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Roger Scruton
Full name Roger Scruton
Born 27 February 1944
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Traditional conservatism
Main interests Social and political philosophy

Roger Vernon Scruton (born 27 February 1944; pronounced /ˈskruːtən/) is an English philosopher, writer, and composer. He is currently a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute[1] and the Visting Professor of aesthetics at the philosophy faculty of the University of Oxford.[2]

Contents

Biography

Scruton was educated at Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe (1954–1961) and Jesus College, Cambridge (1962–1969). He received a Bachelor of Arts in Moral Sciences (the Cambridge name for philosophy) in 1965, incepted as Master of Arts in 1967, and became a Doctor of Philosophy in 1972 with a thesis on aesthetics. He was called to the Bar in 1978. From 1969 to 1971 he was Research Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge. From 1971 to 1992 he was Lecturer, and, subsequently Professor of Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London. From 1992 to 1995 he was Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.

From 1982 to 2001 he was founding editor of The Salisbury Review. He also founded the Claridge Press, which in early 2004 he sold to Continuum International Publishing Group. He remains on The Salisbury Review's editorial board, as well as those of the British Journal of Aesthetics[3] and openDemocracy.net.[4]

In the early 1990s he moved from the city to the countryside and discovered a passion for fox hunting with hounds. When in England, he lives with his family on his farm in Brinkworth, Wiltshire.

Contributions to philosophy and the arts

Scruton's first publication - Art and Imagination - was an exploration of aesthetics. Since then, he has written on almost every topic in philosophy. In Thinkers of the New Left (1985) he expresses doubts about the philosophical value of thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser, and the Frankfurt School.

Scruton has written two books which survey modern philosophy. A Short History Of Modern Philosophy starts with Descartes and ends with Ludwig Wittgenstein and the logical positivist school. His subsequent Modern Philosophy is a more detailed, topic-based survey of the same material. Scruton holds the philosopher Immanuel Kant in particularly high regard.

Jonathan Dollimore writes that Scruton's 1986 book Sexual Desire attempts to base a conservative sexual ethic on the Hegelian proposition that "the final end of every rational being is the building of the self." In Dollimore's interpretation, Scruton believes that sexual desire directed toward the opposite gender elicits its complement and that homosexuality is a perversion, because it does not involve the fundamental experience of otherness across gender. He criticises Scruton's sexual philosophy for being "timid, conservative, and deeply ignorant."[5] Mark Dooley praises Sexual Desire as "magisterial", writing that Scruton's objective is to show that sexual desire fundamentally enriches our experience of the sacred.[6]

Scruton has published novels and short stories, and has written two operas, for which he provided both the libretto and music. His first opera, The Minister, was performed in Quenington in 1994 and in Oxford in 1998. His second opera, Violet, based on the life of the harpsichordist Violet Gordon-Woodhouse, was performed twice in London in 2005.

Contributions to politics and culture

Scruton holds Burkean political views. In his The Meaning of Conservatism he seeks to shift the emphasis of the right away from economics towards moral issues such as sex education and censorship laws. He argues that the transference in state planned economies of local knowledge and tradition into the hands of bureaucrats, "government from elsewhere" fosters incompetence, ignorance and corruption and, therefore, bad policy. His alternative is to defend "autonomous institution" (organisations outside of state/government control), citing the legal and medical professions, the City, army, church, Monarchy and business enterprise generally as examples.

Since 2001, Scruton has written a wine column for the New Statesman, and made contributions to The World of Fine Wine and the 2007 publication Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine with his essay "The Philosophy of Wine". I Drink Therefore I am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine followed in 2009.

Although regarded as a traditionalist, in England: An Elegy Scruton describes himself as a bohemian, interested in French and German high culture.[7] He says that he is bemused by his generation, who "mock the traditions and institutions that might have been theirs". In March 2009, at the Royal Geographical Society, seconding the historian David Starkey, he proposed the motion: "Britain has become indifferent to beauty" by holding an image of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus next to an image of the British supermodel Kate Moss, to demonstrate how British perceptions of beauty had declined to the "level of our crudest appetites and our basest needs".[8]

Activism

From 1979, Scruton was an active supporter of dissidents in Czechoslovakia when the country was under the rule of the Communist Party. Inspired by Kathy Wilkes, whom he eulogised in England: An Elegy, he participated in the "underground university" (an informal educational organisation set up by the dissidents) with discussions about philosophy. In 1980 in Oxford, he co-founded the Jan Hus Educational Foundation,[9] which continues to work in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and served as trustee. Since 1990 he has been a board member of the Civic Institute in Prague. For his services to the Czech people, he received the 1st June Prize of the City of Plzeň in 1996 and the Medal for Merit, First Class of the Czech Republic in 2000. Scruton was also co-founder and trustee of the Jagiellonian Trust, working in Poland and Hungary from 1982 until the return of democracy in 1989, and founder and trustee of the Anglo-Lebanese Cultural Association, working for reconciliation between the Lebanese sects from 1987 until it was disbanded in 1995, after the occupation of Lebanon by Syria in alliance with Hezbollah.

In December 2008 Scruton signed his name to a full-page ad that ran in The New York Times as "No Mob Veto" that declared the group's differing views on California's Proposition 8, but was united in its opposition to "violence and intimidation being directed against the LDS or the 'Mormon' church, and other religious organizations - and even against individual believers - simply because they supported Proposition 8", and announcing their commitment to "exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry - against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason."[10]

Scruton is known for his opposition to the ban on fox hunting. In his book Animal Rights and Wrongs, he argues that hunting and meat-eating are not immoral, but that factory farming should be opposed. He also believes that it is, at present, wrong for a Briton to eat cod, haddock, skate or turbot, as factory fishing is threatening the continued existence of these species and damaging the oceans.[11]

Public debates

Scruton debated with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and A. C. Grayling in London in March 2007 on the topic "Are We Better Off Without Religion?"[12] Scruton argues that religion is both helpful and necessary, although he admits that it is very difficult to prove the truth of religious statements.[13] Scruton also debated Irish Marxist theorist Sean Matgamna in 1991 on the question "has socialism a future?"[14]

Japan Tobacco International affair

Scruton has been involved in various business ventures, most notably Horsell's Farm Enterprises, a consulting firm advising clients on public relations, which he co-founded in 1999. This firm has been the source of some controversy, since among its clients is one of the world's largest tobacco companies, for which a quarterly briefing paper, The Risk of Freedom Briefing, has been prepared and circulated to press and politicians since 2000.

In early 2002, The Guardian disclosed a leaked confidential e-mail in which he asked Japan Tobacco International for an increase of £1,000 over his existing fee of £4,500 per month and discussed his aim of getting opinion pieces published "in one or other of The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Telegraph, The Spectator, The Financial Times, The Economist, The Independent or the New Statesman" on "major topics of current concern" to the tobacco industry.[15] As a result of the disclosure, The Financial Times dropped his weekly column, "This Land". Scruton argues that his relationship with JTI was never concealed, and the new proposal was never acted upon, but his critics respond that his previous articles failed to mention any links to the tobacco industry.[16]

Other positions held

Publications

Philosophy and the arts

  • Art And Imagination (1974)
  • The Aesthetics Of Architecture (1979)
  • A Short History of Modern Philosophy (1982)
  • The Aesthetic Understanding (1983)
  • Kant (1983)
  • Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic (1986)
  • Spinoza (1987)
  • The Philosopher On Dover Beach and Other Essays (1990)
  • Modern Philosophy (1994)
  • The Classical Vernacular: architectural principles in an age of nihilism (1995)
  • Animal Rights and Wrongs (1996)
  • An Intelligent Person's Guide To Philosophy (1996) Republished in 2005 as Philosophy: Principles and Problems
  • The Aesthetics Of Music (1997)
  • Spinoza (1998)
  • Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (2004)
  • Beauty (2009)

Politics and culture

  • The Meaning Of Conservatism (1980)
  • The Politics Of Culture and Other Essays (1981)
  • A Dictionary Of Political Thought (1982, 2007)
  • Untimely Tracts (1985)
  • Thinkers Of The New Left (1985)
  • A Land Held Hostage: Lebanon and the West (1987)
  • Conservative Texts (1992)
  • An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture (1998)
  • England: An Elegy (2001)
  • The West and the Rest: Globalisation and the terrorist threat (2002)
  • The Need for Nations (2004)
  • Animal Rights and Wrongs (2006)
  • Arguments For Conservatism (2006)
  • Immigration, Multiculturalism and the Need to Defend the Nation State - Online version (2006)
  • Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged (2007)

Autobiographical

  • On Hunting (1998)
  • News From Somewhere: On Settling (2004)
  • Gentle Regrets: Thoughts from a Life (2005)

Fiction

  • Fortnight's Anger: a novel (1981)
  • Francesca: a novel (1991)
  • A Dove Descending and Other Stories (1991)
  • Xanthippic Dialogues (1993)
  • Perictione in Colophon (2000)

Opera

  • The Minister (1994)
  • Violet (2005)

Television

  • Why Beauty Matters (BBC 2009)

References

  1. ^ http://www.aei.org/scholar/100052
  2. ^ http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/news__events/news/-_title_of_visiting_professor_conferred_on_roger_scruton
  3. ^ bjaesthetics.oxfordjournals.org British Journal of Aesthetics
  4. ^ openDemocracy.net
  5. ^ Dollimore, Jonathan. Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault. NY: Oxford University Press, 1991. pp. 260-262
  6. ^ Dooley, Mark. Roger Scruton: The Philosopher on Dover Beach. Continuum, 2009. pp. 53
  7. ^ England: An Elegy, Chatto and Windus, 2000
  8. ^ Stephen Bayley "Has Britain become indifferent to beauty? National Trust Quality of Life Debate, retrieved on 22 March 2009
  9. ^ vnjh.sk the Jan Hus Educational Foundation
  10. ^ NoMobVeto.org
  11. ^ Appendix 3, "Thoughts on Fishing", in Animal Rights and Wrongs, Roger Scruton, Demos, London, 1996
  12. ^ Times Online (March 29, 2007). Are we better off without religion?
  13. ^ "But the leap of faith itself — this placing of your life at God's service — is a leap over reason's edge. This does not make it irrational, any more than falling in love is irrational. On the contrary, it is the heart's submission to an ideal, and a bid for the love, peace and forgiveness that Dawkins too is seeking, since he, like the rest of us, was made in just that way." Scruton, Roger, The Spectator, (January 13, 2006). "Dawkins is wrong about God"
  14. ^ Matgamna, Sean. Scruton, Roger, workersliberty.org Has socialism a future?PDF (97.5 KB)
  15. ^ Maguire, Kevin. Borger, Julian, The Guardian (January 24, 2002). Scruton in media plot to push the sale of cigarettes
  16. ^ Scruton, Roger, The Guardian (January 28, 2002). "A puff for the Scrutons"
  17. ^ Educational Research Trust Annual Report and Financial Statement for the year ended March 2008 Accessed 23 February 2009

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Roger Vernon Scruton (born 27 February 1944) is a British philosopher. He is (or has been) an academic, editor, publisher, barrister, journalist, broadcaster, countryside campaigner, novelist, and composer.

Contents

Sourced

  • In 1970s Britain, conservative philosophy was the preoccupation of a few half-mad recluses.
  • [Burke] emphasized that the new forms of politics, which hope to organize society around the rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity, or their modernist equivalents, are actually forms of militant irrationality.

Modern Philosophy (1995)

[Allen Lane The Penguin Press ISBN 0713991402]
  • A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is 'merely relative,' is asking you not to believe him. So don't.
    • "The Nature of Philosophy" (p. 6)
  • Kant's position is extremely subtle - so subtle, indeed, that no commentator seems to agree with any other as to what it is.
    • "Some More -isms" (p. 25)
  • In argument about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.
    • "Some More -isms" (p. 32)

Modern Culture (2000)

[ Continuum ISBN 0826494447]
  • The core of common culture is religion. Tribes survive and flourish because they have gods, who fuse many wills into a single will, and demand and reward the sacrifices on which social life depends.
    • "Culture and Cult" (p. 5)
  • The first effect of modernism was to make high culture difficult: to surround beauty with a wall of erudition.
    • "Avant-garde and Kitsch" (p. 85)
  • Without the background of a remembered faith modernism loses its conviction: it becomes routinised. For a long time now it has been assumed that there can be no authentic creation in the sphere of high art which is not is some way a 'challenge' to the ordinary public. Art must give offence, stepping out of the future fully armed against the bourgeois taste for kitsch and cliché. But the result of this is that offence becomes a cliché.
    • "Avant-garde and Kitsch" (p. 86)
  • Faith exalts the human heart, by removing it from the market-place, making it sacred and unexchangeable. Under the jurisdiction of religion our deeper feelings are sacralized, so as to become raw material for the ethical life: the life lived in judgement.
    • "Avant-garde and Kitsch" (p. 91)
  • The ethical life... is maintained in being by a common culture, which also upholds the togetherness of society... Unlike the modern youth culture, a common culture sanctifies the adult state, to which it offers rites of passage.
    • "Idle Hands" (p. 127)

A Political Philosophy (2006)

[ Continuum ISBN 0826493912]
  • Conservatism is itself a modernism, and in this lies the secret of its success.
    • "Eliot and Conservatism" (p. 194)
  • The conservative response to modernity is to embrace it, but to embrace it critically, in full consciousness that human achievements are rare and precarious, that we have no God-given right to destroy our inheritance, but must always patiently submit to the voice of order, and set an example of orderly living.
    • "Eliot and Conservatism" (p. 208)
  • The future of mankind, for the socialist, is simple: pull down the existing order and allow the future to emerge.
    • "Eliot and Conservatism" (p. 208)

Culture Counts (2007)

[ Encounter Books ISBN 1594031940]
  • A civilization is a social entity that manifests religious, political , legal, and customary uniformity over an extended period, and which confers on its members the benefits of socially accumulated knowledge.
    • "What is Culture?" (p. 2)
  • The culture of a civilization is the art and literature through which it rises to consciousness of itself and defines its vision of the world.
    • "What is Culture?" (p. 2)
  • This "knowing what to do"... is a matter of having the right purpose, the purpose appropriate to the situation in hand... The one who "knows what to do" is the one on whom you can rely to make the best shot at success, whenever success is possible.
    • "Knowledge and Feeling" (p. 35)
  • [T]o teach virtue we must educate the emotions, and this means learning "what to feel" in the various circumstances that prompt them.
    • "Knowledge and Feeling" (p. 37)
  • In all the areas of life where people have sought and found consolation through forbidding their desires—sex in particular, and taste in general—the habit of judgment is now to be stamped out.
    • "Rays of Hope" (p. 106)

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