Is there a much better way to turn individuals into mean-spirited, easily fooled, self-absorbed, shortsighted and proudly ignorant people than to steep them in dysfunction and filth?

    • Mark Hess's Gravatar Mark Hess
      July 9, 2011 - 4:24 pm | Permalink

      It surprises me that this article and the video, “The Philosophy of Beauty,” have not received more attention and comments. But, perhaps, it should not surprise me.

      The National Socialists (whether or not you despise them) seemed to understand that order and beauty were of great importance to a society. This was reflected in their successful attempts to raise the spirit, well-being and productivity of workers by cleaning, dignifying and beautifying work environments. Many factories had manicured gardens where employees could take breaks and meals, flower beds, swimming pools, and grounds that were thoughtfully and carefully landscaped.

      I believe, for good reason, that we, in the US, are so far gone that such suggestions would be dismissed as ‘stupid,’
      ‘gay,’ ‘faggy’ and ‘useless,’ even though the evidence is overwhelming that people funtion better in environments that are ordered, clean and beautiful.

      I am not sure about where this comes from, nor when it started, but it seems that a huge percentage of American males confuse masculinity and bravery with having a contempt for the appreciation of the orderly and the beautiful.

    • Mark Hess's Gravatar Mark Hess
      July 14, 2011 - 9:58 pm | Permalink

      “Why give priority to religion? Why not say that religion is a ‘beauty substitute’? Better still, why describe the two as ‘rivals’? The sacred and the beautiful stand side by side, two doors that open onto a single space. And in that space, we find our home.”

      - Roger Scruton

      These lines are wonderful. I will try my best to keep them in mind.

  15. fender_strat's Gravatar fender_strat
    July 4, 2011 - 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Most of the great works of art in history were commissioned by aristocrats, popes, kings, etc. Today, art has become democratized, and thus, vulgarized. The man on the street doesn’t understand a piece like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, but he does understand a urinal with graffiti on it.

    All art forms today are intended to sell to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Complexity is difficult to sell, and this is why garbage reigns supreme. It takes special ears and delicate taste to enjoy Mozart, but any idiot can enjoy Kanye West.

    • Tom's Gravatar Tom
      July 4, 2011 - 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Ah, for the ladies and those too young to remember the Star of David urinal:
      http://bit.ly/mH5PEp

    • Jason Speaks's Gravatar Jason Speaks
      July 4, 2011 - 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Today, art has become democratized, and thus, vulgarized.

      But that can’t be the reason “high” art is so bad now, because “the masses” reject modern art. They hate it and mock it every chance they get. The average middle class person is much more likely to admire Rembrandt than Pollack.

    • Bear's Gravatar Bear
      July 4, 2011 - 9:12 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, our modern Art Galleries often beneficieries of public funds are full of post modern art whose purpose seems to be to express every single form of grotesque psychological dysfunctionality conceivable generally executed with underwhelming craftsmenship and technicial skill. There seems nothing to uplift, nothing whimsical nothing to touch the emotions. One is supposed to go in and contemplate this ‘shit’(litteraly) and display that one gets it? I was involved in a personal development group several years back and I noticed that some people get lost in this nonsense precisely because they try and ascertain it as having a beneficial or sensible core. Art becomes a source of mental sickness rather than a source of healing.

      Unfortunatly even publically displayed monumental art has gone this way. It’s as if western art has become completely disappeared; very poignantly any discernable physically caucasian subject has disappeared except the tortured.

    • fender_strat's Gravatar fender_strat
      July 4, 2011 - 11:03 pm | Permalink

      “But that can’t be the reason “high” art is so bad now, because “the masses” reject modern art. They hate it and mock it every chance they get. The average middle class person is much more likely to admire Rembrandt than Pollack.”

      I don’t think the average middle class person cares about art at all. You’re right in that they typically reject so-called “modern art” but I don’t think they really give a damn about classical art, either.

    • Tom's Gravatar Tom
      July 4, 2011 - 11:38 pm | Permalink

      I like modern art, but, I don’t like Jewish art, and art that is influenced by the Jews.

      The Freud nude really isn’t modern art. It could be classified as post-impressionist which is a movement going back to the early years of the past century, or late 19th century.

      Modern art really starts when the camera & movie camera become common in the early years of the 20th century. Some say the x-ray also played a part too. Here posed photographic hyper realism becomes common. Something we are still trying to deal with today.

      There has been a huge advance in art materials. Particularly, acrylic paints with properties and a chemistry that is still trying to be understood.

  16. Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
    July 4, 2011 - 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Love this article and the video series, this site needs a place where we can give a thumbs up or a “like” of articles and video.

    You can view Prince Charles’ Poundbury at google maps or bing bird’s eye view. Very pretty, clean and clearly a White community.

  17. Tom's Gravatar Tom
    July 4, 2011 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that I would want Freud’s nude on a couch hanging in my living room. By the same token, Freud’s nude is Freud’s art. The art of a strongly identified Jew.

    Here’s one for Dr. MacDonald to think about, would Duchamp’s urinal be more acceptable to you if the drain were in the shape of a star of david? As many urinal drains were at one time in the US?

    Art has its purposes.

    • Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
      July 4, 2011 - 7:03 pm | Permalink

      The ugly nude looks like Roseanne Barr.

Comments are closed.