ROGER SCRUTON: BURKEAN AND BOHEMIAN

First Things | 4/26/2008 | John Haldane
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The death of Sir Roger Scruton has deprived academic aesthetics of one of its most creative, insightful, and wide-ranging practitioners. Roger was one of a kind: poetic, courageous, and funny. We have lost a truly great figure, but his writings remain to nourish, encourage, and educate those who value the humane conversation of mankind and the wisdom philosophy can bring to it.

I first got to know Roger forty years ago at London University’s Birkbeck College, where he was lecturing in philosophy and I was studying it. He was not one of my teachers, but I learned a good deal from listening to him in various settings—including reading parties at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park.

Roger - Academy - Lecturing - Broadcasting - Establishment

Eventually Roger left the academy to give himself wholly to writing, public lecturing, broadcasting, and afflicting the comfortable in the prevailing liberal-socialist establishment. Michael Dummett and Bernard Williams were leading members of the tribe that Roger taunted (sometimes needlessly), and this led to a long delay in his merited election to the Fellowship of the British Academy. In fact, however, he and Williams had much in common as philosophers.

Both had tremendous powers of comprehension, imagination, and insight, a common appreciation of the complexities of human thought and feeling, and a shared resistance to the instrumentalization and “scientization” of university study and scholarship. They were also great opera aficionados—they loved Wagner especially. Though they differed greatly on politics, Scruton and Dummett deeply appreciated the cultural value of religious practice and liturgy. Herein lies a lesson: Philosophers who hope to engage and inspire an educated and cultured public, as did Scruton and Williams, would do well to cultivate aesthetic sensibilities.

Roger - Scene - Art - Imagination - Aesthetics

Before Roger came on the scene in 1974 with Art and Imagination, philosophical aesthetics was a marginal and rather dreary academic backwater. Philosophers of art and...
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