Tag Archives: English philosophy

RIP Roger Scruton (1944 – 2020)


Roger Scruton was an English philosopher.

In an interview with Joan Bakewell?[above], Roger Scruton regrets “secularization has gone as far as it has because I don’t think that there is any happiness contained within it.” He sees it as something that is “fundamentally disorientating.”

I agree, and so would Houellebecq. Liberalism does not necessarily make free.

He thinks that it “will eventually give way to another religious experience, maybe Islamisation which in my view would be a disaster.”

He adds:

“if it did happen … I would think it would mean the end of secular jurisdiction in this country … the greatness of the English settlement largely depends upon the fact that we have emancipated the law from religious edicts.”

When I first found out about Roger Scruton in 2008 I was a different man with different interests. I was, at the time, outraged by his “cultural pessimism” and his “paternalistic elitism”.

Since then, I changed in several ways.

I changed from being an advocate of the cult of ugliness (although my interest in the ugly still remains strong) to an advocate of the cult of beauty.

And I also changed by way of a growing interest in the clash of civilizations in the aftermath of 9/11. A decisive moment in this evolution was the Charlie Hebdo massacre. We live in a different world now, a world in which freedom of expression is not absolute anymore. I’m talking specifically of the freedom to blaspheme in the way so vividly expressed by Marquis de Sade in his pamphlet Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans (1795):

“I should like there to be perfect freedom to deride them all [all religions]; I should like men, gathered in no matter what temple to invoke the eternal who wears their image, to be seen as so many comedians in a theater, at whose antics everyone may go to laugh.”

Today, every single individual in the whole world is living under the blasphemy law that prohibits the depiction of Mohammed. Just think about how weird that is.

Philosophers such as Scruton were outraged by this and he spoke many times on the subject, suffering severe consequences for what he said.

Let me cite Scruton from two texts, both cited in Roger Scruton: The Philosopher on Dover Beach by Mark Dooley.

The first:

Beware of a Religion without Irony” (2006):

“The term “Islamofascism” was introduced by the French writer Maxine Rodinson (1915-2004) to describe the Iranian Revolution of 1978. Rodinson was a Marxist, who described as “fascist” any movement of which he disapproved. But we should be grateful to him for coining a word that enables people on the left to denounce our common enemy. After all, other French leftists–Michel Foucault, for example–had welcomed the revolution as an amusing threat to Western interests. It is only now that people on the left can acknowledge that they are just as much a target as the rest of us, in a war that has global chaos as its goal.”

The second text is “Religious Freedom in America” (2006):

“In September of this past year Robert Redeker, a French schoolteacher, published an article in Le Figaro arguing that Christians, when incited to violence in the name of their religion, can find no authority for this in the life and words of Christ as recorded in the Gospel, while Muslims, incited to violence in the name of their religion, can find plenty of support for their belligerence in the Koran. Although manifestly true, this statement was found to be offensive by a section of Muslim opinion, Mr. Redeker received credible death-threats against himself and his family, and he and they now live in hiding under police protection.””The reaction of the French authorities typifies the European response. Critics of Islam are not defended, but marginalized, by removing them from society and keeping them under house arrest. Instead of going after those who threatened Mr. Redeker with every weapon available to the law, instead of passing legislation of whatever severity might be required to restore the freedoms that have been gratuitously removed by the newcomers, the European authorities try to bluff their way to peace through appeasement, while pushing Islam’s critics off the stage. It is now increasingly rare for public discussion of Islam and its stance to proceed with the open-minded concern for truth that is necessary if the discussion is to get us anywhere.”Europe has seen private enterprise censorship of the Islamist kind before: notably when the Fascists worked to take power in Italy and the Nazis in Germany. But Europe has not learned the lesson. People living under secular government, and enjoying the comforts of a modern economy, easily become blind to the deep religious need of our species. They readily assume that religious passions can be quelled by a dose of Enlightenment, and that a sprinkling of skepticism will suffice to quell those perverted passions, like Nazism and fascism, that arise in religion’s place. And when the truth suddenly displays itself, they stare aghast, utter abject apologies, and quickly retreat from the field.”

We still do not see eye to eye on the subject of sex. I consider myself a pornographer and Scruton has written many things about sex I don’t agree with.

On pornography he wrote:

“The pornographic image is like a magic wand that turns subjects into objects, people into things—and thereby disenchants them, destroying the source of their beauty.”–Beauty (2009)

This is perhaps true but the pornographic way of having sex also happens to be my favorite way of having sex.

And this is probably one of the stupidest things he ever wrote:

“Consider the woman who plays with her clitoris during the act of coition. Such a person affronts her lover with the obscene display of her body, and, in perceiving her thus, the lover perceives his own irrelevance. She becomes disgusting to him, and his desire may be extinguished. The woman’s desire is satisfied at the expense of her lover’s, and no real union can be achieved between them.”–Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation

Would he understand that I revel in “the obscene display of her body”, her “disgustingness”?

Coming back to Scruton in general, what does my current sympathy for Scruton say about me? Have I become more conservative? Is that the reason that I like the writings of John Gray?

I do not think so. I’m just a curious person who had not been in contact with conservative thought before and found it refreshing. One effect has been that I’ve had some reserves in calling my self a progressive. Because, progress is, as Havelock Ellis would have it, the exchange of one nuisance for another.