Acton Institute Powerblog

For Roger Scruton, philosophy and culture were inseparable

It’s almost two months since the death of perhaps the twentieth century’s most important conservative philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton, but discussion of the significance of his work and life continues to occupy a great deal of space in journals, opinion pieces and on the airwaves.

Like many others, I have found myself looking again at many of Scruton’s great books, such as his classic “The Meaning of Conservatism” (1980), the very reflective “England: An Elegy” (2000) and the aesthetic arguments he articulated in “Understanding Music” (2009). Taken together, they amount to an exploration of the life of not just the mind but also of the senses. Philosophy and culture (in the broadest sense of that word) went hand-in-hand in Scruton’s thought. In fact, they come across as inseparable.

Recently, I was invited on to one of the fastest growing podcasts in the “right-side” world to explore some of these dimensions of Scruton’s thinking and contributions to what is rightly called “high culture.” “In the Trenches Podcast,” hosted by J. Cal Davenport and Seth Root, covers all sorts of questions, ranging from history to culture, economics and religion. Among some of the people that they have interviewed are Judge Clint Bolick and the conservative writer Steven F. Hayward. The history of conservative intellectual thought is In the Trenches’ specialty.

In Episode 29 of the podcast, J. Cal Davenport and I discuss aspects of Scruton’s thought (on what would have been Scruton’s 76th birthday) which have received less attention in the aftermath of his passing. This includes those areas in which Scruton’s thought developed (economics being one example), how Scruton gave a philosophical face to Anglo-American conservatism, connections that Scruton drew between politics and architecture, the centrality of the idea of beauty to everything that Scruton wrote, Scruton’s conception of the ways in which religion bound many aspects of life together in ways that go beyond the obvious, as well as Scruton’s intellectually playful side—something which, listeners will discover, often manifested itself in unexpected ways.

But as always, I urge people to use these commentaries as a launching pad to explore the universe of Scruton’s thought. Whether you are a classical liberal, a conservative, a traditionalist or a libertarian—or maybe someone who doesn’t want to be tied down by labels—you won’t be disappointed.

Featured image: Elekes Andor / CC BY-SA 




Samuel Gregg

is director of research at the Acton Institute. He has written and spoken extensively on questions of political economy, economic history, ethics in finance, and natural law theory. He has an MA in political philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in moral philosophy and political economy from the University of Oxford.