The attack of the Blob - Spectator Life Jun 17

I have been reading a collection of intriguing articles entitled What Matters Most by the late Sir Chris Woodhead, a courageous and outspoken defender of real knowledge in a sphere where knowledge is not always given its due. Woodhead was a highly cultivated man, a former teacher of English, who was appointed Chief Inspector of Schools in 1994 during the government of Sir John Major. His appointment inaugurated a period of conflict between the Inspectorate and the collection of leftist educationists that Woodhead called ‘the Blob’ (after the 1958 horror film about an ever-expanding and all-consuming amoeba from outer space). The name, Woodhead writes, ‘captures the inert mindlessness and sullen, rubbery resistance of the professors and quangocrats and officials and consultants who make up the educational establishment’.

'Post-Truth? Its pure nonsense' - The Spectator 10 Jun 17

For as long as there have been politicians, they have lied, fabricated and deceived. The manufacture of falsehood has changed over time, as the machinery becomes more sophisticated. Straight lies give way to sinuous spin, and open dishonesty disappears behind Newspeak and Doublethink. However, even if honesty is sometimes the best policy, politics is addressed to people’s opinions, and the manipulation of opinion is what it is all about. Plato held truth to be the goal of philosophy and the ultimate standard that disciplines the soul. But even he acknowledged that people cannot take very much of it, and that peaceful government depends on ‘the noble lie’.

Read the full article here.

The Case for Nations - WSJ, June 17

The ‘we’ of the nation-state binds people together, builds an important legacy of social trust and blunts the sharp edges of globalization.
There is a respectable opinion among educated people that nations are no longer relevant. Their reasoning runs roughly as follows:

We live in an interconnected world. Globalization and the internet have created new networks of belonging and new forms of social trust, by which borders are erased and old attachments vaporized. Yes, we have seen the growth of nationalism in Europe, the Brexit vote in the U.K. and the election of the populist Donald Trump, but these are signs of reactionary sentiments that we should all have outgrown. The nation-state was useful while it lasted and gave us a handle on our social and political obligations. But it was dangerous too, when inflamed against real or imaginary enemies.

In any case, the nation-state belongs in the past, to a society in which family, job, religion and way of life stay put in a single place and are insulated against global developments. Our world is no longer like that, and we must change in step with it if we wish to belong.

Please click here to read the full article online. 

Fight or flight: Strategies for traditional Conservatives - The Economist Mar 17

Does conservatism aim to uphold or to transform society? Across the West, the political right is split. Some conservatives back a status quo of globalised economies and live-and-let-live societies. Others want to upend that open, international order by putting the nation first, socially and economically. There is, however, a third kind of conservatism, represented by two new short books. Its guiding idea is that political problems at root are spiritual. In different ways, Rod Dreher and Roger Scruton suggest that conservatism’s main task is to cure or abandon a sickened culture.

Populism, VII: Representation & the people. The New Criterion Mar 17

Looking back over the events of 2016, liberal-minded commentators are apt to sound a warning against “populism,” a disorder that they observe everywhere on the right of the political spectrum. Populists are politicians who appeal directly to the people when they should be consulting the political process, and who are prepared to set aside procedures and legal niceties when the tide of public opinion flows in their favor. Like Donald Trump, populists can win elections. Like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, they can disrupt the long-standing consensus of government. Or, like Nigel Farage and the Brexiteers in Britain, they can use the popular vote to overthrow all the expectations and predictions of the political class. But they have one thing in common, which is their preparedness to allow a voice to passions that are neither acknowledged nor mentioned in the course of normal politics. And for this reason, they are not democrats but demagogues—not politicians who guide and govern by appeal to arguments, but agitators who stir the unthinking feelings of the crowd.

To visit the full article, please visit The New Criterion.

The Russian way of lying. Spectator Life Mar 17

Perhaps the most famous paradox discovered by the Greek philosophers is that of ‘the liar’. A Cretan says that all Cretans are liars: if what he says is true, then it is false. More simply, consider: ‘This sentence is false.’ If it is true it is false, if false, true. The ancients took this paradox seriously, since if the concept of truth is inherently contradictory, as the paradox implies, then all discourse, all argument, all rational decision-making, takes place in a void. One ancient philosopher, Philetas of Cos, in his despair at finding a solution, committed suicide. More recently, the great logician Alfred Tarski used the paradox to argue that truth can be defined in a language only through a ‘meta-language’ with an outside vantage-point. In Tarski’s view ‘This sentence is false’ is not a possible sentence. But I have just written it!

To read the full article visit Spectator Life.

Podcast with John J Miller - On Human Nature

In a 10-minute conversation with The Bookmonger, John J Miller,  Roger explains how his short volume differs from Edward O. Wilson’s influential book of the same name, whether human nature ever changes, and how science has the potential to dehumanize.

Listen here

If We Are Not Just Animals, What Are We? New York Times March 17

Philosophers and theologians in the Christian tradition have regarded human beings as distinguished from the other animals by the presence within them of a divine spark. This inner source of illumination, the soul, can never be grasped from outside, and is in some way detached from the natural order, maybe taking wing for some supernatural place when the body collapses and dies.

Recent advances in genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have all but killed off that idea. But they have raised the question of what to put in its place. For quite clearly, although we are animals, bound in the web of causality that joins us to the zoosphere, we are not just animals.

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Recent Books

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Where We Are: The State of Britain Now

Bloomsbury (November 2017) Addressing one of the most politically turbulent periods in modern British history, philosopher Roger Scruton asks how, in these circumstances, we can come to define our identity,...

Conservatism: Ideas in Profile

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Profile Books (August 2017) Roger Scruton looks at the central ideas of conservatism over the centuries. He examines conservative thinking on civil society, the rule of law and the role...

On Human Nature

On Human Nature

Princeton University Press (February 2017) In this short book, acclaimed writer and philosopher Roger Scruton presents an original and radical defense of human uniqueness. Confronting the views of evolutionary psychologists,...

2018 Events

Scrutopia Summer School 2018

22 Feb - UCL event

8/9 Mar - Ghent University

22 Mar - Philosophy Cafe, Oxford

7 Mar - VWH Vintners’ Hall Dinner

22 Mar - The Oxford Literary Festival

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