Monday, 13 June 2016

Arise, Sir Roger! - the award of a knighthood to Roger Scruton shines out like a good deed in a naughty world

Sir Roger Scruton
I suffered a moment of confusion while scanning the knighthood recipients in the Queen's 90th. Birthday Honours list when I saw the name of Angus Deaton among them. The coke-sniffing, two-at-a-time sex romping former Have I Got News for You? presenter? Had he, I wondered, done a Profumo by devoting himself to good works in order to atone for past transgressions? He might very well have done, but it turned out to be a professor at Princeton, whose name is spelled slightly differently.  Anyway, my friend David Moss reminded me - in a comment on a post I'd written about our old university supervisor, Roger Scruton, in 2011 - that I'd concluded it with a bold (some might say rash) promise. Responding to Scruton's claim that "it’s still possible to gain a vision, to stand on a little peak - perhaps not the peak on which Spinoza stood, or Plato, but a peak of one’s own -  and look across at all this sea of ignorance and confusion and hysteria… and smile at it", I wrote:
"I try to smile gently as I stand on my tiny little "peak" and survey the stupidity and ignorance of what passes for modern civilisation - but I'm afraid I too often let my old tutor down by spitting with rage instead. I will stop doing so the day  Roger Scruton is awarded a knighthood for his unique contribution to the intellectual life of this country."
Well, I'll do my best - even though I'm in a distinctly spitty mood these days, and I find the occasional wave of rage rather energising. Nevertheless, the award of a knighthood to the finest British philosopher of his era, and one of the most - perhaps the most - lucid, thoughtful and convincing proponents of the fundamental principles of conservatism since Edmund Burke, is a cause for joy and celebration. It feels as if justice has finally been done.

I don't think I can improve on what I wrote here about Sir Roger, so I will simply (once again) point anyone who's interested in reading more about the great man to this truly excellent profile by Tim Adams, which appeared in The Observer last October. Scruton's treatment at the hands of Britain's monolithic left-liberal academic establishment has been predictably vindictive - unforgivably so, considering the obvious brilliance of his thinking, the evident range, quality and originality of his writings, and the fact that, unlike most of his colleagues, he quietly and unshowily put himself in harm's way to help spread the conservative message behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s, when most British academics continued along the safe path to tenure and peer approval by turning a blind eye to the horrors being perpetrated by Communist regimes, while loudly denouncing the wickedness of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. ( Scruton, being more interested in truth than preferment, was no Thatcherite lapdog either - he admired her enormously, especially her courage, but was never a huge fan of unrestrained free market economic policies, which he saw as in some ways antithetical to true conservatism.)

I was very, very lucky to be taught by Roger Scruton (when I think of the dreary leftists I could have ended up being misled by, I shudder), and conservatives around the globe are fortunate to have had him as an intellectual guide for so many years. Congratulations, teach! And thank you.

(There was another very pleasing knighthood on the same list for Larry Siedentop, emeritus fellow, Keble College, Oxford, for services to political science. I wrote last year about his utterly marvellous book, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, in which he convincingly argues that, far from Christianity being the enemy of modern Western-style liberal democracy - it was in fact directly responsible for its developments and for the freedoms enjoyed by those of us fortunate enough to live under it. I bet that one had leftist academics spraying coffee over their Guardian when they read such heresy.)


  1. I'm sure that the blogmeister's readers would all prefer it if his posts continued in their muscular way to bludgeon the twerps who foolishly attract his ire.

    Professor Scruton's richly-deserved and hard-earned knighthood is uplifting.

    He was the victim of violent no-platforming for decades, particularly and shamefully in UK academia and in the UK media.

    I was once approached by a BBC radio programme researcher who mistakenly thought I might help to compile the case against Professor Scruton's views. I was sent a sheaf of printouts of his writings marked here and there with pink felt tip exclamation marks.

    He has carried on courageously teaching and writing and broadcasting in the face of uncomprehending violence, stating his case clearly and humorously and "gently" – his word ...

    ... and if you, too, would like to experience real teaching, here is your opportunity.

    1. Okay, when Sir Roger is made a peer of the realm - THEN I'll forsake my ranting ways and follow the path of gentleness.

      I hope the many opportunities to lecture at American universities and the esteem with which he's held both there and in countries formerly occupied by the Soviet Union have made up for his treatment here - and the fact that he's right and his many enemies are wrong has probably been a source of solace.

      Every time I check Scruton's website or his Amazon page, he seems to have popped out at least two more books. Last week saw the publication of a 416-page tome entitled "The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung", and a collection of essays, "Confessions of a Heretic" came out in March. He's 72 - what is he on? And can I please have some?

  2. You are indeed a privileged man to have been taught by Sir Roger. In the early eighties I turned on the TV and decided to find out what all this new Channel 4 thingy was about. The programme was part of a face-to-the-camera viewpoint series. Up popped this man. I paid attention because he happened to look like my older brother. I couldn't believe my ears. He was so unlike anyone else I had ever encountered on television. Here was someone who was articulating a faint inner voice that questioned my go-with-the-flow worldview. It was a life-changing experience and I'm not one to use such a phrase lightly.

    1. A heartening story, Tomahawk. I think he sounds too moderate and rational to get his point across well on TV panels packed with loudmouthed ignoramuses (which they usually are), but effective when he's one-to-one or direct-to-camera - as you'd expect, given how much lecturing he's done over the decades. I also suspect it's his courtesy and quietness that drive loudly virtue-signalling lefties so mad - he just isn't what they'd expect a man of his distinctly traditional views to be like.

      I expect he'd be delighted to hear that he'd had such a profound effect on you. And, yes, I know I was very lucky to have him as my supervisor - I wasn't very good at philosophy, and I suspect I'd have changed to a less esoteric, less intellectually taxing course if it hadn't been for Scruton: even when the topics we were covering weren't of much interest to me, he always was!