In Memory of Sir Roger Scruton

29 Jan 2020

A public intellectual with an uncommon breadth of influence, the late Sir Roger Scruton’s absence will surely be widely felt. This great friend to the Social Trends Institute died January 12 at the age of 75, just six months after having been diagnosed with cancer.

STI Experts

Sir Roger Scruton’s published works number more than 50 and touch varied genres. Many of his most notable works treated aesthetics and philosophy – particularly political philosophy. But he also wrote fiction, and even operas. He wrote on philosophy and philosophers, on art and architecture, on music – opera and jazz in particular; on culture, on England, on wine, on beauty, on God and faith, on sex, and most profusely, on conservativism. His prolific work supported his fundamental conviction that his purpose was “to conserve things rather than to pull them down.”

His writings sought to understand and uphold the various achievements of Western Culture, and the institutions through which it is passed on to future generations. In his political philosophy, he articulated and defended conservatism and criticized the new left. His primary field however was aesthetics, in which he criticized post-modernism and architectural modernism, and attempted to comprehend music.

He also wrote articles and columns regularly throughout his career in journals, magazines and newspapers. In 1982 he founded The Salisbury Review. He edited the journal, which championed traditional conservativism and sought to ground it intellectually, until 2000. More recently, he contributed to publications like The Spectator, New Criterion, The Observer, First Things, and The New Statesman, in which he wrote a regular wine column. 

As a philosopher, freelance writer, broadcaster, journalist, composer, and countryside campaigner, Sir Roger was often vocal against the prevailing winds, making him a polemic figure throughout his career. Despite holding political views in contrast to the majority at some of the universities at which he taught, most notably during his early teaching years at Birkbeck College in London, he was a recognized figure in academia and was associated with numerous universities and cultural institutions. In 2016, he was knighted for “services to philosophy, teaching and public education.”

Sir Roger participated in Four STI meetings. and contributed to 10 STI publications. Three of the meetings were held at Princeton: Why Marriage is in the Public Interest, in 2004; Rethinking Business Management in 2007; and The Social Costs of Pornography. The fourth, Equality, Freedom of Conscience and the Common Good, was held in London in 2011. 

He was one of more than 50 prominent signatories in Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles, the book of findings born of the first Princeton meeting that was later translated into Spanish and German, and also in The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations, published in Spanish as well.  Further, he authored the chapter “On the Abuse of Sex” in The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papersalso published in Spanish; the chapter “Virtue and Profit: A Critique of Managerial Reasoning,” in Rethinking Business Management and later Profit, Prudence and Virtue; and “The Person and the Parson” in The Thriving Society: On the Social Conditions of Human Flourishing.

The Social Trends Institute was privileged to have worked with such a prodigious intellectual. He will be missed.