Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton, whose most recent book is The Aesthetics of Architecture, teaches philosophy at Birkbeck College.

Palpitating Stones

Roger Scruton, 3 April 1997

Subtitled ‘On Order in Architecture’, Joseph Rykwert’s exploration of the classical Orders, and their meaning for the many architects who have made use of them, has the shape, size and trimmings of a magnum opus. Footnotes and bibliography take up one third of its six hundred pages, and the text is burdened with photographs, plans and drawings illustrating each period of the classical style. On some pages almost every sentence is fortified by a footnote, and scarcely a paragraph passes without introducing some new writer or architect relevant to the theme. No doubt Rykwert has read even more items than the two thousand or so listed in the bibliography; but I cannot help wishing he had read less. For his theme is of the first importance, and deserves the utmost clarity of argument, and a willingness to come forward with a plain statement, whether or not an authority can be found to back it up. As it is, I was led groaning with redundant knowledge through the maze of Rykwert’s text, no more convinced at the end than along the way that it really has an argument.

Possible Worlds and Premature Sciences

Roger Scruton, 7 February 1980

Semiotics, semiology, hermeneutics, structuralist criticism – so many labels, but how many things? If there are distinctions here, they seem to be largely hereditary. The term ‘semiotic’ comes from C.S. Peirce, ‘semiology’ from Saussure. ‘Structuralism’ has meant one thing in anthropology, another in linguistics; its application to literary theory comes partly through the work of Propp and the Russian formalists. ‘Hermeneutics’ once indicated the nice interpretation of Biblical texts; now it denotes the nice interpretation of everything. In all these things, however, the niceties seem to be the same: technicality at the expense of theory, analysis at the expense of content, intensity at the expense of depth – in short, ‘vain babblings and oppositions of science, falsely so called’ (I Timothy vi, 20). And yet, wherever literature is taught, students have to perceive it through the veil of this new scholasticism, their observations muddled by technicalities borrowed from a thousand premature sciences, distracted by ‘methods’ which regard Mickey Mouse and the Mona Lisa, Superman and King Lear, advertising jingles and the works of Schoenberg, as equally legitimate objects of inquiry. Is this movement a reaction against critical moralism, expressed with a hesitancy so great that only massive recourse to technicality can prevent it from knowledge of its impotence? Or is it the first step towards some new critical method, a method sufficiently general as to assign an interpretation to everything that could be regarded as a ‘sign’?

Letter

Anti-Anti-Racism

9 July 1987

SIR: In his ex-cathedra pronouncement on the subject of ‘anti-racism’ (Letters, 26 November 1987), the Chichele Professor of Political Theory quotes the following words about immigration from my book The Meaning of Conservatism: ‘the strength of liberalism … has made it impossible for any but the circumlocutory to utter an illiberal sentiment on this subject and on the subject...

No one can write about religion now without having in mind the new mockery that accompanies the new atheism. The new atheism’s ‘smug emissaries’ – as the blurb of Francis...

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Hegel in Green Wellies: England

Stefan Collini, 8 March 2001

Condition of England writing is the product of a perceived acceleration in the pace of social change. We owe the term to Carlyle, writing in the 1830s, when the ‘Condition of England...

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Diary

Diary: Sad Professor

John Sutherland, 18 February 1999

Like Diogenes in his tub, Roger Scruton has stripped himself of his professorship of aesthetics to rail, ungowned, against the age in which fate has deposited him. Scruton’s opposition to...

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Space Wars

Fredric Jameson, 4 April 1996

To what degree is our experience of modern – let’s say rather, contemporary – architecture mediated through photography? To what degree, in other words, is that experience...

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Resentment

John Sutherland, 21 March 1991

There are many Roger Scrutons and it is not easy to reconcile them: barrister, aesthetician, champion of Senator Joseph McCarthy, teacher at Birkbeck College (an institution with a tradition of...

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Into the sunset

Peter Clarke, 30 August 1990

It is odd how much decades matter. The Twenties evoke an unmistakable image of self-consciously post-war modernity and frivolity; the Thirties of ideological polarisation in the face of the twin...

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Being on top

John Ryle, 20 February 1986

What is more important: is it the project of understanding why sexual desire is, or has become, a problem for us like no other, fraught with particular anxiety and special perplexity; or is it...

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Conservative Chic

Michael Mason, 6 May 1982

Should we use ‘disinterested’ to mean ‘uninterested’, or ‘infer’ to mean ‘imply’? What about ‘hopefully’, and ‘whom’, and...

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Young and Old

John Sutherland, 15 October 1981

The plural title of Life Stories is paradoxical. The short story – Barker’s preferred literary form – cannot comprehend anything as large as life. In the face of this paradox,...

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Conservatives

Neal Ascherson, 6 November 1980

It’s only a few years ago since Mr Callaghan started presenting Labour as the British National Party. Labour, we were given to understand, was the party of patriotic unity, of social...

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