Sir Roger Scruton, RIP

Sir Roger Scruton, RIP. By Steven Hayward.

Very sad news from England this morning of the passing of Sir Roger Scruton at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer over the last year.

Sir Roger deserves to be considered the greatest conservative thinker and writer of the last generation …

In the introduction to his book The Meaning of Conservatism, Scruton writes that “Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae, or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expression, when compelled, skeptical.”

Why “inarticulate”? Because, as he explains elsewhere, the liberal has the easy job in the modern world. The liberal points at the imperfections and defects of existing institutions or the existing social order, strikes a pose of indignation, and huffs that surely something better is required, usually with the attitude that the something better is simply a matter of will. The conservative faces the tougher challenge of understanding and explaining the often subtle reasons why existing institutions, no matter how imperfect, work better than speculative alternatives. …

I’ll sign off with perhaps my favorite short quote from him: “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 left cannot allow free thought and expression, because its ideas are irrational and run counter to our knowledge of the real world and of human nature. Hence the characteristic suppression of thought by leftists when they’re in power. Scruton recently wrote:

In comparison with the dark cloud of denunciation which was all that the impersonal machine of Communism could produce by way of a university, we had created a pool of light in which we could converse in freedom. This was a sign of the virtue of my country, too: without the British sense of fair play and free enquiry, we would never have pursued so quixotic a cause.

Yet, how different things are today. Round-robins of denunciation now circulate in our universities accusing one scholar after another of the wrong word, the wrong associations, the wrong ‘ism’ or ‘phobia’ from the list of favourite thought-crimes …

Now in Britain, as then in Czechoslovakia, the true intellectual is a dissident, and if our national memory is to survive, it will be because we have succeeded in building here, as once we built there, an underground university devoted to knowledge.

A reader adds his favorite Scruton quote:

Intellectuals are naturally attracted by the idea of a planned society, in the belief that they will be in charge of it.

Another reader:

He was treated appallingly by the politically-correct Left. They hated him of course, because he showed up their hypocrisy and double standards.