Sir Robert Scruton


First a personal note, it is good to see ‘The Unit’ liking posts, here again, he has been missed since the first of the year. I look forward to his resumption of commenting. 🙂

Sir Roger Scruton died of cancer over the weekend, at home in England surrounded by his family. As Steven Hayward says on PowerLine:

Sir Roger deserves to be considered the greatest conservative thinker and writer of the last generation—full stop—certainly the most prolific and wide-ranging since G.K. Chesterton, having published more than 50 books and countless articles.

And yet he’s very hard for me, at least, to write about. I agreed with him almost always, but what he said was in a way so simple, so commonsensical, that it seemed to hardly need saying, and yet it did, and he always said it well, with great humor. Steven again.

Although Scruton can throw down with the deepest and most complex of modern philosophers such as Wittgenstein, when it came to conservatism he was not a dense theorist or systematizer. To the contrary, he liked to say that conservatism should begin with love—the things we love, the places we love, and the institutions we ought to love, but often don’t, because of the imperfections in all things human. In the introduction to his book The Meaning of Conservatism, Scruton writes that “Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae, or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expression, when compelled, skeptical.”

Why “inarticulate”?  Because, as he explains elsewhere, the liberal has the easy job in the modern world. The liberal points at the imperfections and defects of existing institutions or the existing social order, strikes a pose of indignation, and huffs that surely something better is required, usually with the attitude that the something better is simply a matter of will. The conservative faces the tougher challenge of understanding and explaining the often subtle reasons why existing institutions, no matter how imperfect, work better than speculative alternatives.

This is true, and pretty obvious, really. It’s always easier to criticize and show what’s wrong, even if one sticks to the truth, which these days is not a given. It is always much harder to see why the time-honored system works although imperfectly, better than any of the simplistic proposed replacements.

Kevin Donnelly in the Spectator Australia has some thoughts as well.

In opposition to the nanny state and big government much like Edmund Burke’s vision of little platoons, Scruton in his book Conservatism stresses the value of “the networks of familiarity and trust on which a community depends for its longevity”.   Scruton also suggests ordinary people are conservative by nature; something not acknowledged by society’s intellectual elites.

An intellectual class that sees itself as “gifted with superior insight and intellect and therefore inevitably critical of whatever it is that ordinary people do by way of surviving.  An intellectual class that does not identify with the way of life around it”.

Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States by Hilary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”, Scott Morrison’s ability to win the support of the “quiet Australians” and Boris Johnson’s success attracting traditional Labor voters are proof of Scruton’s thesis.

He’s correct and if they do their jobs well, the continued strength of the Anglosphere will be his greatest memorial.

Scruton, like the poet T S Eliot and the philosopher Michael Oakeshott. believed the purpose of education is to initiate succeeding generations into what Matthew Arnold described as “the best that has been thought and said”. 

For Scruton what mattered most “is the spiritual and moral health of a community” and it’s understandable why he abhorred the destructive impact of cultural-left theory on the academy especially the impact of postmodernism and deconstructionism on music, art, literature and history.

When discussing the threats to modern conservatism Scruton identifies one of its chief enemies as political correctness and “its restraint on freedom of expression and its emphasis in everything on Western guilt”.

A very great man of towering intellect and peripatetic interests. His loss will be keenly felt.

Godspeed, Sir Roger.

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5 Responses to Sir Robert Scruton

  1. the unit says:

    Thanks for the personal note that I’ve been missed.
    Over the past few years there haven’t been many blog posts that didn’t instigate a response to comment from me.
    I usually didn’t click “like” as I felt that my comment expressed that I liked.
    I click “like” now because I like, and also to indicate while not commenting, I’m not disappeared. 🙂
    Anyway as for the present, I’ve been out of kilter of late. Had a health issue that took me to the ER on Christmas eve and ’til 3am on Christmas morning. Since then I’ve not felt any inspiration for any compelling thoughts on all that’s going on. I’ve sort of shot my bolt, so to speak, for the time being. 🙂
    I expect it’ll be temporary, and I’ll be back to spouting off in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Kind of what I figured, it happens to us all. I just wanted you to know that I noticed and noticed that you were back, buddy. Take your time, get well, and we’ll be here when you are up to it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        I see Sir Roger’s love point. I love good over evil. Personal (& we) and/or even institutional. Being articulate about it? Perhaps not able and really not, but see the difference. Kinda like the Supreme Justice who recognized porno when he saw it. One do gotta look or be blind, and cat got his tongue. 🙂
        Hope be that the Conservatives be woke/awakening and watch with eternal (& voting) vigilance.
        Gotta admit that I never read Sir’s works, but your testimony and reading PL, and elsewhere this morning his essence was natural for me to accept, I think. I’ll keep being effervescent about it. 🙂
        So yep RIP Sir Roger.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          I’ve mostly read some of his essays, and columns, most of his books are available, but pricey. Yeah, I really like that love point, too! 🙂


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