Roger Scruton writer and philosopher
Articles - Art and Music

Listen back to the keynote address to The Benedictus College Forum in June. 

The Idea of a Secular Culture

 
Articles - Reviews

Here are two excellent pieces by Robin Ashenden on Notes from Underground. 

http://ceel.org.uk/culture/books/genesis-of-a-novel-notes-from-underground-by-roger-scruton/

http://ceel.org.uk/culture/books/notes-from-underground-by-roger-scruton-reviewed-by-robin-ashenden/

 

 
Articles - Art and Music

A wonderful evening was had by all at Gliffaes Country House Hotel, Crickhowell, Powys joining Lucy Corbett to launch the new Welsh Academy of Art. The WAA provides residents and visitors with the unique opportunity to learn the classical methods of drawing and painting. This school is open to anyone with a passion to learn and one of its kind in Wales. Enjoyment in the practise of drawing & painting and a commitment to learn are the only requirements needed to join the course. The aim of this Academy is to provide a platform from which the individual artist can develop. Courses include cast, still life, figure, portrait drawing and painting and also landscape painting. For more infomation visit their website

I am delighted to be their patron and you can listen to my speech on Youtube using the following link. 

https://youtu.be/W2rXEga01nk 

 

 
Articles - Environment

The Conservationist You can Believe In. Green Philosophy.  By Patrick Allitt for Library of Law and Liberty. 

The words “conservative” and “conservation” are similar; surely their meanings overlap. They do, says the English philosopher Roger Scruton, and conservatives need to think more seriously about conservation than they have hitherto. To be a conservative is to value the cultural and political traditions we have inherited from the past, to hold them in trust, and to pass them along undiminished to our descendants. To be a conservationist is to value our ecological heritage and to pass it along undiminished to our descendants. By this telling, environmentalism ought not to have a leftish slant at all.

So why does it? Scruton believes that the emotional energy of radical environmentalists today is comparable to that of communists in the twentieth century. Believing that the old capitalist world was utterly corrupt, communists wanted to sweep away all its vestiges in the name of the new. Similarly, radical environmentalists today see our technological domination of the natural world as so menacing that they want to transform it according to completely new principles.

Even moderate environmentalists, he argues, look to supra-national organizations like the European Union or the United Nations to bring about drastic changes. Others work with single-issue non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on behalf of single-issue environmental reforms. In doing so, says Scruton, they by-pass the two social groupings that are best able to accomplish change in way that assures social continuity—the local voluntary association and the nation.

Conservatives who agree that environmental problems are real and serious, including Scruton himself, see the large-scale approach as dangerous. For him, the place to start is with “oikophilia,” love of the home. Drawing on the insights of Edmund Burke, Scruton sees the “little platoon” of local society as the best place to act on our concern for the environment. We love elements of the natural world that are familiar to us from personal experience. These are the places in which our families live, and to which we are most likely to give, voluntarily, of our time and energy. He is delighted by the “adopt-a-highway” programs he has seen on visits to the USA because they bring voluntary civic associations into immediate contact with threatened environments.

By contrast, he deplores big agencies like the EPA because they displace local associations with professional rule-bound bureaucracies. They have an incentive structure unrelated to improving particular places, and they often write one-size-fits-all rules that can be perversely irrelevant or counter-productive out in the field. He cites the example of the EPA’s inability to accept the Dutch offer of pollution-abatement ships during the Deepwater Horizon emergency of 2010 because these ships could not meet the EPA’s impossibly high standard of decontaminating seawater to a purity level of 99.95 percent. Ships that could have helped remove vast quantities of crude oil from the spill zone—and had done so often in the North Sea–were excluded because of the very slightly contaminated water they would have disgorged back into the sea.

Centralized and bureaucratic responses, Scruton continues, make individuals and localities feel irrelevant and powerless, which in turn makes them progressively less eager to work voluntarily on behalf of the natural world. Bureaucracies are by nature inflexible, unable to respond quickly to new insights and experiences, and their unintended effect is to rob citizens of their sense of involvement, and the local level of its resilience. They also tend to be immune to challenge. This was particularly true in the Communist countries before 1989, whose environmental record was atrocious, and against which citizens had no recourse. Unfortunately, their record has often been little better in the West, where bureaus like the British Forestry Commission have run roughshod over centuries of local tradition in forest management.

Is the free market the solution? Scruton warns that it does not have a ready answer to all environmental questions. Some things we hold sacred beyond any question of their monetary value. Nevertheless, he is sympathetic to free-market environmentalism of the sort advocated by the American writers Terry Anderson and Donald Leal. Its basic premise is that owners have the greatest incentive to care for land that is their actual property, and are quickest to safeguard it, in appropriate ways, from external threats. He cites the success of private associations like the Anglers’ Conservation Association, which acquired lands along scenic British riverbanks and then successfully sued industrial polluters to stop them degrading water quality and killing the fish.

One role the government must play, however, is to uphold the rule of law. Without an equitable legal framework, the market can be rapacious and destructive. Scruton knows that corporations want to maximize profits and take as little responsibility as possible for the malignant environmental effects of their work. He offers high praise to the tradition of tort law in England, which has consistently taken the view that those whose enterprises cause environmental harm must take responsibility for remedying it. By contrast, he argues, American tort law has lost touch with this noble tradition. Too often, predatory American lawyers promote class-action lawsuits, targeting any organization that is able to pay and thenmaking it pay, whether or not it is responsible for the harm.

What about the claim, often heard today in environmental debates, that we have moral obligations to the future? Scruton agrees that we should take seriously our role as caretakers of a civilization and an ecology that others will inherit. This sense of obligation, and the self-restraint that ought to accompany it, are important elements of conservatism and equally of conservation. At the same time, we know much about the past and nothing about the future, so our concern for the future ought to draw heavily on the fund of actual experience we have from the past. Otherwise we will drift away into wishful thinking and utopian projections with little concern for people whose actual lives have yet to begin, and whose mentality we can scarcely imagine.

Scruton writes shrewdly on the “precautionary principle,” often invoked in environmental debates. Laudable on its face, the precautionary principle counsels us to do nothing rather than to take steps that might be environmentally harmful, just as the Hippocratic Oath enjoins doctors: “First, do no harm.” But he shows how pernicious it can be in practice. When a Danish researcher suggested that phthalates in certain plastic water bottles might be carcinogenic, the European Union invoked the precautionary principle to ban their use. Other research did not uphold the finding but the hint of a suspicion remained. In a situation like this, says Scruton, “what the Principle really says, when examined in the context of its use, is this; ‘if you think there may be a risk, then there is a risk; and if there is a risk, forbid it” (198). Here again, bureaucratic agencies making blanket decisions deny citizens the opportunity to exercise their judgment and decide for themselves what risks they are, and are not, willing to confront when the evidence is weak or ambiguous.

One of the most influential statements of an environmental dilemma is Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons.” First outlined in a short article in 1968, it shows that many individuals, each of them acting rationally on his own account, will use up a scarce resource, degrading the environment. A classic example is the overfishing of the oceans by too many trawlers from competing nations. Hardin, when he wrote the article, also had in mind the “commons” of reproduction, and he deplored the idea that individuals should be free to choose how many children they wanted. Collectively, he feared, they would create far too many and would overwhelm the earth’s capacity to support them. Even though Hardin was wrong about that, failing to notice the great slowing down of population growth in the advanced industrial nations, his general point still seemed persuasive.

Scruton responds to Hardin by asking the historical question: how often have “commons” actually been destroyed in this way? His answer is reassuring; very few. He gives examples from Scandinavia to Switzerland of local communities, fishermen and pastoralists, recognizing the scarcity of a vital common resource and imposing on themselves rules to preserve it. They can do so because they are familiar with the place in all its particulars, feeling not merely the economic wisdom of restraint and cooperation, but a sense of piety toward the land and its bounty. They are oikophiliacs. Scruton sees that a multicultural society with a highly mobile population will find this approach much more difficult because the many diverse parts of such a population lack a common history in the same landscape. To him, of course, multiculturalism is a negative concept.

What about the question of global warming? How serious is it, and how remediable? Scruton’s approach is sensible and level headed. He affirms that human activity is currently contributing to warming, but adds that it is only one of many sources of greenhouse gases. We should take seriously the need to diminish greenhouse gases where possible but not if the price of doing so imperils other worthwhile projects. In his view, which I share, we should take heart from the history of adaptations that humanity has made to an immense variety of climatic situations and atmospheric changes. He cites the way in which nineteenth century Britain responded to the unprecedented challenges of industrialization, and anticipates that our far more resilient society today will also show the ability to adapt.

After a wide-ranging survey of the field, including excursions back to philosophical first principles, Scruton offers a few proposals of his own. He comes down strongly in favor of reviving localism, enabling Britain’s farmers to sell the food they grow in local markets and phasing out the hidden subsidies that give all the advantages to giant supermarket chains. He favors a flat tax on carbon consumption, emphasizing that consumers, not producers, are ultimately responsible for the greenhouse gases now threatening us. And he ends by reminding readers that conservatism and conservation stand and fall together: “The greatest danger to the environment, it seems to me, comes from the growing tendency of governments to confiscate the powers and freedoms of autonomous associations, and to centralize all powers in their own hands” (400). Of course governments, especially those of the wealthy democratic nations, must play a role in response to the greatest environmental threats, but mostly by promoting oikophila rather than weakening it further.

This is a book of extraordinary richness, which repays slow reading and re-reading. Scruton has a marvelous intellectual breadth and he ranges widely over dozens of topics with equal authority, from the most abstract to the most particular. He convinced me at one point that there is a relationship between the aesthetics of table settings and the right ordering of the natural world. Families whose everyday objects have been “polished by domestic affection” (263) bespeak a sense of habitual rootedness. In a meditation on the nature of beauty, he raises the possibility that the job of art should be not to stand out but to fit in, that it should be an exercise as much of self-denial as of self-expression. What a beautiful and persuasive idea that is; one we rarely hear in an age of outsized artistic egos. It makes perfect sense in the context of his remarks on the stylistic unity of Europe’s finest cities.

Conservatives regard civilization as fragile, jeopardized by human thoughtlessness. Now it is time to take more seriously the idea that our folly can harm the natural world too. Let us recognize the profound good sense of this idea, and then consult Roger Scruton for guidance on how to be a conservative conservationist.

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 5

Search

Recent Books

The Disappeared

The Disappeared

The Disappeared is launched on 26th March 2015 by Bloomsbury Reader. It is a story of our times, of kidnap and rescue, of abuse and healing. The first magazine...

Read more

How to be a Conservative

How to be a Conservative

What does it mean to be a conservative in an age so sceptical of conservatism? How can we live in the presence of our 'canonized forefathers' at a time when...

Read more

Soul of the World

Soul of the World

The Soul of the World is a defence of the sacred against today's fashionable forms of atheism. Our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension...

Read more

Notes from Underground

Notes from Underground

Published March 2014 by Beaufort Books  A novel set in the twilight years of the Czechoslovak communist regime, this novel describes a doomed love affair between two young people trapped in...

Read more

Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England

Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England

For most people in England today, the church is simply the empty building at the end of the road, visited for the first time, if at all, when dead. It...

Read more

Green Philosophy

Green Philosophy

Green Philosophy Atlantic Books (January 2012) The environment has long been the undisputed territory of the political Left, which has seen the principal threats to the earth as issuing from international capitalism,...

Read more

The Uses of Pessimism

The Uses of Pessimism

The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope Atlantic Books (2010) The argument of this book proposes  that the tragedies and disasters of the history of the European continent...

Read more

Beauty

Beauty

Beauty OUP (2009) Description Roger Scruton explores this timeless concept, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful. This compact volume is filled with insight. Can there be...

Read more

Understanding Music - Philosophy and Interpretation

Understanding Music - Philosophy and Interpretation

Understanding Music Philosophy and Interpretation Continuum (2009)ISBN: 9781847065063 Description: Roger Scruton first addressed this topic in his celebrated book The Aesthetics of Music (OUP) and in this new book he applies the theory to...

Read more

The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought

The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought

The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought Macmillan Publishers Ltd (2007)ISBN-10: 1403989524 , ISBN-13: 978-1403989529 Description Roger Scruton's Dictionary of Political Thought has been widely acclaimed as a profound and incisive guide to...

Read more

News from Somewhere: On Settling

News from Somewhere: On Settling

News from Somewhere: On Settling Continuum (2004)ISBN: 9780826476289 192 pages, paperback Description For a number of years Roger Scruton has contributed a weekly article to the Financial Times on country matters. Always beautifully...

Read more

A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism

A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism

A Political Philosophy Arguments for Conservatism Continuum (2006)ISBN-10: 0826496156, ISBN-13: 978-0826496157 Description What principles should govern our relations to the nation-state, to the environment, to other species, to other cultures and to other ways...

Read more

England: An Elegy

England: An Elegy

England: An Elegy Continuum (2001) ISBN: 9780826480750288 Pages, paperback Description In this poignant and personal tribute Roger Scruton gives an account of England which is both an illuminating analysis of its institutions and...

Read more

Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged

Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged

Culture Counts Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged Encounter Books (2008)Hardcover 136 pages ISBN: 1594031940 Description What is culture? Why should we preserve it, and how? In this book, the renowned philosopher Roger...

Read more

Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde

Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde

Death-Devoted Heart Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde OUP (2004)246 pages, 978-0-19-516691-0 | Hardback Description A tale of forbidden love and inevitable death, the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde recounts...

Read more

The Classical Vernacular: Architectural Principles in an Age of Nihilism

The Classical Vernacular: Architectural Principles in an Age of Nihilism

The Classical Vernacular Architectural Principles in an Age of Nihilism Carcanet Press (1995)ISBN-10: 1 857540 54 9, ISBN-13: 978 1 857540 54 3, 1st Format: Hardback, 176pp Description Roger Scruton is never less than...

Read more

Animal Rights and Wrongs

Animal Rights and Wrongs

Animal Rights and Wrongs Continuum (1996, 1998, 3rd ed 2000)ISBN: 9780826494047 Description A revised and improved edition of a book in continuing demand. Do animals have rights? If not, do we have duties towards...

Read more

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy Penguin Books (1996)ISBN-10: 0140275169, ISBN-13: 978-0140275162. Paperback: 176 pages Description "Philosophy's the 'love of wisdom', can be approached in two ways: by doing it, or by studying...

Read more

An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture

An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture St. Augustine’s Press (1998. new ed. 2000)ISBN: 978-1-890318-47-5, 186 pages Description Received by the British press with equal acclaim and indignation, this book sets out to...

Read more

The Aesthetics of Architecture

The Aesthetics of Architecture

The Aesthetics of Architecture PUP (1980)ISBN13: 978-0-691-00322-1 Scruton takes his readers on a journey through aesthetic theory and tries in every sense to apply them directly to architecture. By using theories from...

Read more

Aesthetics of Music

Aesthetics of Music

Aesthetics of Music OUP (1999)ISBN13: 9780198167273 ISBN10: 019816727X Paperback, 552 pages Description: What is music, what is its value, and what does it mean? In this stimulating volume, Roger Scruton offers a comprehensive...

Read more

Spinoza: The Great Philosophers

Spinoza: The Great Philosophers

Spinoza The Great Philosophers Routledge (1999)SBN-13: 9780415923903ISBN: 0415923905 Description Philosophy is one of the most intimidating and difficult of disciplines, as any of its students can attest. This book is an important entry in...

Read more

A Short History of Modern Philosophy

A Short History of Modern Philosophy

A Short History of Modern Philosophy Routledge (1982, 1995, 3rd ed, 2001)Isbn10: 0415130352 Description In this classic introductory work, Scruton takes us on us on a fascinating tour of the subject, from founding...

Read more

Sexual Desire

Sexual Desire

Sexual Desire Continuum (1986, 2006)ISBN: 9780826480385, 448 Pages, paperback Description When John desires Mary or Mary desires John, what does either of them want? What is meant by innocence, passion, love and arousal,...

Read more

The Politics of Culture and Other Essays

The Politics of Culture and Other Essays

The Politics of Culture and Other Essays St. Augustine's Press (1981)245 pages, ISBN-10: 1890318612, ISBN-13: 978-1890318611 Description Brings together Scruton's best essays from many sources, arranging them thematically. The book has four sections:...

Read more

The Aesthetic Understanding

The Aesthetic Understanding

The Aesthetic Understanding St. Augustine's Press (1983, new ed. 1997)ISBN: 978-1-890318-02-4 Brings together essays on the philosophy of art in which a philosophical theory of aesthetic judgment is tested and developed through...

Read more

Philosopher on Dover Beach

Philosopher on Dover Beach

Philosopher on Dover Beach St. Augustine's Press (1989)350 pages, ISBN: 978-1-890318-60-4 In this collection of previously published essays, Scruton casts his philosophically conservative mind over a variety of subjects from Hegel to...

Read more

Perictione in Colophon: Reflections on the Aesthetic
 Way of Life

Perictione in Colophon: Reflections on the Aesthetic
 Way of Life

Perictione in Colophon Reflections on the Aesthetic 
Way of Life St. Augustine's Press (2000)263 pages, ISBN: 978-1-890318-59-8 Description This, the sequel to the same author's much-acclaimed Xanthippic Dialogues, is a multi-faceted commentary on the...

Read more

On Hunting

On Hunting

On Hunting Yellow Jersey Press (1998)173 pages, ISBN: 978-1-58731-600-5 Description Modern people are as given to loving, fearing, fleeing, and pursuing other species as were their hunter-gatherer forebears. And in fox hunting, they...

Read more

Modern Philosophy: An introduction and survey

Modern Philosophy: An introduction and survey

Modern Philosophy An introduction and survey Penguin Books, (1994)Paperback | 624 pages | ISBN 9780140249071 Description Philosopher Roger Scruton offers a wide-ranging perspective on philosophy, from logic to aesthetics, written in a lively and...

Read more

The Meaning of Conservatism

The Meaning of Conservatism

The Meaning of Conservatism St. Augustine's Press (1980, 1984, 3rd ed. 2000)220 pages, ISBN: 978-1-890318-40-6 Description This is a major contribution to political thought from conservatism's greatest contemporary proponent. Originally published in Britain...

Read more

Kant: A Very Short Introduction

Kant: A Very Short Introduction

Kant: A Very Short Introduction OUP (1993, new ed. 2001)160 pages |978-0-19-280199-9 | Paperback Description Kant is arguably the most influential modern philosopher, but also one of the most difficult. Roger Scruton tackles his...

Read more

I Drink Therefore I am

I Drink Therefore I am

I Drink Therefore I am Continuum (2009)ISBN-10: 1441170677, ISBN-13: 978-1441170675 Description The ancients had a solution to the alcohol problem, which was to wrap the drink in religious rituals, to treat it...

Read more

Gentle Regrets

Gentle Regrets

Gentle Regrets Continuum (2006)ISBN: 9780826480330 256 Pages, paperback Description Roger Scruton is Britain's best known intellectual dissident, who has defended English traditions and English identity against an official culture of denigration. Although his...

Read more

Fortnight's Anger

Fortnight's Anger

Fortnight's Anger Carcanet Press (1981)ISBN-10: 0 856353 76 0
ISBN-13: 978 0 856353 76 5Edition:1st
 Format: Hardback Description TBC Buy from Amazon

Read more

Spinoza: A Very Short Introduction

Spinoza: A Very Short Introduction

Spinoza: A Very Short Introduction OUP (2002)144 pages, 978-0-19-280316-0 Description Benedict de Spinoza (1632-77) was at once the father of the Enlightenment and the last sad guardian of the medieval world. In his brilliant...

Read more

A Land Held Hostage: Lebanon and the West

A Land Held Hostage: Lebanon and the West

A Land Held Hostage: Lebanon and the West Published by  The Claridge Press, London (1987) ISBN 1-870626-00-1 Format: Paperback   Description In this book, published in 1987 during the course of Lebanon's civil wars, Roger Scruton...

Read more
© 2006 - 2015 Roger Scruton. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision