Obituaries can be depressing things as they can mark the end of great lives.
But when they bring to the forefront notice of a person who may have escaped mass appreciation in their lifetimes, an obit can be an edifying thing.
Such as it is with this one on Roger Scruton.
He died a week ago on the 12th of January.
He was 75 years old, was a Brit, and had been knighted by the Queen.
He was an academic, philosopher, a writer, and a conservative. Perhaps the most articulate conservative on the planet.
I know, for some this is yawnsville and not our usual journalistic fare. But hey, it’s a Sunday and I think my editor is still asleep. So stay with me here.
Sir Roger mattered for many reasons out of the thousands of ideas he posited and the dozens of books he wrote.
But one idea stands out. He spoke and wrote about the importance of beauty in our lives.
He lamented that in the 20th century art had changed from a vehicle that uplifted and inspired to one that cheapened and denigrated.
That we had forsaken Michelangelo and Caravaggio for Warhol and worse. Sir Roger mourned the loss of beauty in art and architecture.
His words are better than mine.
“Beauty is an ultimate value—something that we pursue for its own sake, and for the pursuit of which no further reason need be given. Beauty should therefore be compared to truth and goodness, one member of a trio of ultimate values which justify our rational inclinations.”
“There’s a real question as to what beauty is and why it’s important to us. Many pseudo-philosophers try to answer these questions and tell us they’re not really answerable. I draw on art and literature, and music in particular, because music is a wonderful example of something that’s in this world but not of this world. Great works of music speak to us from another realm even though they speak to us in ordinary physical sounds.”
“Toward the end of his life, Mr. Scruton concluded that he had been treated unfairly in his own land, subjected to what he termed a ‘hate storm’ inspired by critics who had accused him of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and disparagement of Chinese people — allegations that Mr. Scruton called ‘fantastic and fabricated'”, according to the New York Times.
The controversy ended when Scruton was exonerated by the New Statesman, the magazine that printed the accusations. They also publicly apologized. Scruton was then reappointed to the Royal advisory position he had lost because the magazine’s charge of bigotry.
A fuller exposition of his views on beauty can be found by watching this video available on YouTube.
It’ll take an hour to watch and has annoying Spanish subtitles.
But it’ll be an hour well spent if you care at all about our culture, how and why it has come under siege, and the possible basis for its renaissance.