Consummate Conservative (an obituary for Sir Roger Scruton)

This article is from the Autumn 2020 edition of the IPA Review

Sir Roger Scruton, philosopher and conservative, died on 12 January at the age of 75 after a six-month battle with cancer. Over his career, Scruton published more than 50 works of philosophy, polemic, fiction, and memoir. His speciality was aesthetics and the philosophy of mind, and he published works on art, architecture, and music. But he was best known for his political philosophy and his willingness to engage in popular debate.

Sir Roger—whom the IPA brought to Australia in 2014 to deliver the keynote address at the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Symposium (which can be found at the IPA’s YouTube channel)—articulated and defended conservatism as a political philosophy as substantial as any of its rivals. For this, he became a polarising figure: feted by conservatives as the best of us, loathed by the left for much the same reason. By the time of his death, however, he had the begrudging respect of even his fiercest opponents in the academy, had been knighted and widely acclaimed, and, as I have written in these pages previously (‘Eaton Alive’, IPA Review, August 2019) his reputation withstood one last idiotic attempt to take him down.

Scruton was perhaps conservatism’s most important theorist, and to illustrate his significance let’s highlight a key aspect of his project: the connection he draws between the individual and society, which is at the foundation of his world view. Since, however, a man’s life and work are not easily separated, it is worthwhile to recount a few facts that seem—to me at least, and without wanting to psychologise too much—somewhat salient in the interpretation of Scruton’s conservatism.

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