Roger Scruton

English conservative philosopher and writer

Roger Scruton (27 February 1944 – 12 January 2020) was a British philosopher, who worked as an academic, editor, publisher, barrister, journalist, broadcaster, countryside campaigner, novelist, and composer.

When truth cannot make itself known in words, it will make itself known in deeds.

Quotes edit

In argument about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.
All of us need an identity which unites us with our neighbours, our countrymen, those people who are subject to the same rules and the same laws as us, those people with whom we might one day have to fight side by side to protect our inheritance, those people with whom we will suffer when attacked, those people whose destinies are in some way tied up with our own.

1980s edit

  • Attitudes to death go hand in hand with attitudes to sex. And it is in the sphere of sex that some of the greatest of medical confusions have arisen. I refer in particular to the "sex change" – again, an operation which has exhilarated the public, with its implication that sexuality is an elaborate accident, which can be tailored to the individual need. A person's sexuality is no longer regarded as part of his essence. It has become an attribute, which he might change as he changes his clothes. The possibility of thinking in such a way shows a deep change in perception. The obligation to accept one's sex has dwindled, in the same way as the obligation to accept one's death. Consequently people call upon doctors to help them, demanding painful, expensive and dangerous operations, whose moral effects cannot really be envisaged in advance, and whose premise is a kind of delusion which, however it might arouse our compassion, ought not to inspire our connivance. No doubt the time is not far distant when sex-change operations will be obtainable on the National Health, granted on the advice of "experts" able to discern the "real" gender identify of the soul sheathed within each human envelope.
    • 'Dead? I demand a second opinion', The Times (29 March 1983), p. 12
  • It goes without saying that apartheid is offensive. It was adopted, however, as the lesser of two evils. The Afrikaners believe that black majority rule has, in almost every case, led to the collapse of the constitutional government which they brought to South Africa, and upon which their freedoms and privileges – and perhaps even their lives – depend. And it did not seem so very bad to deny to blacks a vote which they would, when in power, promptly deny to themselves.
    • 'A lift at last for the other Afrikaners', The Times (17 May 1983), p. 12
  • A developed legal system, with elaborate common law rights, and supported by a system of natural justice, was the most precious legacy of our empire. If it were still permissible to defend colonization, I should justify it in terms of this bequest, and at the same time contrast the colonization of Africa with the Soviet "colonization" of eastern Europe, which has advanced not by the generation but by the destruction of law.
    • 'A colonial inheritance once again cast off', The Times (6 September 1983), p. 10
  • Race is at best an influence on behaviour, not the moral source of it. It is the individual alone who acts, and he alone who should bear the benefits and the burdens of moral judgment. In all questions of right and duty, it is both wicked and nonsensical to refer to a person's race – whether the purpose be to accuse him, or to exonerate him. To do so is to place the crucial attribute of responsibility where it does not belong – with the abstract totality, rather than with the concrete individual. The racist ignores every genuine right and obligation in pursuit of a merely abstract reckoning: he seeks to reward or punish the individual in respect of qualities which are not of his own choosing and for which he can in truth be neither praised nor blamed. It is surely obvious that racism is an evil. Even if it were not obvious from its intrinsic nature, it is obvious from its effects. Millions have died precisely because, in the eyes of the racist, they were already dead, being of "inferior" race, without rights, condemned by their very existence.
    • 'A socialist evil to rival racism', The Times (28 February 1984), p. 14

1990s edit

  • An international socialism is the stated ideal of most socialists; an international liberalism is the unstated tendency of the liberal. To neither system is it thinkable that men live, not by universal aspirations but by local attachments; not by a “solidarity” that stretches across the globe from end to end, but by obligations that are understood in terms which separate men from most of their fellows—in terms such as national history, religion, language, and the customs that provide the basis of legitimacy.
    • "How to be a Non-Liberal, Anti-Socialist Conservative," Intercollegiate Review: A Journal of Scholarship and Opinion (Spring 1993)
  • Yes, I am in favor of censorship, but it has to be conducted by people like me. And that's the difficulty (laughs). I'm in favor of encouraging every possible form of self-restraint and parental control. And I certainly don't think that pornography should be protected under the American Constitution.
  • The modern world gives proof at every point that it is far easier to destroy institutions than to create them. Nevertheless, few people seem to understand this truth.

Modern Philosophy (1995) edit

Allen Lane The Penguin Press ISBN 0713991402
  • 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 Nature of Philosophy" (p. 6)
  • Kant's position is extremely subtle — so subtle, indeed, that no commentator seems to agree with any other as to what it is.
    • "Some More -isms" (p. 25)
  • In argument about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.
    • "Some More -isms", p. 32
  • Schopenhauer argues that the empirical world exists only as a representation: ‘every object, whatever its origin, is, as object, already conditioned by the subject, and thus is essentially only the subject’s representation.’ A representation is a subjective state that has been ordered according to space, time and causality – the primary forms of sensibility and understanding. So long as we turn our thoughts towards the natural world, and search for the thing-in-itself behind the representation is futile. Every argument and every experience leads only to the same end: the system of representations, standing like a veil between the subject and the thing-in-itself. No scientific investigation can penetrate the veil; and yet it is only a veil, Schopenhauer affirms, a tissue of illusions which we can, if we choose, penetrate by other means. The way to penetrate the veil was stumbled upon by Kant.
    • A Short History of Modern Philosophy 1995 by Roger Scruton p. 177
  • Schopenhauer was not the only one of Hegel’s opponents to rest his faith in the unsayable. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), in his attack on the prevailing Hegelian rationalism, sought to undermine the claim that ‘the real is the rational and the rational the real’, and so to reaffirm the value of that which, while real, lies beyond the reach of reason. But, lacking Schopenhauer’s gift of argument, and being indeed more literary than philosophical in his inclination, he did not set up any elaborate system of ideas whereby to postpone the recognition of his ultimate refuge. His principal interest was the vindication of the Christian faith, and he wrote directly or indirectly towards this end, inventing in the process the name, if not the philosophy of ‘existentialism’, for which achievement he is now chiefly known. His philosophy is a clear example of a reaction against idealism which is not also a form either of empiricism or skepticism. In the course of this reaction, it is once again the subject that is reaffirmed, as the ground of all philosophical thought.
    • A Short History of Modern Philosophy 1995 by Roger Scruton p. 181-182

2000s edit

  • Many Britons...feel strongly about something which was once called "the alien wedge". And surely it cannot be doubted, even by those who profess allegiance to the "multicultural society", that our society, unlike America, is not of that kind, and therefore that immigration cannot be an object of merely passive contemplation on the part of the present citizenship. There is perhaps no greater sign of the strength of liberalism (a strength which issues, not from popular consensus, but from the political power of the liberal elite) than that it has made it impossible for any but the circumlocutory to argue that the English, the Scots and the Welsh have a prior claim to the benefits of the civilization that their ancestors created, which entitles them to reserve its benefits for themselves.
    • The Meaning of Conservatism: Third Edition (2001), p. 62
  • [W]hile it is a long-standing principle of British law that the fomentation of hatred (and hence of racial hatred) is a serious criminal offence, it is not clear that illiberal sentiments have to be forms of hatred, nor that they should be treated in the high-handed way that is calculated to make them become so. On the contrary, they are sentiments which seem to arise inevitably from social consciousness: they involve natural prejudice, common culture, and a desire for the company of one's kind. That is hardly sufficient ground to condemn them as "racist" – an accusation which has no definition in law, and against which there is now no defence. To be accused of racism is to be guilty of it: this is the great achievement of liberal thinking about nationality. One of the most important conservative causes in our time must surely be the attempt to undo the apparatus of censorship and intimidation, which has effectively silenced the appeal to national identity.
    • The Meaning of Conservatism: Third Edition (2001), p. 62
  • From its beginnings the Conservative Party has been characterized by a relatively firm and enterprising fiscal policy, being responsible, not only for constant restrictions on free trade, but also for the introduction of regular income tax, and for legislation which governed the sale and conditions of labour. In the light of history, its post-war conversion to Keynesian economic theory might be seen as a natural intellectual development, a further move away from the view...that economic affairs are self-regulating...towards the more plausible view that the posture of the state is all-important, and that, without the state's surveillance, destitution and unemployment could result at any time. And it is perhaps no accident that, when the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher abandoned this conception of the state's economic role, and took up the banner of liberal economics, it was, in time, deserted by the electorate, so that the old alliance of interests which it had for a century represented suddenly fell apart. The odd thing, however, is that the policy which caused the Conservative Party's collapse – free market economics, under the aegis of global corporations – is the policy most fervently adopted by the New Labour Party of Tony Blair, and will no doubt be the downfall of that Party too.
    • The Meaning of Conservatism: Third Edition (2001), p. 106
  • There is no doubt in my mind that, from the third-person point of view, monarchy is the most reasonable form of government. By embodying the state in a fragile human person, it captures the arbitrariness and the givenness of political allegiance, and so transforms allegiance into affection.
    • The Meaning of Conservatism: Third Edition (2001), p. 193
  • [Burke] emphasized that the new forms of politics, which hope to organize society around the rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity, or their modernist equivalents, are actually forms of militant irrationality.
  • The strange superstition has arisen in the Western world that we can start all over again, remaking human nature, human society, and the possibilities of happiness; as though the knowledge and experience of our ancestors were now entirely irrelevant.
    • Gentle Regrets: Thoughts from a Life (2005)
  • When truth cannot make itself known in words, it will make itself known in deeds.
    • "Should he have spoken?", The New Criterion (September 2006), p. 22; also in The Roger Scruton Reader (2009) edited by Mark Dooley
  • Hayek’s theory of evolutionary rationality shows how traditions and customs (those surrounding sexual relations, for example) might be reasonable solutions to complex social problems, even when, and especially when, no clear rational grounds can be provided to the individual for obeying them. These customs have been selected by the ‘‘invisible hand’’ of social reproduction, and societies that reject them will soon enter the condition of ‘‘maladaptation,’’ which is the normal prelude to extinction.
    • "Hayek and conservatism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • Hayek fails to account either for the passion among intellectuals for equality, or for the resulting success of socialists and their egalitarian successors in driving the liberal idea from the stage of politics. This passion for equality is not a new thing, and indeed pre-dates socialism by many centuries, finding its most influential expression in the writings of Rousseau. There is no consensus as to how equality might be achieved, what it would consist in if achieved, or why it is so desirable in the first place. But no argument against the cogency or viability of the idea has the faintest chance of being listened to or discussed by those who have fallen under its spell.
    • "Hayek and conservatism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • Hayek sees that the zero-sum vision is fired by an implacable negative energy. It is not the concrete vision of some real alternative that animates the socialist critic of the capitalist order. It is hostility toward the actual, and in particular toward those who enjoy advantages within it. Hence the belief in equality remains vague and undefined, except negatively. For it is essentially a weapon against the existing order – a way of undermining its claims to legitimacy, by discovering a victim for every form of success. The striving for equality is, in other words, based in ressentiment in Nietzsche’s sense, the state of mind that Max Scheler identified as the principal motive behind the socialist orthodoxy of his day. It is one of the major problems of modern politics, which no classical liberal could possibly solve, how to govern a society in which resentment has acquired the kind of privileged social, intellectual, and political position that we witness today.
    • "Hayek and conservatism", in Edward Feser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hayek (2006)
  • All of us need an identity which unites us with our neighbours, our countrymen, those people who are subject to the same rules and the same laws as us, those people with whom we might one day have to fight side by side to protect our inheritance, those people with whom we will suffer when attacked, those people whose destinies are in some way tied up with our own.
  • Conservatives have, on the whole, accepted nationality as a sphere of local duties and loyalties, defining an inheritance and a community that has a right to pass on its values from generation to generation. The nation may indeed be the best that we now have, by way of a society linking the dead to the unborn, in the manner extolled by Burke. And for this very reason it arouses the hostility of liberals, who are constantly searching for a place outside loyalty and obedience, from which all human claims can be judged. Hence, in the conflicts of our times, while conservatives leap to the defense of the nation and its interests, wishing to maintain its integrity and to enforce its law, liberals advocate transnational initiatives, international courts, and doctrines of universal rights, all of which, they believe, should stand in judgment over the nation and hold it to account.
  • Liberty is not the same thing as equality, and that those who call themselves liberals are far more interested in equalizing than in liberating their fellows.
  • A free society is a community of free beings, bound by the laws of sympathy and by the obligations of family love. It is not a society of people released from all moral constraint–for that is precisely the opposite of a society. Without moral constraint there can be no cooperation, no family commitment, no long-term prospects, no hope of economic, let alone social, order.

Modern Culture (2000) edit

[ Continuum ISBN 0826494447]
The core of common culture is religion. Tribes survive and flourish because they have gods, who fuse many wills into a single will, and demand and reward the sacrifices on which social life depends.
  • The core of common culture is religion. Tribes survive and flourish because they have gods, who fuse many wills into a single will, and demand and reward the sacrifices on which social life depends.
    • "Culture and Cult" (p. 5)
  • The first effect of modernism was to make high culture difficult: to surround beauty with a wall of erudition.
    • "Avant-garde and Kitsch" (p. 85)
  • Without the background of a remembered faith modernism loses its conviction: it becomes routinised. For a long time now it has been assumed that there can be no authentic creation in the sphere of high art which is not is some way a 'challenge' to the ordinary public. Art must give offence, stepping out of the future fully armed against the bourgeois taste for kitsch and cliché. But the result of this is that offence becomes a cliché.
    • "Avant-garde and Kitsch" (p. 86)
  • Faith exalts the human heart, by removing it from the market-place, making it sacred and unexchangeable. Under the jurisdiction of religion our deeper feelings are sacralized, so as to become raw material for the ethical life: the life lived in judgement.
    • "Avant-garde and Kitsch" (p. 91)
  • The ethical life... is maintained in being by a common culture, which also upholds the togetherness of society... Unlike the modern youth culture, a common culture sanctifies the adult state, to which it offers rites of passage.
    • "Idle Hands" (p. 127)

A Political Philosophy (2006) edit

[ Continuum ISBN 0826493912]
  • Conservatism is itself a modernism, and in this lies the secret of its success.
    • "Eliot and Conservatism" (p. 194)
  • The conservative response to modernity is to embrace it, but to embrace it critically, in full consciousness that human achievements are rare and precarious, that we have no God-given right to destroy our inheritance, but must always patiently submit to the voice of order, and set an example of orderly living.
    • "Eliot and Conservatism" (p. 208)
  • The future of mankind, for the socialist, is simple: pull down the existing order and allow the future to emerge.
    • "Eliot and Conservatism" (p. 208)

England and the Need for Nations (2006) edit

  • Democracies owe their existence to national loyalties — the loyalties that are supposedly shared by government and opposition, by all political parties, and by the electorate as a whole. Wherever the experience of nationality is weak or non-existent, democracy has failed to take root. For without national loyalty, opposition is a threat to government, and political disagreements create no common ground.
  • National loyalty is founded in the love of place, of the customs and traditions that have been inscribed in the landscape and of the desire to protect these good things through a common law and a common loyalty.
  • Europe owes its greatness to the fact that the primary loyalties of the European people have been detached from religion and re-attached to the land. Those who believe that the division of Europe into nations has been the primary cause of European wars should remember the devastating wars of religion that national loyalties finally brought to an end. And they should study our art and literature for its inner meaning. In almost every case, they will discover, it is an art and literature not of war but of peace, an invocation of home and the routines of home, of gentleness, everydayness and enduring settlement.
  • National loyalty involves a love of home and a preparedness to defend it; nationalism is a belligerent ideology, which uses national symbols in order to conscript the people to war.
  • Never in the history of the world have there been so many migrants. And almost all of them are migrating from regions where nationality is weak or non-existent to the established nation states of the West. They are not migrating because they have discovered some previously dormant feeling of love or loyalty towards the nations in whose territory they seek a home. On the contrary, few of them identify their loyalties in national terms and almost none of them in terms of the nation where they settle. They are migrating in search of citizenship which is the principal gift of national jurisdictions, and the origin of the peace, law, stability and prosperity that still prevail in the West.
  • Nationality is not the only kind of social membership, nor is it an exclusive tie. However, it is the only form of membership that has so far shown itself able to sustain a democratic process and a liberal rule of law.
  • The idea that the citizen owes loyalty to a country, a territory, a jurisdiction and all those who reside within it — the root assumption of democratic politics, and one that depends upon the nation as its moral foundation - that idea has no place in the minds and hearts of many who now call themselves citizens of European states.

Culture Counts (2007) edit

[ Encounter Books ISBN 1594031940]
  • A civilization is a social entity that manifests religious, political , legal, and customary uniformity over an extended period, and which confers on its members the benefits of socially accumulated knowledge.
    • "What is Culture?" (p. 2)
  • The culture of a civilization is the art and literature through which it rises to consciousness of itself and defines its vision of the world.
    • "What is Culture?" (p. 2)
  • This "knowing what to do"… is a matter of having the right purpose, the purpose appropriate to the situation in hand... The one who "knows what to do" is the one on whom you can rely to make the best shot at success, whenever success is possible.
    • "Knowledge and Feeling" (p. 35)
  • [T]o teach virtue we must educate the emotions, and this means learning "what to feel" in the various circumstances that prompt them.
    • "Knowledge and Feeling" (p. 37)
  • In all the areas of life where people have sought and found consolation through forbidding their desires—sex in particular, and taste in general—the habit of judgment is now to be stamped out.
    • "Rays of Hope" (p. 106)

2010s edit

  • Throughout my adult life governments around the Western world have been propagating the gospel of multiculturalism, which tells us that immigrants, from whatever part of the world and whatever way of life, are a welcome part of our “multicultural” society. Differences of language, religion, custom, and attachment don’t matter, they have reassured us, since all can form part of the colorful tapestry of the modern state. Anybody who publicly disagreed with that claim invited the attentions of the thought police, always ready with the charge of racism, and never so scrupulous as to think it a sin to destroy the career of someone, provided he was white, indigenous, and male. To be quite honest, living through this period of organized mendacity has been one of the least agreeable ordeals that we conservatives have had to undergo. Keeping your head down is bad enough; but filling your head with official lies means sacrificing thought as well as freedom.
  • Conservatives believe that our identities and values are formed through our relations with other people, and not through our relation with the state. The state is not an end but a means. Civil society is the end, and the state is the means to protect it. The social world emerges through free association, rooted in friendship and community life. And the customs and institutions that we cherish have grown from below, by the ‘invisible hand’ of co-operation. They have rarely been imposed from above by the work of politics, the role of which, for a conservative, is to reconcile our many aims, and not to dictate or control them.
  • The real reason people are conservatives is that they are attached to the things that they love, and want to preserve them from abuse and decay. They are attached to their family, their friends, their religion, and their immediate environment. They have made a lifelong distinction between the things that nourish and the things that threaten their security and peace of mind.
  • We are not born free, nor do we come into this world with a self-identity and autonomy of our own. We achieve those things, through the conflict and cooperation that weave us into the social fabric.
    • Where We Are: The State of Britain Now (2017)
  • [Asked "Do you still favour English independence?"] No, I don’t think I’ve ever really favoured English independence. My view is that if the Scots want to be independent then we should aim for the same thing. Scottish independence, I don't think the Welsh want independence, the Northern Irish certainly don't. The Scottish desire for independence is, to some extent, a fabrication. They want to identify themselves as Scots but still to be part of a,[sic] to enjoy the subsidy they get from being part of the kingdom. I can see there are Scottish nationalists who envision something more than that, but if that becomes a real political force then yeah, we should try for independence too. As it is, as you know, the Scots have two votes: they can vote for their own parliament and vote to put their people into our parliament, who come to our parliament with no interest in Scotland but an interest in bullying us.
  • I've never been an optimist but that's fine because pessimists have the possibility of being agreeably surprised, and that's a reason for being pessimistic, but I've always defended a certain kind of pessimism because what is known as optimism is really a collection of illusions and I think one must recognise what all religious people know, which is that human beings are imperfect and fallen and there's no way in which they can alone surmount the problems which they themselves create.

How to Be a Conservative (2014) edit

  • In discussing tradition, we are not discussing arbitrary rules and conventions. We are discussing answers that have been discovered to enduring questions. (p. 21)
  • Take any aspect of the Western inheritance of which our ancestors were proud, and you will find university courses devoted to deconstructing it. Take any positive feature of our political and cultural inheritance, and you will find concerted efforts in both the media and the academy to place it in quotation marks, and make it look like an imposture or a deceit. (p. 40)
  • Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy, and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious, and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.
  • We do not merely study the past: we inherit it, and inheritance brings with it not only the rights of ownership, but the duties of trusteeship. Things fought for and died for should not be idly squandered. For they are the property of others, who are not yet born.

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (2015) edit

Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Thinkers of the New Left (Bloomsbury, 2015)
Why is it after a century of socialist disasters, and an intellectual legacy that has been time and again exploded, the left-wing position remains, as it were, the default position to which thinking people gravitate when called upon for a comprehensive philosophy? Why are "right-wingers" marginalised in the educational system, denounced in the media and regarded by our political class as untouchable, fit only to clean up after the orgies of luxurious nonsense indulged in by their moral superiors?
  • Why is it after a century of socialist disasters, and an intellectual legacy that has been time and again exploded, the left-wing position remains, as it were, the default position to which thinking people gravitate when called upon for a comprehensive philosophy? Why are "right-wingers" marginalised in the educational system, denounced in the media and regarded by our political class as untouchable, fit only to clean up after the orgies of luxurious nonsense indulged in by their moral superiors?
  • The inescapable conclusion is that subjectivity, relativity and irrationalism are advocated [by Richard Rorty] not in order to let in all opinions, but precisely so as to exclude the opinions of people who believe in old authorities and objective truths. This is the short cut to [Antonio] Gramsci's new cultural hegemony: not to vindicate the new culture against the old, but to show that there are no grounds for either, so that nothing remains save political commitment.

    Thus, almost all those who espouse the relativistic 'methods' introduced into the humanities by Foucault, Derrida and Rorty are vehement adherents to a code of political correctness that condemns deviation in absolute and intransigent terms. The relativistic theory exists in order to support an absolutist doctrine. We should not be surprised therefore at the extreme disarray that entered the camp of deconstruction, when it was discovered that one of the leading ecclesiastics, Paul de Man, once had Nazi sympathies. It is manifestly absurd to suggest that a similar disarray would have attended the discovery that Paul de Man had once been a communist -- even if he taken part in some of the great communist crimes. In such a case he would haved enjoyed the same compassionate endorsement as was afforded to [György] Lukács, [Maurice] Merleau-Ponty and Sartre.

    • pp. 236–237

Quotes about Roger Scruton edit

In alphabetical order by author or source.
  • Can a programme for less authority, less of the state, less supervision, be reconciled with the conservative idea?
    Roger Scruton is certain that it cannot. In his sombre, clerkly little book, he claims that freedom "cannot occupy a central place in conservative thinking ... for the conservative, the value of individual liberty is not absolute, but stands subject to another and higher value, the authority of established government." His concern is to hunt down and expose the liberalism which hides itself in conservative colours, and – though he does not explicitly say so – the present British government stands outside his definition of conservatism. Mr Scruton's is a rare, unfashionable voice in British political writing today: the voice of real authoritarianism. He could be a 20th-century inquisitor from Kingsley Amis’s fantasy The Alteration, to whom traditional power is its own end and the very questioning of power a sin. Even the Catholic Church is enfeebled by tolerance, in his opinion. Afflicted by the fad for reform, it has "partially forgotten the tradition of custom, ceremony and judicious manoeuvre ... calling to every man with the voice of immutable authority."
  • He has quoted with approval from Joseph de Maistre, the French arch-reactionary, but hesitates to follow him to the conclusion that the public hangman is the key figure of the social order. And this illuminates an emptiness at the core of this amazing book. It is, as he says at the outset, a work of pure dogmatic. De Maistre thought that God wanted the sort of autocracy he described. Mr Scruton offers no sanction for his fearsome, static hierarchy. Religion may be encouraged, if it tightens the social bond, but is ultimately dispensable. Neither does he provide an anthropology suggesting that authoritarianism is the natural condition of the human race. His destructive criticism of liberal society has a black brilliance: his vision of the Leviathan which should replace it simply floats in the air. He asserts it is "natural"; he does not tell us why.
    • Neal Ascherson "Conservatives" London Review of Books Vol. 2 No. 21 (6 November 1980).
    • Article is partly a review of the original edition of The Meaning of Conservatism (1980).
  • Professor Scruton's Right consists of the authors of the Salisbury Review under his editorship and is the nearest intellectually reputable thing that England has had to the authoritarian Conservatism which de Maistre, in a Christian, and Maurras in a post-Christian, mode had propagated in France... Professor Scruton is a serious thinker who has produced a versatile and impressive oeuvre which, in addition to dealing with law and politics, deals with aesthetics, literature, philosophy and sexuality (in a sometimes off-beam way), gives unambiguous allegiance to art and culture as modern substitutes for religion, and leaves the impression of believing in "Conservatism" either as an aborted mixture of Christianity and secular truth, or as simply secular truth in itself. For a number of years when young he was a pupil and collaborator of Dr John Casey from whom he acquired intellectual range and seriousness, a faint excess of high-principled intensity, and a coat-trailing, or Irish, contentiousness about race and colour which he had since abandoned. Also, when young, he was a Fellow of Peterhouse, from which he acquired some of the attitudes of "the Peterhouse Right".
    • Maurice Cowling, 'Preface to the Second Edition', Mill and Liberalism (1963; 2nd ed., 1990), pp. xxviii-xxx
  • There was a time when I knew him very well when he was a fellow at Peterhouse. I liked him very much. When he became editor of the Salisbury Review and for a little while afterwards I thought there was something faintly wooden about his politics, but now I regard him as a very, very good thing. It's not only that he writes about politics, it's that he writes about everything else. He's written a very good book about architecture and aesthetics, a huge great book about sex, a political book about conservatism, and very good books about Kant and Spinoza. He is a remarkably versatile and intelligent person. I used to have some reservations. I do not have any now.
    • Maurice Cowling, quoted in Naim Attallah, Singular Encounters (1990), p. 143

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