Beauty and the failure of politics. An election dispatch from ancient Athens

An audio version of this talk is at my podcast, Talks and Thoughts, available via podcast feeds.

Disillusionment with politics is probably the most obvious feature of the current mood. This is, in part, because politics has collapsed onto anxiety about material improvement and lost sight of much more. In a secular society in which this facet of wellbeing is increasingly hard to deliver, politics appears therefore to be failing.

So now is a good moment to consider what is sometimes called the pre-political – the more that politics needs. And a first thought comes from Plato, who would highlight the matter of beauty.

He felt that if you lose touch with that, you lose touch with too much, and a loveless, ugly society would follow. Why does beauty matter? How come it is so unfashionable now, even embarrassing? What is it to be educated in beauty? Where can it be found?