The Functional Anthropologist, Roger Scruton
January 18, 2016 7 Comments
This is one of those articles that I have been ruminating about for nearly a month. Why? Because while I agree almost completely with it, I wanted to put it in my own words, while preserving the ideas of Roger Scruton. Why would I do that? Because in a very large measure, I agree with him. But every time I’ve tried, it’s come too close, by far, to simple plagiarism, and my name isn’t Joe Biden.
So I finally decided I would simply have to give you a lead on it, and trust you to read the source. It’s long and fairly complex, so you might want to get another cup of coffee, because if nothing else, it will make you think. Enjoy!
[…]Still, Trump’s beginning point is a conservative rejoinder to liberal cosmopolitanism—“a country is a country”—even if everything he deduces from that first principle is either wrong or obsessive. And Sanders is right that the idea of opening the borders to flood our country with guest workers isn’t an American idea, but one that can be traced to the Koch brothers and to libertarianism. It converges uncannily with President Obama’s boast that he is a citizen of the world more than of any place in particular.
Are most Americans either conservatives or liberals? The answer, as Manent tells us, is that they want to be both. They want to be what he calls human individuals or what Scruton calls both relational and unrelational persons. Strictly speaking, the human individual or unrelational person is an oxymoron, the conservative knows. The contents of human or personal life come from being relational or not experiencing oneself as individual who’s connected to other individuals only through the calculated modes of contract or consent.
It goes on in a similar vein for a while, explaining many of the things that look like contradictions in our philosophy, and it ends up here.
Along these lines, Scruton interprets religion—including the Christian religion—as one way among the many ways we have to experience the belonging of home. From a full Christian view, however, that seems to be a form of Darwinian reductionism. According to St. Augustine, each of us, through sin, is born to trouble. Each of us free and relational persons experiences himself or herself as an alien or pilgrim in every earthly city. From this view, we are so to speak hardwired for alienation, and shouldn’t try too hard to be at home in this world. And from this view, the arrogantly incoherent aim of modern ideologies has been less to enhance our alienation than to make ourselves through political revolution or economic prosperity or technological innovation fully at home.
Scruton acknowledges, after all, that the most vibrant of the modern nations is the United States, the place where citizenship is reconciled to a remarkable success with otherworldly Christianity. We are, as G. K. Chesterton says, “a home for a homeless.” But we, at our best, don’t try to be at home, our “lifeworld” is constituted, in part, by our awareness that its satisfactions don’t correspond fully to our longings. Scruton seems more conservative than any American, and, from our view, not realistic enough about who we are or what it takes to sustain our liberal life as free and relational beings born to know, love, and die.
Go ahead, stretch your mind, and enjoy this. It’s liberating to be free of all those conundrums, or so they say. I’m still digesting it as well! 🙂