Again, a great episode of Elder Sign. This time with much ethics, esthetics and Plato/Plotinus/Christianity in it.
When Roger Scruton was mentioned, and later on the 'bad side' of (the use of) esthetics or pseudo-ethics, I had to think about the influence of the so-called 'Blut und Boden' which gave rise to the National Socialism (Nazi) arts, which only was to be used to praise the Nazi politics (all other arts were 'entartet'). In the Netherlands these days pseudo-esthetics are misused by the popular and far-right-wing populist politician Thierry Baudet. Wikipedia on this: "Baudet has a strong opinion on arts, the topic of his book Oikofobie, and considers non-Western art and Western post-1900 modernism in visual arts inferior to Western Realism, encourages education and programmation of tonal music opposed to atonal music and dislikes modern post-1950 architecture. In reaction to this, Musicologist Yuri Landman warned Baudet for approaching the concept of degenerate art with his conservative criticism." I think these are dangerous ideologies today.
I also had to think about The Never-ending Story (the book, not the terrible movie), which is rich in all sorts of philosophical ideas. Michael Ende in this book shows the importance of (the use of) fantasy (instead of art), but also its dangers when used in the wrong way. For those who can read German, there is a great article on this on the German Wikipedia: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inhalt_und_Interpretation_der_Unendlichen_Geschichte#Phantastische_Literatur_als_Ausdruck_einer_neuen_Ethik.
As for the question about the money lender (is he the devil or an evil person): I think there are too many clues in the story not to personify him with the devil. Why does he want to survive himself through the portrait? Maybe then he can stay on earth to damn people more easily? (I don't know. Maybe I've seen too much Lucifer on Netflix and in the Sandman.) Or maybe Gogol mixed the allegorical devil with an actual bad person?
@brandon.budda "As I mentioned in the episode, I'm not too keen on launching into an apologia of his work or his person"
That's ok! There is no reason not to part the work, the man, the reception and the political use. (I also had to think of Nietzsche, a similar case.)
I agree that Momo is a wonderful book as well, about the hectic life of adults, who have forgotten how important clamness, the enjoyment of life and fantasy are and just are hastening to their end. The 'gray men' are really iconic.
Thank you for these thoughtful comments. I am always hesitant to bring up Roger Scruton on the shows because of the ways that his philosophy (especially his latter day focus on oikophobia) are utilized in far-right nationalistic rhetoric. I agree with you that when these ideas are turned into political ideology, they become distasteful and dangerous. Scruton has always been a controversial figure in the public commons, and often for good reason. As I mentioned in the episode, I'm not too keen on launching into an apologia of his work or his person, but I will say one thing here, which is to say that in the talk that I heard him give, he explicitly denounced the nazi attitudes towards art that you mention above. I think with the exception of architecture, Scruton did not often make the error of confusing a person's moral character with their aesthetic tastes. Architecture, though, is a whole other can of worms.
I am very glad you brought to my attention Thierry Baudet, who I am unfamiliar with, and his use of Scruton's philosophy. I am unconvinced that oikophobia is an appropriate lens through which one can effectively critique culture. It is a term that is useful, in my opinion, only to point out that more can be accomplished when we are motivated to make things better (to add to the world or repair and restore the world), rather than to merely delete or erase what we think is bad in the world. Even then, it may not be the best word to use given how it has quickly accrued so much cultural baggage.
I have only read "Momo" by Michael Ende, even though "The Never Ending Story" has been on my wish list for ages. Hopefully, I will have some time coming up to read it. "Momo" was recommended to me by a dear friend, and is such a delightful book.