January 21, 2018

YOU CAN'T HAVE A CULTURE WAR WHEN THERE IS ONLY ONE:

The Beauty of Order: review of The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition by James Matthew Wilson.  (MATTHEW M. ROBARE, Univversity Bookman)

For Wilson, the Western tradition is the Christian Platonist one, in which the two basic facts about existence are that the universe is ordered and that its order is intelligible to the human mind. These two facts are augmented by Christian belief in a personal God who loves us unconditionally and desires that we love him. This tradition, argues Wilson, has been overshadowed by the Enlightenment and the philosophies descended from it. The problem with the Enlightenment is that while it begins as an attempt to understand the universe, it has devolved into a crude materialism that denies objective reality. However, writers such as Edmund Burke and T. S. Eliot preserved this culture, despite the dominance of liberalism.

In fact, Wilson maintains that liberalism can never be an actual culture because "it has no positive content, its goods being mere negations," and so tends towards repetition and indifference. He says that liberal culture is moribund because its only goods are choice and equality, rendering quality and content irrelevant. The only thing that can be done is to transgress the established norms, but eventually there's nothing left to transgress, only subjective tastes.

The discussion of the French philosopher Jacques Maritain and Thomist aesthetics is the core of the book. "Only in the Christian Platonist tradition ... do we see beauty take on its full existential dimension, as a reality given to the senses, as drawing the mind to the perception of being and truth, and finally to a vision of beauty as the ordering principle of reality as a whole," Wilson writes. "Fine art takes on a new importance ... because it attunes us, awakens and habituates us, to the perception of the ordered whole of reality." 

Thus, the Puritan nation never fell for modern art.

Posted by at January 21, 2018 8:12 AM

  

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