I learned on Sunday morning that Sir Roger Scruton, the intelligent and insightful conservative British philosopher, passed away at the age of 75. After reading the headline, it occurred to me to post a few thoughts outlining some of the ways his writing and commentary made me think. As it happens, a writer more articulate than I ever hope to be, beat me to the punch (a luxury of writing for a living I suppose), so I decided to simply share a bit of what he wrote with which I heartily agree.
Before I offer the thoughts of another, I’ll note that Scruton’s observations on the intersection of the decline of architectural beauty and death of community are what first spring to mind when I see his name, whatever else a particular article he wrote happens to be about.
His discourse of beauty on a macro scale was also worth examining, but he was most convincing, at least to me, on the subject of the ugly architecture which has become the template for our postmodern work and living spaces. That, however, is only a small part of how Scruton critiqued postmodern culture and thought. Joshua Gibbs offers his take on the legacy of his “hero”, Sir Roger Scruton:
I only discovered Roger Scruton five years ago, which means I’ve barely scratched the surface of his work; however, in these five years, no living intellectual explained beauty and tradition with greater lucidity than Scruton. My thesis that all human artifacts can be divided between common, uncommon, and mediocre is borrowed from a passage on the importance of neatly setting the dinner table in Scruton’s Beauty: A Very Short Introduction (2011). Anything reasonable I’ve ever said about tradition (and especially about the Canon) is downstream from Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism (1980). Scruton was by no means an original thinker, though I mean this as the highest praise. He was a hand pointing at the sky. Without him, the sky would nonetheless exist, but I would not know where to look. Roger Scruton explained important things simply. Why do people graffiti ugly buildings but not beautiful ones? Why have old churches lasted? Why do exciting things not last? Why is it impossible to create a new tradition from scratch, try as we may? Scruton not only anticipated the questions of a restless mind, he answered them. My students quote Scruton every day when performing their catechism: “The world of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull.” Every time I say these words, they offer a fresh justification for what I do.
I completely agree. This is an image of Scruton’s home library, the room of my dreams:
That tells you almost everything you need to know, doesn’t it? At the very least, it should dispel any confusion about why I’ve taken the time to remember Sir Roger Scruton in this space.
Rest in Peace, Professor Scruton.