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The Soul of the World by Roger Scruton

Updated on February 6, 2020
James A Watkins profile image

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

Your Mind is not Your Brain

To an atheist music is nothing more than a sequence of pitched sounds. While music has sequences of sounds, it is far more than that to anyone who enjoys hearing it. In the same way, the Mona Lisa means much more to an art lover than merely paint on canvas. We know that the meaning of Botticelli’s Venus cannot be understood by listing the chemicals used in the pigment.

Among the other absurd claims made by Atheism: The mind is just your brain; a man is just an animal; morals and laws are just social constructs; love is just the desire to procreate; the Universe is just Matter.

In reality, we are not only conscious but also self-conscious—something that can never be seen by another. There is something else to the mental state of a sentient human being beyond brain waves, beyond what can be physically measured.

Human Beings Possess Moral Thinking

“The human world contains things that do not exist independently of our intentional states since they are brought into the world by human declarations. Ours is a world of institutions, laws, and covenants. We are surrounded on every side by things that exist by fiat, and whose perpetuity depends upon our acquiescence,” writes Sir Roger Scruton.

A human being, unlike an animal, does what he does according to what he thinks he ought to do. It is not blind instinct that compels us to choose our deeds but moral judgments. “Moral thinking unfolds before us a view of the world that transcends the deliverances of the sense.”

One thing that sets humans apart is that we have “states of mind—memories, hopes, intentions, and so on—which reach into the past and the future, and which represent me as enduring through time.”

We are intentional creatures with a spiritual dimension. We recognize virtue and vice, morality and wisdom. We can be educated towards virtue or towards vice. “In all that touches what is deepest and most lasting in our lives—religious faith, erotic love, friendship, family ties, and the enjoyment of art—we address the horizon from which the other’s gaze is seeking us. Moral education involves the maintenance of this overarching intentionality.”

Sir Roger Scruton
Sir Roger Scruton

The Covenant

Roger Scruton writes, “It is a distinctive feature of the Jewish religious tradition that it regards the relation between God and his people as founded on a covenant—in other words, a binding agreement, in which God commands obedience only by putting Himself under obligations toward those whom He commands. The idea that God can be bound by obligations toward His Creation has had a profound impact on our civilization, since it implies that God’s relation to us is of the same kind as the relations that we create through our promises and contracts. Our relation to God is a relation between free beings, who take responsibility for their actions.”

A Face is not an Elbow

When you see someone’s face you do not see it biologically; you understand it as a real presence. As Scruton has written, “I lie behind my face, and yet I am present in it, speaking and looking through it at a world of others who are in turn both revealed and concealed like me. How can the person, whom I know as a continuous unity from my earliest days until now, be identical with this decaying flesh that others have addressed through all it changes?

“When I confront Jill face-to-face, I am not confronting a physical part of her, as I am when, for example, I look at her shoulder or her knee. I am confronting her, the individual center of consciousness, the free being who reveals herself in the face as another like me. Hence there are deceiving faces, but not deceiving elbows or knees.

“The full revelation of the subject in the face is not, as a rule, voluntary. Smiles are usually involuntary. Likewise laughter, to be genuine, must be involuntary—even though laughter is something of which only creatures with intentions, reason, and self-consciousness are capable. Laughing and smiling can also be willed, and when they are willed, they have a ghoulish, threatening quality.

“Blushes are more like tears than like laughter in that they cannot be intended. Only a rational creature can blush, even though nobody can blush voluntarily. And it is the involuntary character of the blush that conveys its meaning, which resides in the fact that it is the other who summons it.”

A Young Roger Scruton
A Young Roger Scruton


It was Sigmund Freud who created this ludicrous idea that we only have taboos because we secretly want to do them. You see this today, when leftists argue that anyone opposed to the glorification of sodomy yearns to be a sodomite. To justify this zany idea, Freud invented the ‘subconscious,’ something there is no evidence even exists except in his fantasies.

Sir Roger Scruton chimes in: “Sexual desire, as it has been understood in every epoch prior to the present, is inherently compromising, and the choice to express it or to yield to it has been viewed as an existential choice, in which more is at risk than present satisfaction. Not surprisingly, therefore, the sexual act has been surrounded by prohibitions; it brings with it a weight of shame, guilt, and jealousy, as well as joy and happiness. This “shame of the body” is an extraordinary feeling, and one that only a self-conscious animal could have. It is a recognition of the body as both intimately me and in some way not me.

Death is the Disquiet of Us All

“In our own lives, we are constantly confronted with the thought of nothingness. Death, therefore, is the boundary of my world. Human life constantly presents us with the thought of annihilation, and of the absolute fragility of our attachments.”

God “Is the answer to the question ‘why?’ You may well say, with the atheists, that the question has no answer. The teleological foundation of the world is not perceivable to science, or describable in scientific terms. Hence it can neither be proved nor disproved by scientific method.

“Faith looks beyond nature, asking itself what is required of me by way of thanks for this gift” of life. Those of faith “remain open to God, and actively involved in the process of making room for him.” Religious rituals “speak of ancient and unchangeable things, of things inherited from revered ancestors. In the liturgy we are in touch with our ancestors, whom we are addressing not in the past tense, but in the eternal present, which is theirs.”

“What matters is what you believe.” ~ Sir Roger Scruton


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    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      10 months ago from Chicago

      Denise McGill ~ Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your thoughtful remarks and your blessings.


    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      10 months ago from Fresno CA

      This sounds like a fascinating read. I agree that I am more, much more than the blood, bone, and sinew of a body.



    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      12 months ago from Chicago

      Peggy Woods ~ Thank you for coming over to read my book summary. I totally agree with your comments in every way. I appreciate your thoughtful insights.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      12 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Even ancient peoples in many cultures (before Christ) worshipped their ancestors, which is a tie to the former (and by extension ) the next life. So the idea of a life after this one, even though it cannot be proven scientifically, seems to be innate in most people. For those of us who do believe, it is such a comfort to know that we will see our loved ones again someday.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      12 months ago from Chicago

      Pamela Oglesby ~ Thank you for reading my summary of the book ‘The Soul of the World’ by Sir Roger Scruton. He is my favorite Christian philosopher.

      I could not agree with you more than I do that “Being open to God's guidance each day makes life so much better.” Like you, “I cannot imagine being an atheist.” They figure that absolutely nothing happens after death. I think they will be in for a big surprise. Atheism does surely seem hopeless and full of despair to me.

      I am so glad that my articles make you think. That is precisely why I write them. I am glad you enjoyed this piece and appreciate your gracious compliments.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      12 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I like what you said in the last paragraph about faith as it is so true. Being open to God's guidance each day makes life so much better. I cannot imagine being an atheist and I wonder what they think happens when they die. It seems pretty hopeless.

      This is a very good article and you always write articles to make us think, James. Our state of mind speaks volumes as to how we live, what we believe, ect. I really enjoyed reading this article.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      12 months ago from Chicago

      Awdur ~ Thank you my dear. Thank you very much.

    • awdur profile image


      12 months ago from Chicago

      Beautiful article about a beautiful man..... well done.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      12 months ago from Chicago

      Vivian Coblentz ~ How nice to see you again. Thank you for taking the time to read my work here. I am well pleased to hear how much you enjoyed my opening. I was hoping that would have an effect.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you about the obviousness of a Designer. And what despair the nihilist must feel. Well, we don't have to guess about that. From Nietzsche to Sartre they have told us so.

    • James A Watkins profile imageAUTHOR

      James A Watkins 

      12 months ago from Chicago

      Devika Primic ~ Thank you for taking the time to come over and visit. Yes, I agree with your analysis. I am glad you liked my Hub. Godspeed.

    • Noelle7 profile image

      Vivian Coblentz 

      12 months ago

      Your opening paragraph is so powerful! It really helps the reader adjust the way they view and follow your premise.

      Life must seem so hopeless and futile for the atheist. How anyone can view humanity and not clearly see a designer behind it all is mind boggling.

    • profile image

      Devika Primic 

      12 months ago

      Sir Roger Scruton has fascinating beliefs and an interesting lifestyle.

      I learned a lot from your hub. Informative and researched in detail events.


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