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?