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“Music is a wonderful example of something that’s in this world but not of this world. Great works of music speak to us from another realm even though they speak to us in ordinary physical sounds.” ― Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World Here at Ricochet, we have a rich tradition of using quotations […]
I’ve been re-reading Confessions of a Heretic, a collection of essays by Roger Scruton that was published in 2016, the year after his death. Scruton’s prose is both entirely accessible—he prefers plain language and straightforward sentences—and so rich that I find myself stopping again and again to savor this sentence or ponder that paragraph. Take the question of borders. I’d always thought of borders as purely utilitarian—the place where our law stops and theirs begins. Crude, but necessary. Scruton demonstrates instead that borders represent one of mankind’s highest achievements:
The national idea is not the enemy of Enlightenment but its necessary precondition. The country is defined by a territory, and by the history, culture, and law that have made that territory ours…. Take away borders, and people begin to identify themselves not by territory and law, but by tribe, race, or religion. In short, Enlightenment means borders.
The bureaucrats who run the European Union, the Biden administration—both seem to suppose that borders represent throwbacks, mere hindrances that need to be overcome, transcended, ignored, removed. They have it backward. The rule of law, a certain level of decency and civilization—all depend on borders. Rip down the borders, Scruton shows, and you rip down civilization.
On January 12, 2020, Roger Scruton died after a half-year struggle with cancer. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The lockdowns began the next week. Then came the masks. Zinnism became the official ideology of the American state in June. Thus the old world perished, and a new one was born.
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State solutions are imposed from above; they are often without corrective devices, and cannot easily be reversed on the proof of failure. Their inflexibility goes hand in hand with their planned and goal-directed nature, and when they fail, the efforts of the state are directed not to changing them but to changing people’s belief that they have failed. – Roger Scruton
Like Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman and others, Roger Scruton quotes seem obvious, but they also show great wisdom. Even after his death on January 12, 2020, the quote above rings true with the present nonsense from all governments – villages, cities, states, countries, and especially the pan-national World Health Organization. Ricochet includes many conversations about Scruton, including those on Conservatism and Good Things in the Quote of the Day series.
As a conservative who enjoys art, architecture, and music, I was introduced to Roger Scruton about 3 years ago in this Beauty video. What impressed me was his approach to beauty, which could include rough items, while dismissing modern art that only exists to shock.
In The Soul of the World, Roger Scruton writes:
My face is … the part of me to which others direct their attention, whenever they address me as ‘you.’ I lie behind my face, and yet I am present in it, speaking and looking through it at a world of others who are in turn both revealed and concealed like me. My face is a boundary, a threshold, a place where I appear as the monarch appears on the balcony of the palace….
Here are my reflections on Sir Roger, published today in The Bulwark. They focus on his remarkable work and legacy in Central Europe. Preview Open
“The apostolic church is a church of the heart. When you steal from it you steal the heart. Hence the theft is easy, and amends are long and hard.” A strange way to sum up a story of erotic love. Nonetheless, it was Scruton’s way, as he described, in the second half of his essay, Stealing from Churches, the thwarted love affair that taught him a “narrative of transubstantiation” transmuting body into soul. In truth, the love affair wasn’t thwarted at all, but one that fulfilled its purpose, a purpose his stubborn young beloved, Basia (pronounced “Basha”), saw more clearly than he did.
Scruton had organized a subversive summer school for the Catholic University in Poland, bringing together Polish and English philosophy students to resist communism. Under the codename “Squirrel” (in Polish “Wiewiorka”, for his red hair) and tailed by at least one jug-eared agent, Scruton had stumbled into more James-Bond mystique than most ginger-haired philosophy dons could hope for. It would be almost cliche, then, for an exotic young thing to throw herself at him. Wry-smiling, stunning Basia was no cliche, though. Or rather, if she were, it would be the cliche in a kind of story too little told these days to count as cliche anymore.
Basia, at 26, the oldest, most academically-advanced of the bright young things attending Scruton’s summer lectures and their unofficial leader, was an uppity young woman with a checkered past. She wasted little time with Scruton: after his second day in Kazimierz, she waylaid him in the woods to announce she noticed no ring on his finger. Such a frank admission of desire seems likely to end in embarrassment all round whether the desire is reciprocated or not, and perhaps it would have if it weren’t accompanied by her equally frank admission that consummating desire was not her aim:
At a certain age on the path to adulthood, we begin to realize not just that our heroes are human, but that they are mortal. In the last five years, we have said goodbye to Harry Jaffa, Kenneth Minogue, Rene Girard, Bernard Lewis, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Forrest McDonald, among brilliant others, and I have watched each go with an increasing sense that I was seeing my pantheon of intellectual greats fade rapidly.
After soliciting suggested readings in philosophy from Ricochet members, I constructed a reading list. I’m happy to announce I’ve completed the first book in the list, Roger Scruton’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy. My (sparse and hasty) review can be found on Goodreads. Plato is next up, but I’m concluding more and more that […]
Earlier this month, the great British philosopher Roger Scruton delivered a lecture at the Heritage Foundation on the future of Europe — and the lessons we can learn from that struggling continent. The entire lecture is brilliant and important (and I don’t even care how pretentious it may sound to say so, because the entire lecture really is brilliant and important).
On this day after Christmas, an excerpt:
Roger Scruton as quoted by Daniel Hannan on a podcast here on Ricochet: “The role of a conservative thinker is to reassure the people that their prejudices are true.”
It’s a wonderful quote, but I’m tempted to modify it: The role of a conservative thinker is to reassure the people that their prejudices are rational. I think the challenge to — for example — disapproval of embryonic stem-cell research is rarely “You are mistaken,” but rather “Your view is only held by nutjobs who hate science.”
A question for the Ricochetti:
Academic-speak these days is quite easy to imitate. Here is a representative specimen that might well be found in your email in-box if you happen to work in American higher education: “As a community we must all rededicate ourselves to dialogue about inclusion, diversity, and social justice and, and to rejecting the hegemonic discourse of […]
Zweig evoked an enchanted world, ordered toward comfort and high culture. He told me that I lived in a place where everything reliable and good had been twice destroyed, like pieces in a peaceful game of chess swept to the floor by the hand of some passing sadist. And he wrote of a spiritual force […]