Roger Scruton

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Roger Scruton

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.


  • An international socialism is the stated ideal of most socialists; an international liberalism is the unstated tendency of the liberal. To neither system is it thinkable that men live, not by universal aspirations but by local attachments; not by a “solidarity” that stretches across the globe from end to end, but by obligations that are understood in terms which separate men from most of their fellows—in terms such as national history, religion, language, and the customs that provide the basis of legitimacy.
    • "How to be a Non-Liberal, Anti-Socialist Conservative," Intercollegiate Review: A Journal of Scholarship and Opinion (Spring 1993).
  • The modern world gives proof at every point that it is far easier to destroy institutions than to create them. Nevertheless, few people seem to understand this truth.
  • [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.
  • Hayek’s theory of evolutionary rationality shows how traditions and customs (those surrounding sexual relations, for example) might be reasonable solutions to complex social problems, even when, and especially when, no clear rational grounds can be provided to the individual for obeying them. These customs have been selected by the ‘‘invisible hand’’ of social reproduction, and societies that reject them will soon enter the condition of ‘‘maladaptation,’’ which is the normal prelude to extinction.
    • "Hayek and conservatism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • Hayek fails to account either for the passion among intellectuals for equality, or for the resulting success of socialists and their egalitarian successors in driving the liberal idea from the stage of politics. This passion for equality is not a new thing, and indeed pre-dates socialism by many centuries, finding its most influential expression in the writings of Rousseau. There is no consensus as to how equality might be achieved, what it would consist in if achieved, or why it is so desirable in the first place. But no argument against the cogency or viability of the idea has the faintest chance of being listened to or discussed by those who have fallen under its spell.
    • "Hayek and conservatism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • Hayek sees that the zero-sum vision is fired by an implacable negative energy. It is not the concrete vision of some real alternative that animates the socialist critic of the capitalist order. It is hostility toward the actual, and in particular toward those who enjoy advantages within it. Hence the belief in equality remains vague and undefined, except negatively. For it is essentially a weapon against the existing order – a way of undermining its claims to legitimacy, by discovering a victim for every form of success. The striving for equality is, in other words, based in ressentiment in Nietzsche’s sense, the state of mind that Max Scheler identified as the principal motive behind the socialist orthodoxy of his day. It is one of the major problems of modern politics, which no classical liberal could possibly solve, how to govern a society in which resentment has acquired the kind of privileged social, intellectual, and political position that we witness today.
    • "Hayek and conservatism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • All of us need an identity which unites us with our neighbours, our countrymen, those people who are subject to the same rules and the same laws as us, those people with whom we might one day have to fight side by side to protect our inheritance, those people with whom we will suffer when attacked, those people whose destinies are in some way tied up with our own.
  • Conservatives have, on the whole, accepted nationality as a sphere of local duties and loyalties, defining an inheritance and a community that has a right to pass on its values from generation to generation. The nation may indeed be the best that we now have, by way of a society linking the dead to the unborn, in the manner extolled by Burke. And for this very reason it arouses the hostility of liberals, who are constantly searching for a place outside loyalty and obedience, from which all human claims can be judged. Hence, in the conflicts of our times, while conservatives leap to the defense of the nation and its interests, wishing to maintain its integrity and to enforce its law, liberals advocate transnational initiatives, international courts, and doctrines of universal rights, all of which, they believe, should stand in judgment over the nation and hold it to account.
  • Liberty is not the same thing as equality, and that those who call themselves liberals are far more interested in equalizing than in liberating their fellows.
  • A free society is a community of free beings, bound by the laws of sympathy and by the obligations of family love. It is not a society of people released from all moral constraint–for that is precisely the opposite of a society. Without moral constraint there can be no cooperation, no family commitment, no long-term prospects, no hope of economic, let alone social, order.
  • Throughout my adult life governments around the Western world have been propagating the gospel of multiculturalism, which tells us that immigrants, from whatever part of the world and whatever way of life, are a welcome part of our “multicultural” society. Differences of language, religion, custom, and attachment don’t matter, they have reassured us, since all can form part of the colorful tapestry of the modern state. Anybody who publicly disagreed with that claim invited the attentions of the thought police, always ready with the charge of racism, and never so scrupulous as to think it a sin to destroy the career of someone, provided he was white, indigenous, and male. To be quite honest, living through this period of organized mendacity has been one of the least agreeable ordeals that we conservatives have had to undergo. Keeping your head down is bad enough; but filling your head with official lies means sacrificing thought as well as freedom.
  • Conservatives believe that our identities and values are formed through our relations with other people, and not through our relation with the state. The state is not an end but a means. Civil society is the end, and the state is the means to protect it. The social world emerges through free association, rooted in friendship and community life. And the customs and institutions that we cherish have grown from below, by the ‘invisible hand’ of co-operation. They have rarely been imposed from above by the work of politics, the role of which, for a conservative, is to reconcile our many aims, and not to dictate or control them.
  • The real reason people are conservatives is that they are attached to the things that they love, and want to preserve them from abuse and decay. They are attached to their family, their friends, their religion, and their immediate environment. They have made a lifelong distinction between the things that nourish and the things that threaten their security and peace of mind.

Modern Philosophy (1995)[edit]

[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)[edit]

[ 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)[edit]

[ 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)

England and the Need for Nations (2006)[edit]

  • Democracies owe their existence to national loyalties — the loyalties that are supposedly shared by government and opposition, by all political parties, and by the electorate as a whole. Wherever the experience of nationality is weak or non-existent, democracy has failed to take root. For without national loyalty, opposition is a threat to government, and political disagreements create no common ground.
  • National loyalty is founded in the love of place, of the customs and traditions that have been inscribed in the landscape and of the desire to protect these good things through a common law and a common loyalty.
  • Europe owes its greatness to the fact that the primary loyalties of the European people have been detached from religion and re-attached to the land. Those who believe that the division of Europe into nations has been the primary cause of European wars should remember the devastating wars of religion that national loyalties finally brought to an end. And they should study our art and literature for its inner meaning. In almost every case, they will discover, it is an art and literature not of war but of peace, an invocation of home and the routines of home, of gentleness, everydayness and enduring settlement.
  • National loyalty involves a love of home and a preparedness to defend it; nationalism is a belligerent ideology, which uses national symbols in order to conscript the people to war.
  • Never in the history of the world have there been so many migrants. And almost all of them are migrating from regions where nationality is weak or non-existent to the established nation states of the West. They are not migrating because they have discovered some previously dormant feeling of love or loyalty towards the nations in whose territory they seek a home. On the contrary, few of them identify their loyalties in national terms and almost none of them in terms of the nation where they settle. They are migrating in search of citizenship which is the principal gift of national jurisdictions, and the origin of the peace, law, stability and prosperity that still prevail in the West.
  • Nationality is not the only kind of social membership, nor is it an exclusive tie. However, it is the only form of membership that has so far shown itself able to sustain a democratic process and a liberal rule of law.
  • The idea that the citizen owes loyalty to a country, a territory, a jurisdiction and all those who reside within it — the root assumption of democratic politics, and one that depends upon the nation as its moral foundation - that idea has no place in the minds and hearts of many who now call themselves citizens of European states.

Culture Counts (2007)[edit]

[ 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)

How to Be a Conservative (2014)[edit]

  • Take any aspect of the Western inheritance of which our ancestors were proud, and you will find university courses devoted to deconstructing it. Take any positive feature of our political and cultural inheritance, and you will find concerted efforts in both the media and the academy to place it in quotation marks, and make it look like an imposture or a deceit.
    • p. 40

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (2015)[edit]

  • Why is it after a century of socialist disasters, and an intellectual legacy that has been time and again exploded, the left-wing position remains, as it were, the default position to which thinking people gravitate when called upon for a comprehensive philosophy? Why are “right-wingers” marginalised in the educational system, denounced in the media and regarded by our political class as untouchable, fit only to clean up after the orgies of luxurious nonsense indulged in by their moral superiors?

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