The Corner

Culture

Roger the Great

Awful news today that Roger Scruton, one of the great philosophers of our age and surely one of the great conservative thinkers of all time, has died after a struggle with cancer.

Scruton’s was just an unfathomably fruitful and productive mind. He published at least fifty books, produced countless essays, was constantly giving brilliant lectures, and even wrote music and starred in a documentary or two, all of which just sparkle with his brilliance. He ran an underground counter-university in communist Eastern Europe and was always ready to fight for truth and beauty and tradition, but there was nothing he treasured more than home—with his Sophie and Lucy and Sam.

For a sense of his writing on conservatism, I suppose one place to start may be How to be a Conservative, though there are many others you could choose from. But it has always seemed to me that the deepest of Scruton’s work was not his expressly political writing or his academic philosophy but his writing about the things he loved most: art and music, food and drink, architecture, and beauty more generally. This was the real essence of his conservatism. It was an expression of love for lovely things.

I had the privilege of spending a little time with Scruton when he and I were both fellows at the Ethics and Public Policy Center for a few years (it would be ridiculous to say he was a colleague, I spent all our time together in awe of the man). What stood out most was his great sense of humor and humility and the sheer breadth of his knowledge and wisdom. He would also routinely drink an entire bottle of wine over lunch and then go right back to writing something brilliant.

The work he leaves behind is a treasure for the ages. But if a single theme unites it, it would have to be his willingness, even eagerness, to stand courageously in defense of what he loved—and his confidence, born of deep learning and insight, that it was what deserved to be loved, and that others would see that if he showed them.

We have lost a true giant. RIP.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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