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The Soul of the World [Kindle Edition]

Roger Scruton
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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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.

Editorial Reviews


"[A] stately and often beautiful journey through various areas of human experience. . . . [W]ide-ranging and intellectually impassioned."--Sarah Bakewell, Financial Times

"[I]n no previous work has he woven together so successfully his thoughts on aesthetics, personhood, politics, and religion. . . . [A] book that--for its richness, scope, and beauty--may be remembered as among his best."--Spencer Case, National Review Online

From the Inside Flap

"Its passion, imagination, and sensitivity to all aspects of our world mean that this is a book that can be enjoyed by humanists as much as by those who identify themselves as religious. Scruton's God is embedded in the human world, including our art, architecture, music, and literature to which he is such a fascinating guide, which is the right place for gods to be."--Simon Blackburn, author of Think and Mirror, Mirror

"This is a wonderful and in many places beautiful work; closely argued, though best read not as an argument but as a genuine 'turning for home' on the part of a learned and deeply thoughtful man, who offers us hard-won insights as he fixes his gaze on our final end."--Mark Johnston, Princeton University

"This is a rich and highly sensitive book, which engages the reader on many levels, and which approaches religion not doctrinally, but via the full range of human sensibility, especially moral and aesthetic, and our capacities for seeing the world not just in terms of impersonal scientific structures, but in deeply personal terms. Finely written and argued, the book is philosophically sophisticated yet accessible."--John Cottingham, Heythrop College London and University of Reading

Product Details

  • File Size: 2995 KB
  • Print Length: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H5ZN2KI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,273 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why We need philosophy and science June 16, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the first Scruton book I have read, and what a wonderful start. Most philosophy we read is from the ancients, before we had science as we have it today. Scruton is contemporary and with extreme wisdom shapes how the two fit together. As he artfully describes, science explains the notes but the music belongs to philosophy. I immediate bought his Beauty and it too is a classic.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soul, Indeed! May 28, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Roger Scruton is one of the best defenders out there of "traditional" points of view. He is expert on the heritage of Kant and Hegel, and of the Consciousness-Neurobiology crowd, but does an admirable job of defending traditional beliefs. He writes well, and, even if you disagree with his convictions, you know you have read someone who does a brilliant job of defending the "traditional" viewpoints.
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29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written! May 7, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While I agree with the author's premise that sacredness is an essential ingredient to human existance, I fail to see why he believes that the repository of sacredness is God and religion, with a particular bias toward Christianity. He claims that science cannot explain our conception of the sacred. When we experience intense emotions, a biochemical explanation of what goes on in our body and brain will never be able to explain the first person feelings these processes create. I don't believe science makes such a claim. When it comes to consciousness a reductive understanding of the sum of its parts will always be less than an understanding of the whole. It does not follow that the experience of the sacred is less profound if one does not believe in a higher power or not. Why is it too difficult to believe that sacredness cannot come from man? The Jewish philsopher Martin Buber believed, perhaps metaphorically, that the experience of God was manifested by man's I-You relationship with other sentient beings. I found similarities in the author's use of the I-You relationship with the philosophy of Martin Buber in his wonderful book, "I and Thou".

As self conscious creatures we will always have a need to believe in something greater and bigger than ourselves. This is the mystery of existence that we all experience in different forms thoughout our lives. It is what makes being human so special. However, believing in God or going to church on Sunday is just one way to make your covenant. Some would even argue that religion may not be a very healthy alternative. In this book Scruton mainly focuses on enlightened examples of religious belief.

I find it sad that many prominent philosopher's nearing the end of their lives often return to their earlier beliefs in God.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Philosophical Journey July 2, 2014
Books on philosophy tend to either be very dry or to focus on one aspect so closely that they often don't have the space to consider other, related topics. "The Soul of the World" is not one of those books. Author Roger Scruton draws from art, literature, music, architecture, politics, and law in oder to give readers a full, well-rounded journey into the human need for sacred things and a way to explain the world that we live in.

No matter your views on religion, you will find "The Soul of the World" a thought-provoking and insightful exploration (whether you agree with all points or not) that he been written with a sensitivity to all beliefs. Scruton explores, wihtout necessarily arguing in a forceful way. His style is informatl at times, while still maintaining the cadence of a scholarely lecture on philosophy. With roughly forty books under his belt, Scruton knows his stuff!

The chapters that branch out into areas like the brain and music are particularly fascinating. In "The Sacred Space of Music", Scruton discusses Beethoven's "C-sharp Minor Quarter" and how it contains "all human life" within it. A composition like this invites you to "live and feel in a purer way". Eloquent explanations like these succeed in taking us down a path toward figuring out what we believe and what we find sacred in a way that is easy to relate to.
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