Culture

The Corner

A Beautiful Mind

Roger Scruton — now Sir Roger Scruton — is a British philosopher, novelist, composer, etc. I like to talk with him from time to time about pressing issues and eternal ones. Sometimes they are in the same group. My latest podcast with him is here.

We begin by talking about the “post-truth age.” In a recent article, Sir Roger wrote,

The concept of truth has been the victim of massive cyber-attacks in recent decades, and it has not yet recovered. The most recent attack has come from social media, which have turned the Internet into one great seething cauldron of opinions, most of them anonymous, in which every kind of malice and fantasy swamps the still small voice of humanity and truth.

We also talk a bit about President Trump. In that same article, Sir Roger wrote,

This extraordinary person, whose thoughts seem shaped by their very nature to the 140 characters of a tweet, makes no distinction between the true and the false and assumes that no one else makes such a distinction either.

Elsewhere, Sir Roger wrote the following, about the late political scientist Kenneth Minogue:

In many ways he was a model of the conservative activist. He was not in the business of destroying things or angering people. He was in the business of defending old-fashioned civility against ideological rage, and he believed this was the real meaning of the freedom that the English-speaking peoples have created and enjoyed. For Ken Minogue, decency was not just a way of doing things, but also the point of doing them.

Could Sir Roger expand on that? He does in this podcast.

We also talk about an issue now hot on the right: patriotism versus nationalism. Those marchers in Charlottesville, chanting “Blood and soil” and stuff about the Jews: Are they nationalists? What is patriotism?

I ask Sir Roger about some of the current lingo (which is also an old lingo): “America First,” “globalist,” etc. We talk about democracy. And about Ukraine (and therefore about Russia). We further talk about the welfare state: Are there things — important things — that a free market can’t handle?

On the subject of the market: President Trump recently attacked Amazon, the online retailer, as a blight on America. What are the merits and faults of that argument?

I also ask Sir Roger about smartphones and the social media: A lot of us are absorbed in those things. Are we lost, in a sense? We are connected — but are we also disconnected, in a way? Are fundamental human skills eroding?

Finally, we talk a bit about music and books. In a recent podcast, Norman Podhoretz said that the No. 1 novel is Anna Karenina. Sir Roger is inclined to agree, mentioning other candidates as well.

You are never finished talking with Roger Scruton. But the podcast does end. A conversation with this fellow is an education, a comfort, and a joy (and sometimes a provocation). Check him out.

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