Scruton on Icons, Brands, the Sacred, and the Profane

Roger Scruton is one of my favorite writers on aesthetics.  In this piece, he discusses a new book on icons, “From Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Icon,” by Martin Kemp.  Perhaps channeling a little Mircea Eliade, Scruton writes that the difference between icons and brands is in the “sacredness” of the object.  A bit from the essay below.  — MOD (x-posted MOJ)

Things become sacred when sacrifices on behalf of the community have been distilled in them, as the sacrifices of generations of soldiers, sailors and airmen are distilled in the American flag. And sacred things are invitations to sacrifice, as is the flag in time of war. Sacred things create bridges across generations: they tell us that the dead and the unborn are present among us, and that their “real presence” lives in each of us, and each of us in it. The decline of religion has deprived us of sacred things. But it has not deprived us of the need for them. Nor has it deprived us of the acute sense of desecration we feel, when facetious images intrude at the places once occupied by these visitors from the transcendental.

John Finnis: Books and Conferences

John Finnis’s Natural Law and Natural Rights is one of the most important books in jurisprudence of the past century — and an erudite and magisterial interpretation of the tradition of natural law.  On a personal note, it was also one of the books that most influenced my decision to want to teach law; I thought, a life spent trying to create a monument as lasting as  this book is a life well lived.

A five-volume collection of Professor Finnis’s shorter work has now been published, The Collected Essays of John Finnis (OUP 2011), which provides a comprehensive picture of the man’s views in legal, political, and moral philosophy (each book can be purchased singly).  For readers here, the last volume, Religion and Public Reasons, looks especially worthwhile (though all of them look terrific), as it engages masterfully with the issue of the role of religion in political decisionmaking.

And there are two excellent conferences this fall which will discuss and celebrate Professor Finnis’s work: first, at Notre Dame Law School on September 9; second, at Villanova Law School on September 30.