Ours is an age full of desires but impoverished in its understanding of where those desires lead—an age that claims mastery over the world but also claims to find the world as a whole absurd or unintelligible. In The Vision of the Soul, James Matthew Wilson seeks to conserve the great insights of the western tradition by giving us a new account of them responsive to modern discontents. The western— or Christian Platonist—tradition, he argues, tells us that man is an intellectual animal, born to pursue the good, to know the true, and to contemplate all things in beauty. Wilson begins by reconceiving the intellectual conservatism born of Edmund Burke's jeremiad against the French Revolution as an effort to preserve the West's vision of man and the cosmos as ordered by and to beauty. After defining the achievement of that vision and its tradition, Wilson offers an extended study of the nature of beauty and the role of the fine arts in shaping a culture but above all in opening the human intellect to the perception of the form of reality. Through close studies of Theodor W. Adorno and Jacques Maritain, he recovers the classical vision of beauty as a revelation of truth and being. Finally, he revisits the ancient distinction between reason and story-telling, between mythos and logos, in order to rejoin the two.
Story-telling is foundational to the forms of the fine arts, but it is no less foundational to human reason. Human life in turn constitutes a specific kind of form—a story form. The ancient conception of human life as a pilgrimage to beauty itself is one that we can fully embrace only if we see the essential correlation between reason and story and the essential convertibility of truth, goodness and beauty in beauty. By turns a study in fundamental ontology, aesthetics, and political philosophy, Wilson's book invites its readers to a renewal of the West's intellectual tradition.
"Conservatism needs a new prophet. James Matthew Wilson is the man for the job, and The Vision of the Soul is his calling card. Like T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Russell Kirk, Roger Scruton, and many other heroes of the Right, Wilson understands that conservatism is a literary project with impeccable aesthetic and philosophical bona fides. And in The Vision of the Soul, Wilson asserts that the tradition that our project is called to conserve is dominated by one name: Plato.... Read The Vision of the Soul right away, and read it carefully. Then place it alongside the texts on your shelf that help you make your home in this world while longing to see the world to come. James Matthew Wilson has written a new classic. For it we give thanks to God, and to Plato."~Andrew Petiprin, Covenant
"Wilson is a poet, and literature is at the foundation of his conviction for a cultural revival… he wants us to focus on beauty and its place in Western culture. The book is a strong defense of that culture, but not an unthinkning one."~Gerald J. Rissello, Crisis Magazine
"Poet James Matthew Wilson's The Vision of the Soul delivers a stirring and timely account and defense of the West's traditional way of understanding the universe and our place in it."~Matthew M. Robare, The Kirk Center
"Poet James Matthew Wilson's The Vision of the Soul delivers a stirring and timely account and defense of the West's traditional way of understanding the universe and our place in it... The true achievement of Wilson's book is not a didactic exploration of aesthetics, but in awakening a perception of humility by providing a vantage point where we can see the order of the universe and our place in it. Moreover, because he strips us of the illusion that we ourselves order the universe, Wilson allows us to see with fresh eyes the existence of things outside ourselves, with their own stories and as valuable in and of themselves, not just as something to consume. This perception inspires gratitude in addition to humility, unlocking the iron cage and allowing us to see the world as enchanted-and it is wonderful...The defense of the West that Wilson presents in The Vision of the Soul rewards spiritually, as well as intellectually."~Robare, Matthew M. , University Bookman
" The Vision of the Soul will undoubtedly propel James Matthew Wilson into the first rank of conservative public intellectuals…a defense of the Western tradition that is breathtaking in its depth and clarity, conveyed in prose that genuinely delights with its elegance, lucidity, and splendor. I have never read a book in which content so profound takes flight with such lightness and style. Future generations of conservatives will look back to their encounter with The Vision of the Soul with the same sense of gratitude and awe that we today remember the first time we read Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk. This book is not only true and good, but also beautiful. I know that I will be reading it, and re-reading it, for the rest of my life. –"~Rod Dreher, The American Conservative
"Brilliant, a very important contribution to conservative political and theological discourse, and genuinely original (and persuasive) in its insistence that even the political must be ordered to beauty. Wilson argues at a high metaphysical level, as does his obvious predecessor Hans Urs von Balthasar, but without leaving the world of hearthside and farm and chapel and local school: Von Balthasar meets Wendell Berry. –"~Anthony Esolen, author of Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture and Real Music: The Timeless Hymns of the Church
"James Matthew Wilson is truly alive with the wonder of Creation and with the Logos that gives it meaning. He is truly a master of words, weaving them so that they are carriers of the goodness, truth, and beauty of which he writes. In the words of Hopkins, Wilson’s words are ‘dovewinged’ and ‘carrier-witted.’ They lift us into the presence of the very essence of reality, its being, so that our minds and hearts might be opened, dilated, to the goodness, truth, and beauty which is the triune splendor of love. –"~Joseph Pearce, author of Beauteous Truth: Faith, Reason, Literature and Culture