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Roger Scruton, Architecture needs a Grammar
From R. Scruton, After modernism
"After modernism", of which I present here excerpts, is one of Scruton's stimulating texts. The idea of connecting grammar with the desire for glory, honor and authority, is very close I think to what Nietzsche said about the Greeks, always in a fight to surpass each other with tradition posing the rules of the fight. But was their fight the cause of tradition, or, maybe, the cause of the growth of that tradition? That means, and this is where Nietzsche (and Scruton) miss a point, tradition and the growth of a tradition, is not caused by ideals, however great or low, however common or exceptional. Notre Dame, St. Sophia, Acropolis - or Shakespeare's, Plato's, Homer's works are not products of ideals, individual ideals or collective ideals.
Ideals are some of the first manifestations of the primary cause behind those works, a cause that indeed seems inactive today. It makes no sense to think of modernism as one of our "errors". If it were an error it would need just understanding to get fixed. But I can not build, invent, strengthen a tradition or return to one, just by calculations and understandings. I can not write the Magic Flute just because rave and pank offend my ears. A language is born, it is not created. Every growth and development is a new birth and not a creation or a transformation. If our children are small or ugly this is not because of some error of ours, but because we are small and ugly. If we were beautiful, if we were great, even our errors would be great and beautiful. To use an example, a Christian sees Budhism as a deviation from absolute truth - but as a great and beautiful deviation of great and beautiful people. This means that a great weakness is always less than that, it is not only that, it also indicates, presupposes and maybe asks for a truth that is real beyond correctness, certain beyond judgment, correct beyond calculation, authoritative beyond discipline - beyond even tradition.
We can describe the traces of a culture's decay or birth, but it is unthinkable why a culture is born - just as love between two persons can not be someone's or a common project. It is encouraging to read Scruton's complaints, a demand can be helpful - but we need some patience and hope, because a demand can not bring forth a child.
Cf. A comment on Scruton's text, by J. T. Henry and Roger Scruton: Modernist buildings exclude dialogue. Cf. Victor Hugo, Variety, Eternity, Proportion: Time was the architect—Europe was the builder * J. O. y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses * Pericles Giannopoulos, The Greek line & the Greek color