“Sir Roger Scruton (knighted by the queen in 2016) is the greatest living English philosopher, and he’s a conservative. It almost makes me want to cry.” John Dale Dunn
“Western civilization has come in for a lot of attack because it’s Western.” Roger Scruton
Editor’s Note: Dr. Scruton is dying of cancer; pray for his spiritual and mental wellbeing.
Editor’s Note: When I hear of British philosophers, I immediately think of C. E. M. Joad who overcame his atheism and wrote a book entitled The Recovery of Belief (1952). His conclusion, “I now believe that the balance of reasonable considerations tells heavily in favor of the religious, even of the Christian view of the world.”
Sir Roger Scruton (knighted by the queen in 2016) is the greatest living English philosopher, and he’s a conservative. It almost makes me wanna cry.
He is active and productive as author, essayist, and lecturer, and he is extremely effective as a debater and polemicist. He certainly is in the philosophy hall of fame based on his status as a refined and far ranging philosopher, specializing in aesthetics, like music and architecture, but always ready to engage on politics, culture, and morality. He is the ideal conservative philosopher in many ways, and I have yet to disagree with his analysis of things and his judgments. Of course, I can’t quite keep up, so I will have to assume he still hits the ball correctly and smartly. He has written more than 50 books and a silo full of essays and commentaries.
Photo credit: Elekes Andor.
On September 19, 2019, at the fourteenth annual Gala for Western Civilization, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute awarded Sir Roger Scruton as Defender of Western Civilization, and he provided a short address that I would like to excerpt so you can go to the original to enjoy his wisdom.
Western civilization has come in for a lot of attack because it’s Western. The word Western has been taken to be a standard term of abuse by so many people in the world today, and in particular by people who don’t have the faintest idea what it means, historically, metaphysically, or poetically. Our Western civilization is not some peculiar, narrow little obsession of people who happen to live in a certain geographical part of the world. It is an inheritance, constantly expanding, constantly including new things. It is something which has given us the knowledge of the human heart, which has enabled us to produce not just wonderful economies and the wonderful ways of living in the world that are ours, but also the great works of art, the religions, the systems of law and government, all the other things which make it actually possible for us to recognize that we live in this world, insofar as possible, successfully.
He goes on to assert that civilization is the way people connect in their daily lives. It has ordinary social aspects but also the high culture that is layered on it that makes human life so varied and so beneficial.
Dr. Scruton reveals the personal distress he experiences because he defends Western civilization and that he is accused of being narrow-minded and a bigot, but he soldiers on, confident that our civilization is so well worth defending.
He declares the benefits of our history and inheritance, but he sees the value in the inclusive nature of Western civilization and its adoption of many cultural achievements not just of the West, but of other civilizations and cultures. Western civilization is inclusive and open to all kinds of innovation, accepting the whole of human being and human life as its subject matter.
“I’ve always rejoiced in being a teacher of the humanities, because I recognize that humanities is what it’s about. It’s about being human and all the many ways in which that way of being is diversified and comprehensive in the world in which we are today.”
He condemns narrow and dogmatic, bigoted, and exclusive attitudes and cites the respect the West has had for the Chinese culture and traditions as just one example.
He encourages optimism, most of all courage and a willingness to reject radicalization and politicization and search for a way to push back on the effects of negativity that are energizing the conflicts in the culture.
“What you need to do is engage in dialogue, which is what civilization is about … we shouldn’t despair of Western civilization. It’s just that we should be careful to recognize that we’re not talking about some narrow, small-minded thing called Western. We’re talking about an open, generous, and creative thing called civilization.”
Not bad, Dr. Scruton — not bad.
John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is a physician and inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas.