That’s the setup for  Robert Fay’s article at Full Stop , in which the agnostic conservative British philosopher and the Nobel-prize nominated, ultra-nationalist Japanese author meet for a fictive conversation. The topic? Beauty, and the source and purpose of aesthetic judgments in a world where the very mention of such a topic is almost guaranteed to offend someone’s sense of equality:

One of Scruton’s few forays into non-Western thought is a brief description of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. He reminds us that certain cultures — Japan’s, most famously — have cultivated an aesthetic of transience, where “the aesthetics of everyday life focuses on what is fleeting, allusive and animated by a poignant regret.”

Mishima draws on the tea ceremony for his own thematic purposes in his novel, and the result is a scene that is as sublime as it is surprising. [ . . . ] In the hands of a master like Mishima, the scene is not kitsch irreverence or a lewd incursion into a traditional ritual, but a liturgical act of the highest order.


Pulling together themes from his two most recent works, television documentary  Why Beauty Matters (2009) and his latest book,  The Case for an Environmental Conservatism (2012), Fay notes that Scruton, like Mishima:
believes we are living in a time of [desecration], not just of the arts, but also of what it means to be human. “We seem to be caught between two forms of sacrilege,” he writes. “The one dealing in sugary dreams, the other in savage fantasies. Both are forms of falsehood, ways of reducing and demeaning our humanity.” It’s impossible to know precisely what Mishima would have thought of such a statement, yet echoes of Scruton’s concerns are present in  The Temple of The Golden Pavilion , albeit with a Buddhist philosophical slant that resists neat professorial theories.

Read more of Fay’s highly unusual juxtaposition here .

Articles by Matthew Cantirino

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