Monday, January 13, 2020

Roger Scruton RIP

The most important thing to know about British conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton who died January 12, 2020, aged 75, of cancer is the way that he met his Sophie, the future Lady Scruton. He was riding his gelding Sam in the Beaufort hunt and happened to be standing next to Sophie, riding her mare Petra. Says he in his autobiographical Gentle Regrets,
Usually [Sam] puts his ears back if a horse gets too close to him, anxious to preserve the distance that will preserve safety; on this occasion, however, he stood quietly beside Petra, and then followed her as the hunt moved off. The next Saturday he caught sight of her across a field of 200 horses, seized the bit and cantered across to where she stood, fulfilling simultaneously his desire and mine.
But here's the thing. Not only was Scruton's horse named Sam, but also his family dog when he was a boy and his son. His son. You tell me! Perhaps there is a connection, that Scruton loved his dog, his horse, and his son, so why shouldn't they have the same name?

And another thing. It turns out that his surname Scruton is made up. His great-grandmother, born Lowe, had a son surnamed Lowe, that she decided should be surnamed Scruton. So perhaps his grandfather was conceived on the Scruton estate while his great-grandmother was in service there.

Of course, all this has nothing to do with Trollope's Sir Roger Scatcherd, railway engineer, drunkard, and father of the illegitimate and practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary, in Doctor Thorne. Nor would Trollope, a famous hunter of foxes, ever have dared to introduce a ridiculous plot device like a horse selecting his owner's wife for him.

Roger Scruton was an immensely learned philosopher and writer, son of a left-wing teacher father and a respectable middle-class mother. Born in 1944 he became a conservative in the 1968 student riots in Paris, and throughout his adult life was on the receiving end of the tender mercies of the left. The latest incident was a 2019 New Statesman interview conducted by a young lefty -- who no doubt literally knows nothing -- that monstrously edited and misrepresented his remarks. And got him sacked from the Tory government's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission for a season.

Scruton seems to have been a gentle soul, according to many that knew him, and also a courageous one, who went into Eastern Europe in the 1980s to meet with the dissidents that became the government leaders in the 1990s.
Scruton visited Prague [in 1979] to give a secret lecture with the dissident Czech philosopher Julius Tomin. 
When he accompanied Tomin back to his apartment, he found waiting for them at the door a secret policeman who refused to let Scruton in, and then pushed him down the stairs. He was eventually arrested and thrown out of the country. 
“I realised that this was a situation that was completely outside anything in my experience,” he remembered. “And at the same time this was a place which was dear to my heart. The intellectual life was genuinely dangerous. They were being put in jail by a Left-wing police force.”
But actually, Scruton was "put in jail" multiple times throughout his adult life by the left-wing police force of the academy and the culture. It is just that the left-wing police in Prague were a little more direct that our left-wing police in the university and in the culture.

What is wrong with these people? Don't answer that.

Scruton has written about many things, principally in the areas of aesthetics and philosophy. So I thought I would check his notions of my current enthusiasm, Nietzsche. He notes, in A Short HIstory of Modern Philosophy, that Nietzsche, in common with Aristotle, "found the aim of life in 'flourishing':  excellence resides in the qualities that contribute to that aim." Thus,
In each case pride, self-confidence, cheerfulness of outlook, and a desire always to dominate and never to be beholden were regarded as essential atributes of the self-fulfilled man.
The drawback is, of course, the accusation that this is why Nietzsche is "the Nazis' favorite intellectual." But whatabout Marxism, with Marx "the Commies' favorite intellectual?" As Scruton writes in Modern Philosophy: an Introduction and Survey:
If you happen to believe that you are, deep down, an √úbermensch, whose powers, energies and talents are frustrated by the little people who tie you with their Lilliputian web of obligations, you will gladly endorse Nietzsche's vision[.]
Or if you believe that you are an activist, fighting for justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world, you will gladly endorse Marx's vision that appoints you as the vanguard of the proletariat.
The massive excuse prepared by Marx for the crimes of the international socialists, was prepared by Nietzsche for their nationalist opponents.
And this makes me think that Hegel's Master and Slave dialectic and Nietzsche's Master and Slave morality are missing the middle.

Both Marx and Nietzsche are trying to find a Master morality for my People of the Creative Self, today's Educated Gentry. Nietzsche is sneering at the Slave morality of weak people, who just want to combine against the strong.

But I think Nietzsche is missing the middle, what we might call Commoner Morality. In other words, when he complains about "the priests" teaching us to hate ourselves, he is complaining about the self-reflection that the Axial Age religions promote for commoners. It is a middle way between the self-justification of the "creative" and the collective protective morality of the slave. It is the thought that, in the give and take of commoner life, well, maybe the problem is me.

So that would fit my reductive Three Peoples theory and Yarvin's Gentry, Commoner, Client layers.
Creative/Gentry morality: Creativity involves creative destruction, perhaps of me, perhaps of lesser folk. Too bad.
Responsible/Commoner morality: Life is an interaction and we need to think about how our actions impact other people so we don't have to come to blows.
Subordinate/Client morality: Life is a bitch and we the people have to combine against the powerful to protect ourselves.
Sir Roger Scruton was a remarkable man, gentle, learned, courageous. We shall not see his like for many a year. 

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