Roger Scruton

Green Philosophy

Green Philosophy

 

2010 Gifford Lectures

Writings at BigQuestionsOnline.com

ISI Online Lectures

AEI Resident Scholar

 

Face of God Enviro Beauty Short

Sacred and Profane: God, Man and World

Roger Scruton is one of Britain’s leading thinkers; in How to Think Seriously about the Planet he offers a radically different approach to the planet’s most urgent crisis.
The environment has been understood in recent years as an exclusively left-wing cause. The victim, however, is no longer the working class; it is the earth itself. In this ground-breaking book, Roger Scruton argues that conservatism can more easily make room for the environmentalist agenda than either liberalism or socialism. He demonstrates that international agendas have a natural tendency to exploit resources to tackle the present emergency and outlines the policies of a new green conservatism founded on national loyalty and local economies. As green politics reach a crisis point on the world stage, Scruton defines a conservative agenda for the most urgent political agenda of our age.

 

 

 

Nature, nurture and liberal values (Jan 25, 2012)
Biology determines our behaviour more than it suits many to acknowledge. But people—and politics and morality—cannot be described just by neural impulses

The Space of Music (work in progress, January 2012)
Sounds become music as a result of organisation, and this organisation is something that we perceive and whose absence we immediately notice, regardless of whether we take pleasure in the result. This organisation is not just an aesthetic matter – it is not simply a style. It is more like grammar, in being the precondition of our response to the result as music. We must therefore acknowledge that tonal music has something like a syntax – a rule-guided process linking each episode to its neighbours, which we grasp in the act of hearing, and the absence of which leads to a sense of discomfort or incongruity.

T. S. Eliot as Conservative Mentor
T. S. Eliot was indisputably the greatest poet writing in English in the twentieth century. Eliot attempted to shape a philosophy for our times that would be richer and more true to the complexity of human needs than the free-market panaceas that have so often dominated the thinking of conservatives in government. He assigned a central place in his social thinking to high culture.

The Importance of Culture
American Spectator (Sept 2011)

Unreal estate
The endless economic crisis suggests that it is time for a return to a moral understanding the economy, says a British philosopher.

The Sacred and the Secular
PDF

Multiculturalism, R.I.P.
Once we distinguish race and culture, the way is open to acknowledge that not all cultures are equally admirable, and that not all cultures can exist comfortably side-by-side. To deny this is to forgo the very possibility of moral judgment, and therefore to deny the fundamental experience of community.

Roger Scruton on The Uses of Pessimism

"Effing the Ineffable"
I too am tempted to eff the ineffable. Like my philosophical predecessors, I want to describe that world beyond the window, even though I know that it cannot be described but only revealed. I am not alone in thinking that world to be real and important. But there are many who dismiss it as an unscientific fiction. And people of this scientistic cast of mind are disagreeable to me. Their nerdish conviction that facts alone can signify, and that the “transcendental” and the eternal are nothing but words, mark them out as incomplete. There is an aspect of the human condition that is denied to them. Moreover, this aspect is of the first importance. Our loves and hopes in some way hinge on it.

"Hiding Behind the Screen"
In its normal occurrence, the Facebook encounter is still an encounter — however attenuated — between real people. But increasingly, the screen is taking over — ceasing to be a medium of communication between real people who exist elsewhere, and becoming the place where people finally achieve reality, the only place where they relate in any coherent way to others.

"Memo to Hawking"
Kant, who destroyed all the systems of metaphysics and dug a grave for theology, was also a believer, who, as he put it, “attacked the claims of reason in order to make room for those of faith.” It seems to me that he was right.

"The Idea of a University", The American Spectator (Sept 2010).
The great virtue of American society is that individual citizens have the scope, the freedom, and the habits of association that enable them to pursue their own objectives, regardless of the established institutions.

"Gratitude and Grace", The American Spectator (April 2010).
Within the culture of ingratitude pockets of thankfulness can grow. Everyone who has suffered some major calamity, be it illness, loss, or some sudden reversal of fortune, feels, on pulling through, a great surge of gratitude. And gratitude comes in two forms. First, you are grateful for pulling through -- you are still alive, still functioning, still able to love. Secondly, you are grateful for the experience itself. Here again the religious person would be disposed to speak of the workings of Grace. You can be grateful for something bad: grateful for the affliction that awoke you to the truth about yourself, that enabled you to confront it, to overcome it, to understand. You are grateful to have learned that life is a gift, and that to receive it fully you must give in turn.

"Soul Music", The American (February 27, 2010).
Plato was right to think that when we move in time to music we are educating our characters. For we are learning an aspect of our embodiment, as free beings.

"Music and Morality", The American Spectator (February 11, 2010).
Changes in musical culture may go hand in hand with changes in the laws, since laws so often reflect pressures from culture.

 

"The High Cost of Ignoring Beauty", The American (December 19, 2009).
Architecture clearly illustrates the social, environmental, economic, and aesthetic costs of ignoring beauty. We are being torn out of ourselves by the loud gestures of people who want to seize our attention but give nothing in return.

"The Flame That Was Snuffed Out by Freedom", The Times (November 7, 2009).
The EU has facilitated the transition away from communism. It has filled the legal vacuum--indeed, filled it to bursting. It has offered easy routes to cross-border trade and incoming investment. It has led to an exchange of expertise and--in Poland's case--to a mass escape of the working population. But those countries today bear no resemblance to the liberated nations that were dreamt of in the catacombs. For when the stones were lifted, and the air of freedom blew across the underground altars, the flame that had been kept alive on them was instantly blown out.

"TV Will Never Poison My Children's Minds", The Times (October 13, 2009).
When children are distracted by a flickering screen from the earliest age and never encouraged to explore the real world, they will not develop the capacity to communicate with other humans, or to cope with the stresses of real encounters. They will take the short way out, which is not the way of communication but of aggression.

"Beauty and Desecration", City Journal (July 27, 2009).
At any time between 1750 and 1930, if you had asked an educated person to describe the goal of poetry, art, or music, "beauty" would have been the answer. And if you had asked what the point of that was, you would have learned that beauty is a value, as important in its way as truth and goodness, and indeed hardly distinguishable from them.

 

The Sacred and the Human
Girard’s genealogy casts an anthropological light on the Christian ethic and on the meaning of the Eucharist; but it is not just an anthropological theory. Girard himself treats it as a piece of theology. For him the theory is a kind of proof of the Christian religion and of the divinity of Jesus. And in a striking article in the Stanford Italian Review (1986) he suggests that the path that has led him from the inner meaning of the Eucharist to the truth of Christianity was one followed by Wagner in Parsifal, and one along which even Nietzsche reluctantly strayed, under the influence of Wagner’s masterpiece.

A Wall That Won’t Come Down
It is true that a suspicion of Communism remains, and that young people from Eastern Europe have internalized, to a great extent, the experiences of deprivation and fear that their parents still recount to them. Hence they are more open to conservative ideas than their Western contemporaries; they have a vestigial sense of the seriousness of politics and the real cost of putting fanatics and nihilists in charge. They at least have learned this lesson; many of my colleagues have not. From Horkheimer and Adorno to Foucault, Deleuze, and Badiou, fanatics and nihilists continue to dominate the university curriculum, and there prevails in our universities today the same suspicion of power, property, hierarchy, and liberty that was in the ascendant twenty years ago, when my colleagues called an emergency meeting in order to keep the official illusions in place.

 

All the Evidence for God: An Inquiry
Also on the morning of Friday, December 11, the Anglo-American philosopher Roger Scruton elaborated the fourth of the "transcendentals" of classical philosophy, that of beauty, also as a way of access to God.
"In creating beauty, the artist gives glory to God's creation," he said. This is how it has been over the entire span of human history, even where – as in the abysses of the twentieth century – suffering and desolation reign.
And yet "the worship of ugliness and desecration is asserting itself today in an age of unprecedented prosperity. [...] Desecration is a sort of defense against the sacred, an attempt to destroy its claims. Our lives will be judged before sacred things; and in order to escape that judgment, we destroy the thing that seems to accuse us. And since beauty reminds us of the sacred – and is even a special form of it – beauty must also be desecrated."
The "positive way" of beauty is, nonetheless, embedded in the heart of man. "Why then do so many artists today refuse to walk this path? Perhaps because they know that it leads to God."

 

Sextants and Sexting
The power of gadgets to enter and possess the human soul is brought out by the new vice of sexting

Scruton comments on virtual suicide
Viewing the world from behind a screen, the internet addict can relish every kind of narcissistic, sadistic and hateful feeling without cost.

Can virtual life take over from real life?
Are computers making us lose friends and alienate people, asks the writer Roger Scruton

"If you study the opinions that prevail in modern academies, you will discover that they are of two kinds: those that emerge from the constant questioning of traditional values, and those that emerge from the attempt to prevent any questioning of the liberal alternatives. All of the following beliefs are effectively forbidden on the normal American campus: (1) The belief in the superiority of Western culture; (2) The belief that there might be morally relevant distinctions between sexes, cultures, and religions; (3) The belief in good taste, whether in literature, music, art, friendship, or behavior; and (4) The belief in traditional sexual mores. You can entertain those beliefs, but it is dangerous to confess to them, still more dangerous to defend them, lest you be held guilty of "hate speech"—in other words, of judging some group of human beings adversely. Yet the hostility to these beliefs is not founded on reason and is never subjected to rational justification. The postmodern university has not defeated reason but replaced it with a new kind of faith—a faith without authority and without transcendence, a faith all the more tenacious in that it does not recognize itself as such."
-- Roger Scruton, "Whatever Happened to Reason?"

Beauty Music Wine

The New Humanism
Like so many modern ideologies, the new humanism seeks to define itself through what it is against rather than what it is for. It is for nothing, or at any rate for nothing in particular. Ever since the Enlightenment there has been a tendency to adopt this negative approach to the human condition, rather than to live out the exacting demands of the Enlightenment morality, which tells us to take responsibility for ourselves and to cease our snivelling. Having shaken off their shackles and discovered that they have not obtained contentment, human beings have a lamentable tendency to believe that they are victims of some alien force, be it aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, the priesthood, or simply the belief in God. And the feeling arises that they need only destroy this alien force, and happiness will be served up on a plate, in a garden of pleasures. That, in my view, is why the Enlightenment, which promised the reign of freedom and justice, issued in an unending series of wars.

How society has lost its voice
Music is going the way of meals, drinks and sex, all of which are ceasing to be occasions for bonding and becoming sources of solitary addiction instead. Humanity is being divided in two by its own inventions. On the one side are the IT-savvy nerds, who do not relate to each other directly, but have mastered all the ways of achieving satisfaction from digital substitutes. On the other side are the savages, as Aldous Huxley might have called them, who sit down to meals with their families, and who drink and sing madrigals with their friends like Samuel Pepys. And the two classes are increasingly estranged from each other, since the moments in which they might have united, as people unite through singing, no longer exist.

What makes the West strong?
This culture of repudiation has transmitted itself, through the media and the schools, across the spiritual terrain of Western civilization, leaving behind it a sense of emptiness and defeat, a sense that nothing is left to believe in or endorse, save only the freedom to believe. And a belief in the freedom to believe is neither a belief nor a freedom. It encourages hesitation in the place of conviction and timidity in the place of choice. It is hardly surprising that so many Muslims in our cities today regard the civilization surrounding them as doomed, even if it is a civilization that has granted them something that they may be unable to find where their own religion triumphs, which is a free, tolerant, and secular rule of law. For they were brought up in a world of certainties; around them, they encounter only doubts.
If repudiation of its past and its identity is all that Western civilization can offer, it cannot survive: it will give way to whatever future civilization can offer hope and consolation to the young and fulfill their deep-rooted human need for social membership. Citizenship, as I have described it, does not fulfill that need: and that is why so many Muslims reject it, seeking instead that consoling “brotherhood” (ikhwan) that has so often been the goal of Islamic revivals. But citizenship is an achievement that we cannot forgo if the modern world is to survive: we have built our prosperity on it, our peace and our stability, and—even if it does not provide happiness—it defines us. We cannot renounce it without ceasing to be.
What is needed is not to reject citizenship as the foundation of social order but to provide it with a heart. And in seeking that heart, we should turn away from the apologetic multiculturalism that has had such a ruinous effect on Western self-confidence and return to the gifts that we have received from our Judeo-Christian tradition.

Can virtual life take over from real life?
When I relate to you through the screen there is a marked shift in emphasis. Now I have my finger on the button. At any moment I can turn you off. You are free in your own space, but you are not really free in mine, since you are dependent on my decision to keep you there. I retain ultimate control, and am not risking myself in the friendship as I risk myself when I meet you face to face. Of course I may stay glued to the screen. Nevertheless, it is a screen that I am glued to, not the person behind it.

The Return of Religion
Not so long ago, God was in residence. You could open a door and discover him, and join with those who sang and prayed in his presence. Now he, like us, has no fixed abode. But from this experience a new kind of religious consciousness is being born: a turning of the inner eye towards the transcendental and a constant invocation of ‘we know not what’.
Distrust of organised religion therefore goes hand in hand with a mourning for the loss of it. We are distressed by the evangelical atheists, who are stamping on the coffin in which they imagine God’s corpse to lie and telling us to bury it quickly before it begins to smell. These characters have a violent and untidy air: it is very obvious that something is missing from their lives, something which would bring order and completeness in the place of random disgust.

Cities for Living
The city, as we have inherited it from the ancient Greeks, is both an institution and a way of life, one coterminous with the civilization of Europe. The confluence of strangers in a single place and under a single law, there to live peacefully side by side, joined by social networks, economic cooperation, and friendly competition through sports and festivals, is among the most remarkable achievements of our species, responsible for most of the great cultural, political, and religious innovations of our civilization. Nothing is more precious in the Western heritage, therefore, than the cities of Europe, recording the triumph of civilized humanity not only in their orderly streets, majestic facades, and public monuments, but also in their smallest architectural details and the intricate play of light on their cornices and apertures.

The Journey Home, Part I

The Journey Home, Part II

Conservatives Are Conservationists
Environmentalism has all the hallmarks of a left-wing cause: a class of victims (future generations), an enlightened vanguard who fights for them (the eco-warriors), powerful philistines who exploit them (the capitalists), and endless opportunities to express resentment against the successful, the wealthy, and the West. The style too is leftist: the environmentalist is young, disheveled, socially disreputable, his mind focused on higher things; the opponent is dull, middle aged, smartly dressed, and usually American. The cause is designed to recruit the intellectuals, with facts and theories carelessly bandied about, and activism encouraged. Environmentalism is something you join, and for many young people it has the quasi-redemptive and identity-bestowing character of the twentieth-century revolutions. It has its military wing, in Greenpeace and other activist organisations, and also its intense committees, its odium theologicum and its campaigning journals. Environmentalists who step out of line like Bjørn Lomborg are denounced at the important meetings, and thereafter demonized as heretics. In short, it has the appearance of those secular religions, like socialism, communism, and anarchism, which turned the world upside down during the twentieth century. Hence conservatives are instinctively opposed to it, and begin to look around for facts and theories of their own, in order to fortify their conviction that global warming, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, widespread pollution, or whatever, are simply left-wing myths, comparable to the “crisis of capitalism” prophesied by the nineteenth-century socialists. However, the cause of the environment is not, in itself, a left-wing cause at all.

Art, Beauty, and Judgment
It is impossible to live as though there are no aesthetic values, while living a real life among real human beings. Manners, clothes, speech, and gestures—all require careful attention to the way things look. In every sphere of human life, from laying a table to giving a funeral speech, aesthetic choices are both necessary and noticed. Without them we cannot solve the vast problem of coordination that arises when a myriad private individuals crowd into a single public space. Hence, in the democratic culture, aesthetic judgment begins to be experienced as an affliction. It imposes an unsustainable burden, something that we must live up to, a world of ideals and aspirations that is in sharp conflict with the tawdriness and imperfection of our own improvised lives. It is perched like an owl on our shoulders, while we try to hide our pet rodents in our clothes. The temptation is to turn on it and shoo it away.

The sacred and the human
It is Girard's theory, it seems to me, that most urgently needs to be debated, now that atheist triumphalism is sweeping all nuances away. For it helps us understand questions that even atheists must confront, and that their dogmatic certainties otherwise obscure: what is religion; what draws people to it; and how is it tamed?

A Righter Shade of Green
While the Left pursues environmentalism to advance its global agenda, Roger Scruton advocates the conservative solution that conservation is best entrusted to local stewardship.

Counts West Political Problems

The glory of the West is that life is an open book
Although it was probably no part of Said’s intention, the combined effect of his attack on western “orientalism”, Foucault’s attack on bourgeois “discourse”, Derrida’s “deconstruction” and the general crushing of the old curriculum under a weight of inquisitorial “theory” has led to an orthodoxy of nihilism in the western academy. The effects of this nihilism are widespread, as in the addictive drumbeats and soundbites that form the background of popular culture.

The Decline of Laughter
The ability of the self-appointed censors to discern ideological sins and heresies has been vastly enhanced by their daily exercises in resentment. Such accusers know how to discern racist, sexist, and homophobic thought-crimes in the most innocent-seeming small talk. And they know no forgiveness, since they are cut off, like all humorless people, from the process of self-knowledge. The desire to accuse, which brings with it a reputation for virtue without the cost of acquiring it, takes over from the normal flow of human forgiveness, creating a wooden personality familiar to all who have had to deal with the lobbies that now control public opinion in America. What should be our response to this?

Better off without religion?
The rituals of religion are shared; and those who participate in them are drawn into another kind of relationship with their neighbours than those that prevail in the world of 'getting and spending'. People hunger for this kind of membership, and the power of religion resides in its ability to provide it.

Stealing from Churches
My years as a voyeur of holiness brought me into contact with true believers, and taught me that faith transfigures everything it touches, and raises the world to God.

Who Is Noam Chomsky?
Someone who should have stuck to syntax. WSJ (Sept 26, 2006)

The great hole of history
The problem revealed by 9/11, far from resolved five years on, is of a radical Islamism driven by "transferable grievance"

Should he have spoken? Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood'
The New Criterion, Volume 25, September 2006, page 22

'Islamofascism': Beware of a religion without irony
Wall Street Journal (August 20, 2006)

 

"Old Profession, New Toleration", National Review (June 19, 2006)

"Sacrilege and Sacrament" in The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals

PDF file: Scruton on Fukuyama [PDF file: Fukuyama's new afterword to The End of History]

Roger Scruton on Immigration, Multiculturalism and the Need to Defend the Nation State

 

In the Footsteps of Moll Flanders, Banished to Rappahannock

"Thoroughly Modern Mill", Wall Street Journal (May 19, 2006)

"The Dangers of Internationalism", The Intercollegiate Review (Volume 40, Number 2; Fall/Winter 2005)

 

"The Political Problem of Islam", Intercollegiate Review: A Journal of Scholarship and Opinion (Fall 2002)

"How to be a Non-Liberal, Anti-Socialist Conservative", Intercollegiate Review: A Journal of Scholarship and Opinion (Spring 1993)

 

"Armchair moralising", New Statesman (22 Jan 2001): Scruton demolishes Peter Singer

Read Roger Scruton, formerwine columnist at the New Statesman

I Drink, Therefore I Am: A Philosopher's Guide to Wine

(Scruton also blogs irregularly at RogerScruton.com and at Right Reason)

Roger Scruton at Azure

 

Desire Political Philosophy Gentle Regrets Animal Rights
Somewhere Culture Modern Philosophy

 

Noteworthy Publications:

Immanuel Kant and the Iraq war

The Joy of Conservatism: Interview in the New Pantagruel

An Interview with Roger Scruton (Part I)

 

Wagner: moralist or monster?
The New Criterion, February 2005

Know Your Place
The Spectator, 27 Nov 2004

 

The U.N.: Now Less Than Ever

The United States, the United Nations, and the Future of the Nation-State

Friends, Muslims, countrymen, lend us your ears

In Memory of Iran

 

American Conservatism in the New Century

Godless Conservatism
Wall Street Journal, Friday, April 5, 1996, p. 8.

 

National Review articles:

The Moral Birds and Bees: Sex and marriage, properly understood

On Loyalty: The uses and abuses of a complicated virtue

The sex files - American attitudes toward sex are confused

Very Safe Sex

A philosophy of pleasure - A Guide to Pleasure

 

 

Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest (ISI Books, 2002).
Today the failures prevail: and this is one source of our present danger. For failure is no longer localized in the place that produced it, but carries its burden of resentment around the world.

Roger Scruton, Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred (Oxford UP, 2003).

Roger Scruton, News From Somewhere: On Settling (Continuum, 2004).
ROGER SCRUTON is a conservative, but not the true-blue kind: he's too green for that. His turquoise Toryism, keen on rural traditions and against money-grubbing modernity, chimes with many people's love for the countryside as a source of cultural, aesthetic and spiritual solace.
BOOK REVIEW: The English countryside (Economist, 27 May 2004)

Roger Scruton, The Need for Nations (Civitas, 2004).
The nation state provides us with the surest model for peace, prosperity, and the defence of human rights. In spite of this, the idea of the nation state is under attack, derided as a cause of conflict, and destined to be replaced by more 'enlightened' forms of jurisdiction. This is in spite of the fact that all recent attempts to transcend the nation state into some kind of transnational political order have ended up either as totalitarian dictatorships like the former Soviet Union or as unaccountable bureaucracies like the European Union.

 

Bibliography:

Essays in City Journal:

Roger Scruton, "Becoming a Family," City Journal (Spring 2001 | Vol. 11, No. 2)

Roger Scruton, "What Is Acceptable Risk?" City Journal (Winter 2001 | Vol. 11, No. 1)

Roger Scruton, "Bring Back Stigma," City Journal (Autumn 2000 | Vol. 10, No. 4)

Roger Scruton, "Animal Rights," City Journal (Summer 2000 | Vol. 10, No. 3)

Roger Scruton, "After Modernism," City Journal (Spring 2000 | Vol. 10, No. 2)

Roger Scruton, "Real Men Have Manners," City Journal (Winter 2000 | Vol. 10, No. 1)

Roger Scruton, "Modern Manhood," City Journal (Autumn 1999 | Vol. 9, No. 4)

Roger Scruton, "Sleeping Cities," City Journal (Summer 1999 | Vol. 9, No. 3)

Roger Scruton, "Whatever Happened to Reason?," City Journal (Spring 1999 | Vol. 9, No. 2)

Roger Scruton, "Kitsch and the Modern Predicament," City Journal (Winter 1999 | Vol. 9, No. 1)

Roger Scruton, "Youth Culture's Lament," City Journal (Autumn 1998 | Vol. 8, No. 4)

Roger Scruton, "Communitarian Dreams," City Journal (Autumn 1996 | Vol. 6, No. 4)

Roger Scruton, "Why Lampposts and Phone Booths Matter," City Journal (Summer 1996 | Vol. 6, No. 3)

Roger Scruton, "Decencies for Skeptics," City Journal (Spring 1996 | Vol. 6, No. 2)

 

Misc. Articles by Roger Scruton:

Roger Scruton, "On the Mend," The Financial Times

Roger Scruton, "The Beauty of the Beasts," The Times, July 6, 1996

Roger Scruton, "A philosophy of pleasure," National Review, April 18, 1994 v46 n7 pS1(2)

Roger Scruton, "Kiss Me, Cate," Vol. 45, National Review, 11-01-1993, pp 61
Review of Only Words, by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Harvard, 152 pp., $14.95)

Roger Scruton, "Picasso: Creator and Destroyer," National Review, Dec 9, 1988 v40 n24 p46(3)

Roger Scruton, "Robert Nozick, anarcho-capitalist"

Roger Scruton, "Fox Hunting: The Modern Case"

Oxford Union Debate on HuntingScruton speaks (Real Audio)

Salon Interview with Roger Scruton by Ray Sawhill

 

Book Introductions:

Leisure: the Basis of Culture 
by Josef Pieper. 
New Introduction by Roger Scruton. 1998
New Translation by Gerald Malsbary.
St. Augustine's Press

Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered  
by Russell Kirk. 
Introduction (PDF) by Roger Scruton.

 

Published Letters:

Roger Scruton in The New York Review of Books

Roger Scruton on Christopher Hitchens on Isaiah Berlin in The London Review of Books

 

Oxford University Press A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism

Review: Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde

 

 

Roger Scruton on Plato's "noble lie":
"Truth, Plato believed, is the business of philosophy, but it is rhetoric, not philosophy, that moves the crowd. So how can we protect people from fatal errors, such as those that tempted Athens into conflict with Sparta, or those which, much later, led the Germans, mesmerized by Hitler, into an equally suicidal war? Plato did not believe that philosophers would be listened to: Their words would sound strange and ambiguous, and their eyes would be turned from present and time-bound emergencies towards the stratosphere of eternal truths. Nevertheless among the rhetorical devices of politicians, it is still possible to distinguish the noble lies from their ignoble negations. The noble lie is the untruth that conveys a truth, the myth that maps reality. It is thus that Plato justified the stories of the gods and their origins which inspire people to live as though nearer to the source of things, and to discover in themselves the virtues that exist only when we find our way to believing in them.
...
"The problem with Plato’s theory of the noble lie is that noble lies have to be believed by the one who utters them. Otherwise people will see through the deception and withdraw their support. And a lie that is believed is not really a lie.
...
"Plato’s theory of the noble lie was a first shot at describing the role of myth in human thinking. Myths are not falsehoods, nor are they scientific theories: They are attempts to capture difficult truths in symbols. Myths also arm us against realities that are otherwise too fateful or disturbing to bear contemplation."

 

Roger Scruton on education and social hierarchy:
"Education is possible only if we persuade children that there are things worth knowing that they don’t already know. This may make them feel bad about themselves, but feeling bad now is the price of feeling good later. The culture of self-esteem has the opposite effect: by making children feel good now, it makes them feel bad later — so bad indeed that they blame everybody else for their failure, and join the growing queue of resentful litigants. Education involves transmitting knowledge and skills, not illusions, and a practice devoted to persuading children that they are fine just as they are does not deserve the name of education. The acquisition of knowledge requires both aptitude and work, a truth so obvious that only decades of egalitarian propaganda could have induced so many people to deny it.
...
"Now there are hierarchies only if there are people at the bottom of them. The advocates of self-esteem are so exercised by this fact that they try to invert the social spectrum, to represent the bottom as the top and the top as the bottom. Slovenly speech is praised as socially authentic, and ignorance as ‘difference’. All forms of knowledge that require aptitude or work, or which aspire to a higher culture than that of the street, are dismissed as ‘elitist’ and driven to the edge of the curriculum.
...
"It follows that a society can be hierarchically ordered without being oppressive. For every station has its duties, the performance of which is both an end in itself and a passport to social affection. And through education, ambition and hard work you can change your station, to arrive at the place that matches your achievements and which, through performing its duties, you possess as your own."

 

This bibliography of Internet resources on Roger Scruton is maintained by Christopher S. Morrissey