Scruton on Kitsch and Beauty

Roger Scruton, from “Faking It,” in Confessions of a Heretic, pg. 13:

Kitsch tells you how nice you are: it offers easy feelings on the cheap. Beauty tells you to stop thinking about yourself, and to wake up to the world of others. It says, look at this, listen to this, study this–for here is something more important than you…We reach beauty through setting our interests aside and letting the world dawn on us…Through beauty art cleans the world of our self-obsession.

We have too little of beauty, inasmuch as we have too much of self-obsession. True beauty, like true culture and good metaphysics, is something that is fundamentally anti-atomistic, something that tells us that we dwell in a space, time, and circumstance that are not isolated from other spaces, other times, and other circumstances, and that we, as individuals, are not sovereign. There is an outside of us that makes demands on us that are at least as significant–and often much more significant–that the within us. We praise and value the within us in our age, as men have always done in all ages. Beauty has always stood as a corrective to this. Mayhaps we are in an age in which the cultivation of beauty has become more difficult; this only says that its cultivation is thus all the more important.

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