Thanks for a loving reflection, Giles.
Conservatism is much more attuned to the spiritual and the emotional in human life than … socialism
I think that’s true because conservatism is wary of losing the things that life and history have proven to benefit humanity. That’s what made the 20th century such a disaster: the revolutionary throwing of proven social institutions and practices under the bus of ideology. The Soviet abolition of marriage and its eventual reinstitution due to social chaos being a good example.
Perhaps another view would be that conservatism is the suspicion of ideological innovation. This could also be expressed as resistance to the view that because ‘it’s new therefore it’s better’. This ‘new is better’ mentality has plagued British education with advice and teaching methods being changed every decade mainly due to political influence. And we definitely need to be questioning the ‘woke’ innovations which are being thrust upon us under the guise of being ‘Progressive’ – Regressive anyone? Conservatism is also written into our biology. When the DNA helix is unzipped, copied and zipped up again, cell machinery checks for errors in transmission; that’s why mutation errors are thankfully not the norm.
PS I’m not aware of Roger’s views on homosexuality; but if they are that bad why was Douglas Murray his friend and the person who went to all the trouble of uncovering the malicious smearing that he was subjected to?
> I’m not aware of Roger’s views on homosexuality; but if they are that bad why was Douglas Murray his friend
I’m aware that Scruton disapproved of homosexuality. I’m not aware of him arguing that “something must be done” about homosexuals, in the manner of, say, George Monbiot arguing that “something must be done” about the unvaccinated.
It is perfectly possible and, indeed, the essence of conservatism to maintain cordial relations with someone with whom one disagrees on certain matters. It is almost impossible to maintain cordial relations with someone who believes “something must be done” about you.
Indeed. I also disapprove of divorce, gambling and cheating on your taxes, but don’t demand that people change their behaviors and I certainly don’t hate these people.
I do demand that people don’t cheat on their taxes. Even if the tax code needs to be started from scratch, ideally on two sheets of paper.
Yes but you cannot go individually to a tax cheater and compel him to change. Which is the point he was making.
That is not our place invidually but we do have governments who can legislate and decide these things.
Indeed, this is the definition of tolerance, to accept people one disagrees with without rancour or prejudice.
I have no problem at all with other people being gay, though I find the idea repulsive myself. I don’t believe a gay person to be better or worse than myself, just different. This is tolerance and I believe this is close to Roger’s views.
Mind, I find the idea of socialism repulsive too,,,,
It’s a matter of separating our political views from personal relationships. I don’t approve of homosexuality but do get on with a homosexual at work. I am not there to condemn him but befriend him if I can.
I thought this was an excellent piece by the author and it chimed with me when he said “Perhaps it is the Christian instinct in me, but that is how I want people to treat each other” because I do think that conservatism can be a theme that helps one’s neighbour. Unfortunately, he is also right about the squalid attitude of many in the Governments that we have had over the last 20 years.
With regard to Scruton’s views on homosexuality, as a Christian I cannot agree with the act but I hate the sin but love the sinner.
Also if we point the finger there are three fingers pointing back at us.
I’m not so sure he disapproved of homosexuality, but he did question the why of it, which seems perfectly reasonable for a philosopher. He did admit that the way he once wrote about it was somewhat crass and apologised for it in later works. I have have read some of his works, being of that persuasion myself, and never found them particularly homophobic; we all, surely, think about those who are not like us and wonder why that might be.
That is the key probably. There are things that something must be done about. But also things we do not appove of, where it would be wrong to do something about. To do something about people who do not believe in Covid vax is one of the things which would be wrong if that is their honest belief. Of course part of things we do not appove of might be harmful to others so we might have to sort out which parts rathering than cancelling a people who have different beliefs from ourselves.
Giles Fraser is still struggling out of the carapace of socialist thinking. He is inclined to see someone whose thinking still instinctively clings to prejudices that were the norm in their youth not as as someone merely affected by the sort of discomfort a traditional German might feel if he were to cut his potatoes with a knife but as evidence of some moral turpitude. The fact that Giles was prepared to maintain his friendship with Roger Scruton despite his failing the leftist litmus tests of a good person shows the essential humanity of Giles. The woke would simply have recoiled from contact.
The fact that Douglas Murray was happy to overlook any “unacceptable” views on homosexuality highlights again the difference between him and the fanatic woke who can’t abide deviation from the ideological pattern. Being fanatical to the extent of allowing them to affect personal relations is a leftist rather than conservative sin.
Of course woke is regressive. If you have known the good in society and the progressives move away from it of course it is sad. But having lost it we can still be progressive in our pursuit of what was lost.
“conservatism is the suspicion of ideological innovation.” Wasn’t it Burke who said, “if it’s not necessary to change, it’s necessary not to change”? In other words, change is eminently possible for the conservative. But the burden of proof is on those who want it
Roger Scruton, even in death, remains a hero of mine.
His writing was beautiful, his arguments exquisitely crafted.
The last piece I read of his was on people who “love animals”. It showed two things. First that people who “love animals” usually mean they love their own pets. In this they are morally poorer in his view because pets don’t require their masters to morally improve themselves. They are also too often unconcerned with the impact their pets have on wildlife.
That piece exemplified much about what was good about him. His analysis of love and self absorption, his belief that people can and should improve themselves for others, his genuine love, and concern for, natural beauty and the environment.
How many conservatives dare, in this day and age, to be openly pro environment when doing so often marks them out as a mad lefty?
But he didn’t care what anyone called him. He cared only about pursuing truth, and about deciphering what is moral.
The way the conservative party treated him before his death is not something I will forgive.
Conservatives are supposed to conserve that which is worth conserving. This current crop of supine adolescents desecrate all that Roger Scruton stood for.
Rest in Peace sir.
Hear, hear Hayden! He was a great man and a towering intellect.
Interesting comment about people with pets. I wonder if it is any coincidence that pet ownership has increased substantially over the last several decades whilst the level of selfishness has risen. “Having a pet that loves me unconditionally” is one of the reasons I hear for getting a pet in the first place.
But suppose such a pet as a child substitute. Good thing, or bad?
Not particularly good or bad but a pet can never replace a child.
To prop up their ego?
In my state of exploring the new world I’ve been cast into as an ex-Democrat, I feel kind of like I’m inside a pinball machine, without any truly safe or even agreeable place to land. I’m increasingly suspicious of all the judgmental statements regarding pet ownership coming at me from seemingly all positions along the political spectrum. It’s not that complicated, everybody: a dog is a companion animal, and I have a dog to be my companion in a way that other people can’t (meaning 24/7 and, yes, unconditional). This is not abnormal. It’s not selfish. It’s not new.
Also, my 13-pound poodle is not a danger to the natural environment, although she is allowed to chase squirrels in her own back yard. She makes no apologies.
“they are morally poorer in his view because pets don’t require their masters to morally improve themselves. They are also too often unconcerned with the impact their pets have on wildlife.”
Yes! This is what I’ve been saying for years. A lot of these people, vegans and vegetarians are very much like this, only “care” about animals when it offends their sensibilities. They don’t want to see the cute fluffy animals being hurt but the moment you tell them that grey squirrels need to be exterminated, and the habitats given back to the red squirrel, they go off on one stating how they couldn’t allow it because “they love animals”. If they truly loved animals then they would understand how important ecology is for EVERY animal in the ecosystem.
I only vaguely followed the Scruton sacking when it happened and am appalled to find out how many Conservative MPs were involved in the mob.
A couple of days ago on Unherd I found out there are Conservative MPs subscribing to the full Trans ideology including its fascist tactics.
Truly the woke have marched into even the most unlikely institutions.
Since their creed fits most people’s definition of insanity, I can only hope this is one of those swings of the political pendulum. There are signs it’s losing momentum, hopefully it will soon start to swing back.
If only Maggie was around to give it a push.
The Conservative Party is unfortunately becoming infested with Progressivism.
Even worse, much like other parties it is infested with politicians rather than the civic minded.
Sadly that is true. Do we not fly the LGBT flag on all our embassies in the world to show people how progressive we are?
My own Tory MP is as woke as can be but she doesn’t have pink hair or noserings but hides behind a fascade of conservatism. Always remember it was the tories who brought in gay marriage.
I have just finished Helen Joyce’s book on Trans so heartily endorse your view that it is insanity. I wonder if those MPs who subscribe to it do so partly out of ignorance. The ideologues trade on most people’s total ignorance of what, for example, self-declaration entails. I hope this is the reason anyway. Who are they? It is exceedingly dangerous and threatens the fabric of society, so of concern to all true conservatives.
The world of that we live in today, built on centuries of evolution, is so miraculous – we should be cherishing it not tearing it down. Roger Scruton understood this so well as do thinkers like Jordan Peterson and Thomas Sowell ( and Giles Fraser !). True conservatism is about cherishing what is good – not about free market economics.
Perhaps we need a new party that reflects the Roger Scruton philosophy which is sadly missing today, rather than the mob claiming to be today who bear little resemblance to any true conservatives I have known. Thatcher though far from perfect was by far the closest to many of those values than any Tory leader since.
The nearest we have is the, economically left of centre, but socially conservative, intellectually respectable,(excellent speakers at their recent AGM) SDP but they are hardly known in the country in spite of having fielded many candidates
I thought the SDP were part of the Liberals so wrote them off decades ago.
A small rump of the SDP broke way from the alliance and stayed dormant until 2 o r 3 years ago when it was resurrected by William Clouston etc al. It’s not like the liberals at all.
She was a great leader with the courage of her convictions but like Ceasar the knives of Brutus (Heseltine) and his contemporaries put paid to that.
Hear hear Frank. What has struck me throughout these comments is that on the definition of ‘conservatism’ that emerges from reading Scruton, there are precious few in the current parliamentary party, if any. And yes, one has to go back to Thatcher to find any.
Absolutely. It’s also not about standing still or yearning for a mythical golden age of spinsters cycling through the most to morning communion. It is about making incremental changes, adapting to new technology, building on what we have, making pragmatic choices and compromises where we need to be but never dispensing with our core fundamentally liberal values of personal autonomy and responsibility. Most of today’s Conservatives are not conservatives, they are weak minded ciphers.
“… It is about making incremental changes, adapting to new technology, building on what we have, making pragmatic choices and compromises where we need to be but never dispensing with our core fundamentally liberal values of personal autonomy and responsibility.”
Precisely! Once again I’m going to mention Popper’s The Open Society & Its Enemies: to improve mankind’s lot piecemeal, tentative, social engineering is what you need not the ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ style revolutionary approach.
We do need a controlled free market as well.
Yep. Mixed economy – no dogma – just what works satisfactorily
And in other news Jordan Peterson has resigned from his position as full tenured professor at the University of Toronto. There’s an article on nationalpost.com and a Youtube video.
Another person who found that he could not support the effects of the Woke on university life.
I detect a theme – brave individuals that put their philosophy before the constant pressure to conform. Who get articles along the lines of ‘he was a brave person but…’. There are not enough of them.
We may not all have a platfrom but we can still stand for truth where we are.
I like and appreciate the writing of Giles Fraser but this piece is a pretty comprehensive swing and miss. Scruton saying “forgive them for they know not what they do” in response to those attacking him is perfectly in keeping with our mandate from Christ. Forgive. Being Christ-like does not mean believing we are God incarnate. Nothing about Scruton quoting Christ on the cross is offensive to me nor does it imply that he believed his suffering was equivalent to what Christ suffered.
“Fully to understand the Easter story, it helps to be hounded by the mob” he wrote in The Telegraph in 2019, casting himself as the crucified.
Casting himself as the crucified? In fact, not at all. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Take up your cross. Accept the hostility of the mob, of those in love with this world. Take your beating. Turn the other cheek. You’re a priest. How did you miss that?
I thought the same. Thanks for the post.
Yesterday I visited St. Edmund King and Martyr Church in Southwold to see the rood screen and to pray. Someone was playing the piano magnificently in there even though he was practising, Mozart I think. It’s a beautiful church, the rood screen particularly pretty and angels look down from the roof above.
I’m not too far from Southwold. I’ll put a visit on my to do list. Thanks
Thank-you for this information; I shall be in Suffolk next month so I shall visit this church.
Martin and Linda,
If you have time and have’nt seen it already there is also Holy Trinity Church Blythburgh – The Cathedral of the Marshes, which is just a few a few miles inland from Southwold and well worth a detour.
Thanks Claire. I used to pass Blythburg regularly without ever going in the church. It always struck me as incongruous- a huge church in a village you’d miss if you blink.
I’ll stop next time.
Another chursch to put on my list. Isuppose I had better let my husband make a few choices too, though. 🙂
I’m in Suffolk too. Perhaps we should form an unherd church crawlers sub-group…
Thank you for this recommendation. I live in Woodbridge so will make a point of visiting. I often visit churches as they are so full of history. I use a book by Trevor Cooper called The Journal of William Dowsing – Iconoclasm in East Anglia during the English Civil War. This sets out what was destroyed during those times and how some locals resisted the soldiers. The church in Ufford is well worth a visit, especially to view the font.
Many thanks Giles for this honest reflection on your own struggles in these difficult and complicated times. I too have found myself — to my own surprise — becoming a ‘conservative’ as I witness the attacks on great creative artists from the past (such as Beethoven) in the drive to ‘decolonise’ Western culture. I see no objection to decolonising the cultures which were colonised, but decolonising the coloniser’s culture (eg French and British culture) makes no sense. Plus it is a purely negative pursuit – there is nothing or next to nothing to replace the culture that is to be destroyed.
Just a vacous puffed up pride for achieving corruption.
Conservatism. To conserve what works. To hold on to things you love and that have meaning to you. To preserve a sense of continuity and connection. Evolution not revolution. Moderation not extremism. Rejection of change for change’s sake. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
If I read this essay right, Giles Fraser seems to be coming round to an understanding that conservatism literally means the conservation of the wisdom of the ages. But he’s not quite there yet. Writes the author: Sir Roger was no saint, he had a mournful demeanor, for all his faults… Many caveats: why any at all and why so personal, not of his ideas, but of the man himself? This is because, perhaps, he can’t yet entirely give up the failed ideals he once cherished. Let them go!
Having read much of his writing and watched perhaps 50 hours of his lectures and interviews, Sir Roger’s greatest contribution, in my eyes, was in the arts. He reiterated our Western aesthetic tradition: Art (with a capital “A”) is not the regurgitation of the ugliness of the world by hacks; it is the concrete expression of the artist’s discovery of transcendent Beauty and of Truth. Of course, the hacks attacked him. He identified their fraud upon Art.
Walk through the Renaissance wing of any art gallery; listen to virtually any musical work of the 19th century; read anything by Byron or Tennyson, and then walk through the “avant garde” wing, put on Penderecki or Vanilla Fudge; and read the so-called “poetry” dirtying up the pristine white pages of academic poetry journals. The destruction of our aesthetic tradition has been a holocaust. Only a return to those traditional (and thus conservative) principles will make our arts more satisfying and nourishing and worthwhile and lasting. That is what Roger Scruton’s work means to me.
Can anybody name a Conservative government which espoused Scruton’s philosophy? I can’t. It’s in the nature of governments of any political colour to promise change. No government ever got elected by saying let’s keep things as they are, or even let’s keep the good things (like marriage) as they are. Scruton’s philosophy is best expressed in rural feudalism or small Amish-type communities (not meant as a criticism).
It is unrealistic to keep all things as they are. (See “The Leopard”.) Change is sometimes necessary to reflect how the world inevitably does change, but a conservative approach is to be cautious, maybe suspicious, of change, to introduce it slowly and cautiously, and above all, as Fraser says, and Scruton said, to ensure that it enhances beauty and makes life a finer thing.
There can be no better example than his role in improving housing. We need more housing, we ought to have better and more long-lasting housing, and above all our architecture should be much more beautiful. The volume housebuilders are a plague upon us.
” . . . a conservative approach is to be cautious.” Yes, Roger once said in a Q and A after a talk, I think it was, that whereas the Maoists or any variety of communist will have a loud banner with words such as Advance! Or The Struggle Continues! or some such, we conservatives march behind the banner which says: Hesitate. As often with Roger, it was humorous but precise.
A lot don’t hesitate as they want to make their mark now even though they are proved wrong in later years.
…qv Chesterton’s Fence? Which is to say, don’t sweep anything away until you are quite sure, after reflection, that you know why it was put there.
To my certain knowledge, Roger’s views about homosexuality altered over time. In that respect, he was like many people. It is a particularly wretched aspect of current social discourse that views widely held the day before yesterday become today’s anathemas. As usual, more understanding of context is required. Being a writer, he took the risk that his recorded opinions would become outdated, or indeed no longer reflect his own views. But it is a pity that Giles Fraser’s natural desire to write a balanced article about someone he rightly admired should entail the deployment of this particular trip-wire.
PS: as for Giles’s explanation for the reason why Roger loved Tristan and Isolde, a topic he expounded on at book length, I can only repeat the schoolmaster’s dread injunction: ‘See me’.
If anyone’s still reading I’d like to add an anecdote about Scruton. In 2016 a friend of mine organised a public debate between Scruton and a well known traditional left-wing critic (who happened to be homosexual). It was a wonderful example of a civilised conversation each courteously agreeing to differ with the other. But more tellingly they found common ground in a visceral dislike for identity politics. This has changed the left as (among others) Julie Burchill argues in Welcome to the Woke Trials: How #Identity Killed Progressive Politics.
You’ll have to grapple with this Giles…..
Feminist Burchill was fine with identity politics until the monster she helped create turned on her. No sympathy.
Another contributor has also questioned Fraser’s assertion on Scruton’s presumed disapproval of homosexuality. Are there direct references anyone can point to that would confirm such views, or, for instance, how strongly/ far back in time he might have held them? His warm friendship and, one confidently assumes, political kinship with Douglas Murray would appear to contradict this potentially harmful & sketchy implication on his good name. Otherwise, an extremely thoughtful informative and sensitive piece on one of the great philosophers of our troubled times.
I only once heard Scruton on ‘homosexuality’. I did not think his antipathy to certain aspects of the gay culture and lifestyle, especially if described as ‘normal’, was unreasonable; in fact quite the opposite when thinking of the casualties both within and outside of them. It was his deep concern both for the individual and for society that prompted his comments as far as I could see. He thought the worship of youth and the male body a dangerous path to follow, especially if this began to dictate to the rest of society. I did not sense that he had any antipathy to any individual gay on the grounds of their homosexuality; rather, it was an individuals character and actions and agendas which distressed him. But I realise that I may well have misunderstood him. On his Conservatism, Fraser seems to have nailed it well.
Lovely reflections, Giles. Perhaps this is why I love watching the Repair Shop!
Looking for the good in things, even those things that have become broken, compromised, cancelled or forgotten, could be another description of the conservative temperament. His essay in The Times, from 1984, titled The Art of Motor-Cycle Maintenance, is a love letter to the repairer. “The person who repairs must love the broken object, and must love the process of repair.”
Boy, I’m half glass full on this piece. Too many contradictory or odd assumptions about a man he knew, that I know barely anything about. The piece has a loving tone but there are barbs in there and, possibly willful, misunderstandings, so I decide to step into the breech or firing line!
Scrutton quoted something the Bible said Jesus said and that, somehow, is the sage comparing himself to Jesus!? No Giles, he is not. Scrutton is merely taking the noble one’s example of humility and/or wisdom. Why not commend him on his accuracy and the spirit of it? If Scrutton had demonstrated any other kind of exemplary behaviour by Jesus such as helping a stranger in need, would that have warranted criticism? .
On conservatism, which was the most interesting part of the piece for me, it encourages ways of thinking about it. English conservatism is very much a tangible subject to tackle, than conservatism per se, anywhere in the world.
Conservatism can be thought of as two orthogonal pillars: a sense of place, and the dynamics to ever return to close to that place.
Place is that sense and situation of utter belief and culture of moderation, of peace, of tolerance for all except intolerance itself. This is in effect the middle and this is what middle England, the masses believe in and want.
The dynamics to pull us back to this place is, in effect, a dampening, compensatory spring. And with conservatism that spring is very strong. It does not like excessive change. Small changes that pull the place forward in quality are desired but evaluated cautiously.
Considering the mighty Industrial Revolution, it was a self-imposed change of massive non-conservative proportions. Precisely why, on the whole, the conservative land-owning classes did not lead the charge – it was working men who wanted change. Men who were hugely ambitious, industrious and now unshackled from the land could make themselves self-made men, rather than only by granted favours from the establishment or their families. So, this was not conservatism in temperament at all, even though it generated vast riches and traditionally associated with capitalism. And this increase in British wealth, did power expansion and strengthened the Empire. Such radical and fast change for millions of workers with increased wages, stable work and better living conditions was socialist in politic and temperament. It was radical, it wrought huge change on our society. Might one even claim that as capitalism and adventurism had started the British Empire, it was socialist ideals that grew it!?
I recommend the 2021 Hook lecture given by Dr Carmody Grey to enable us to fully grasp that humanity stand to lose every life-form that we love and have loved because we are trying so hard to sustain an ecocidal system of growth economics, rather than giving priority to Life on Earth itself. It certainly looks as though the only type of love we are capable of is indeed “.. a relationship between dying things,”, for we currently seem focussed on destroying both our environment and inevitably ourselves as well.
I then must be at fault for loving my dogs? I do not wish to dissect this love, nor the love I have for my husband or my children or my dead parents. I suspect, if I did, some of it would be selfish, maybe a great deal of it. Loving my dogs however, even if a large proportion of that love is because they seem to love me, does not prevent me from loving other animals or people. I think the more we love the more we can love howsoever imperfect that love may be.
“The presence of “West Indian communities … offends a sense of what English life should be like,” he wrote. What a terrible thing to say.”
Note he did not refer to individuals, but to communities of them. What’s the difference? The answer is that communities of foreign born individuals all from one place abroad may import and maintain their own customs and values at the expense of the customs and values of their new home, and that is something which is still controversial, not broadly accepted, and has led to neuralgic social problems to which we have no answer as yet.
Not, I hasten to add, with the people from what used to be called the West Indies, that is. Britons have eventually imported much of that culture along with its people to an extent that it has resulted in laughably daft accusations from race-baiters of “cultural appropriation” which is just a means by which silly progressives reveal their own bigotry: it was fine for foreign culture to inflitrate the UK as long as native Britons hated it; once it became evident that most native Britons welcomed such foreign cultural influences, suddenly it wasn’t fun any more for progressive activists.
The dichotomy we face in the UK nowadays isn’t about whether culture is foreign in itself, but whether it can coexist viably with native culture and values. It is very clear that this is not always possible, and it is a problem that we cannot delay confronting.
On the subject of Roger Scruton generally, I have read only one of his books, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, and it contains one of the most memorably brilliant passages of prose I have ever read, in describing the conflict of ideas on law and lawmaking that emerge from a study of Hayek and Dworkin. You would not normally think of such stuff as particularly riveting, but what struck me was how incredibly good Scruton was at making the arguments accessible and how elegantly expressed were complex concepts and abstract ideas.
We are indeed the worse for his absence from public life.
Oh. I see. So Roger Scruton had some “wrong thoughts” on race. And on gays. The Horror! And whatabout wimmin? Surely he had something shameful to say about that that would confirm him as a paid-up card-carrying racist-sexist-homophobe.
And why not throw in Nazi Carl Schmitt and his definition of the political as the friend vs. enemy distinction. I mean why not? Just to muddy the waters. And do a bit of virtue-signaling to the North London luvvies.
I would like to have met Roger Scruton. I would rather that Giles Fraser had not met him.
Did you miss the entire point of the article? Despite some views that Fraser disagrees with he still had a lot of time for Scruton and held him in high regard.
Why shouldn’t Fraser be free to criticise the views of his friend that he doesn’t agree with? Do you only have friends that think exactly the same way as you do, an accusation regularly (and often deservedly) thrown at the woke left?
You are a poor friend if your sincere criticism comes only after the death of your “friend”. It reads like the words of a coward!
I wasn’t privy to their conversations when he was alive so I have no idea what they discussed
Only one person does, and it seems unjust that only his self serving account should be considered reliable when no one is able to gainsay him.
..he certainly believed in beauty. And that is where his God is to be found. I am reminded of the hymn:
‘God is good. God is truth. God is beauty. Praise him!’
Beautifully put, Giles.
Fraser tells us Scruton “even compared himself to Jesus”.
Jeez! Hard to see why he is such a fan, especially after noting (“though it pains me to say it”) views of Scruton’s that were “pretty close to racism”. It gets worse. Fraser quickly glosses over Scruton’s opinions on homosexuality, as he does on racism, conceding they were “unacceptable” but without going further.
It should not be overlooked or downplayed that Scruton was all too strong on downright hate speech. He blatantly made a virtue out of stern vilification of sexualities that did not conform to his extremely narrow creed. While he does not go the whole Orwellian hog by recommending the establishment of a Ministry of Love with the sole function of stirring up hatred, his elevation of erotic love to sacral status is made explicitly at the expense of what he sees as unworthy expressions of sexuality, which must be denounced with deliberately hateful, vilifying terminology, such as “perversion” and “obscenity”, bolstered by strong adjectives such as “disgusting” and “vile”.
In his view both masturbation and homosexuality are seen as morally suspect, if not perverted, along with a wide range of other sexual activity that many today would see as perfectly normal. Indeed, the concept of perversion is extended to the intellectual realm, so we learn that “…in its perverted forms – in the forms of rationalism and Enlightenment – reason wars against mystery, and prepares the conditions for its own eclipse” (Sexual Desire. A moral philosophy of the erotic, 1986, p. 71).
His focus on the avoidance of “perversion”, his insinuation that homosexual acts are morally suspect on grounds of narcissism and obscenity, and his idealisation of the permanent pair-bond with a single individual, all turn out to be leading up to the defence of what Scruton himself calls “bourgeois marriage”, an institution now more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Grounded in religious beliefs and mores that are no longer the glue of modern life serving to bind communities together, such ideals have long been no more than relics, as dead and devoid of meaning as the word “bourgeois” itself and the life of prosperous social dominion it connotes. It belongs to a nineteenth century world of male dominance, characterised by values we no longer support, ranging from enthusiasm for blood sports to wars of imperialist aggression.
Fraser ludicrously claims Scruton was “intellectually generous”. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. He was a mean-spirited bully.
For a fuller investigation of this claim see my article Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal.
Thank you for the link.
Unherd readers might be interested in the following extracts of the article written and cited by Mr O’Carroll, which perhaps explains the otherwise mystifying claim that the invariably courteous Roger Scruton was a ‘bully’.
“I would speculate that children whose sexuality is encouraged from early childhood onward by their parents, and who as a result come to associate sexual feelings with warmth, affection and gentleness, would grow up unaccustomed to sexual aggression and violence and would be appalled by it. Such a scenario would be favoured by those societies in which relaxed intimacy was a feature not just of parent–child relations but also of children and adolescents with their peers, or with any willing partner they might find, of whatever age. A key advantage of such arrangements is the avoidance, especially in adolescence when the sexual urge typically becomes very strong, of the deep frustration involved in years of waiting to find a sexual partner, or indeed of having any interpersonal sexual experience—frustration that will inevitably lead to pent up aggression and favour the hyper-competitive, selfish philosophy summed up in the saying “All’s fair in love and war”.
… the theory that broadly sensual deprivation plays a crucial role in future mental health, including the early experience of pleasurable bodily intimacy of a kind that cannot sensibly be denied a sexual component, now has substantial empirical support. Prescott came to the conclusion that a dearth of touch in the upbringing of children in the United States was responsible for most of them being susceptible to Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation (SAD), a condition related to depression, violent behavior, and stimulus seeking.
While the greatest volume of research has focused on sensory deprivation in infancy and early childhood, both Prescott and Narvaez have pointed to a continuing and largely unmet need for bodily intimacy, including free sexual expression, throughout childhood and the teen years. The dangers inherent in suppressing this need was well expounded in Judith Levine’s book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex (Levine 2002).
The idea of a sexual “sandpit” may be invoked, where sexual and relationship learning can take place without the burden of adult responsibilities, just as, traditionally, little girls have long been able to rehearse motherhood by playing with dolls.
The Muria people of Bastar, in central India, provide just such an example. Anthropologist Verrier Elwin described the elaborate sexual apprenticeship children have, which takes place principally in a special house for the young, known as the ghotul. Infants and toddlers sleep in their parents’ house. There are no locked doors and these little children inevitably see something of their parents’ intimacies. By the time the children are six or seven a new domestic arrangement is brought into play. The child goes off to the ghotul, a self-regulated domain with its own boy leader and girl leader. The little children are free to come and go as they please between the ghotul and the parental home. Within the ghotul the children are free to engage in sex rehearsal play. Adolescents are able to have intercourse as they choose, able to experiment with different partners and under no pressure to make a premature commitment (Elwin 1947).
This is not to say that such an arrangement could simply be airlifted from its tribal context and dropped into modern society. One obvious concern would be girls becoming pregnant. Elwin says that in practice this was a rare occurrence in the ghotul, even in the absence of modern contraceptives. But the point here is to champion an ideal, not to present a manifesto with detailed policies ready for implementation.”
I am assuming that Mr O’Carroll is a different Thomas O’Carroll from the one described by Wikipedia as “a British writer and pro-paedophile advocate, imprisoned for conspiracy to corrupt public morals and the distribution of child pornography, and with multiple convictions for sexual crimes against children, a former chairman of the now disbanded Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
It’s peculiar how any dissent from the secular-leftist orthodoxy about homosexuality is now considered homophobia. In fact, if you’re not a willing advocate for all imaginable LGTBQ policy ambitions some will consider you an enemy of the good. That’s messed up. One should be free to find homosexuality repugnant, dangerous, and sinful just as one should be free to claim that homosexuality is the path to enlightenment. Unfortunately, to believe the former is to risk being railroaded, fired, beaten, ostracized. All in the name of “inclusion”.
Mikey Mike wrote: “One should be free to find homosexuality repugnant, dangerous, and sinful”.
I agree. And, yes, I strongly agree it is wrong anyone should be “railroaded, fired, beaten, ostracized” for their views, of whatever kind. All of those things have befallen me, incidentally, at the hands of those who hold conservative views. In line with Scruton’s militant hostility, religion-inspired zealots and bigots have long been relentless persecutors of every kind of dissent.
Freedom of speech is vital. But that doesn’t oblige Giles Fraser to be a besotted fanboy of Scruton and his intolerance.
You’ll understand why the testimony of an anti-conservative about the endemic bigotry of conservatives might appear fraught with an irreconcilable conflict of interest.
In line with Scruton’s militant hostility, religion-inspired zealots and bigots have long been relentless persecutors of every kind of dissent.
That’s a pretty bold statement, which is fine. The problem is, that’s all it is. “I told you conservatives were zealots and bigots and persecutors of dissent and now I’ve proven it by saying it’s true.” There’s a lot of that going around.
Mikey Mike misrepresents me, putting these words in my mouth: “I told you conservatives were zealots and bigots and persecutors of dissent…
I said no such thing. My point was not against conservatives, many of whom I like and respect e.g. I often read and admire Danny Finkelstein and (former Conservative MP) Matthew Parris.
What I actually said was that “religion-inspired zealots and bigots have long been relentless persecutors of every kind of dissent”. If you think I am wrong about that, please say so. It will not be difficult to prove my claim.
I think you said it best when you said, “it is not difficult to prove my claim.” If it were you easy, I suspect you would have done it by now. A repetition of a self-serving set of beliefs is, of course, not proof that those beliefs are founded on a defensible set of facts. (For full disclosure, I’m from the American south. I’m not familiar with any English conservatives who aren’t named Roger Scruton, Daniel Hannan, Winston Churchill, or Margaret Thatcher.)
Come off it, MM! Even someone from the Deep South cannot be wholly ignorant of the many hundreds of years in Europe in which heretics were persecuted, tortured and burned at the stake. Surely I do not have to remind you about the Inquisition? Or the religious persecution that led to the Pilgrim Fathers? Without this long and terrible history your family would probably never have gone to the Deep South in the first place. Why would I, or anyone, be called upon to prove anything so obvious?
You’re quite a charmer, Tom. Even someone from the deep south…
Even someone from the deep south…
Even someone from the deep south would accept your surrender. You appear to have had an epiphany: you can have your own truth, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
Call him what you like, but I admire people who prefer to be grounded in their intellectually developed beliefs vs. being a rudderless ship or a dandelion seed blowing in the wind. Then it becomes your choice to associate with them or not vs. railing against them.
Warren T wrote: “I admire people who prefer to be grounded in their intellectually developed beliefs vs. being a rudderless ship or a dandelion seed blowing in the wind.”
Then you should admire Jeremy Corbyn, for instance. But do you? Corbyn’s steadfastness in the face of relentless denigration has been legendary.
On comparable grounds, I might even be due some modest credit myself. But will you have the intellectual consistency and generosity of spirit to grant it? You may not like my views but I defy you to argue that I have not stuck to my guns under heavy fire for decades, on matters over which my opinion is on record, as in my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case.
I could admire Mr. Corbyn but chose not to associate with him. I can’t, however, admire, nor associate, with anyone who endorses pedophilia in any form whatsoever.
Mr O’Carroll I had some temptation at first to engage with you concerning what I hoped were your misunderstandings concerning Roger. But then you brought in Corbyn. As far as I know, Corbyn has not written at any serious length or in any serious way a philosophical or ethical explanation of whatever world view he has. He is however exactly the sort of person Burke warns against who would destroy all that we hold dear in order to advance his oikophobia. His opposition to the national self determination of the Jewish people (in the cause of supporting Arab Palestinian self determination) has also placed Corbyn and his Labour acolytes, on the wrong side of the oldest hatred of all: antisemitism. So with this engagement, I guess I’m saying it’s not worth engaging with you on the great Roger Scruton – who by the way risked his life in Eastern Europe while the total boy was on hols there, if reports of that are true.
>exactly the sort of person Burke warns against
Well he would, wouldn’t he? Edmund Burke is famed as a small c conservative, a traditionalist. Not everyone is, you know, although it might seem like that here in the UnHerd bubble, with perhaps a rather limited view of all that “we” hold dear!
As for antisemitism, I would not defend Corbyn’s record. I do not think he was a racialist personally, but he does appear to have indulged the “socialism of fools“.
One thing I “hold dear” is free speech, largely because it allows us to hear views outside our own little bubbles, our conceptual comfort zones. Maybe it should be called “free hearing”, or better still, “free listening” – unfortunately, a lot of loud mouths are not very good at it. For my part, I would be very happy to hear you out as to why I am wrong about Scruton. I try to keep an open mind.
Childhood ‘Innocence’ is Not Ideal: Virtue Ethics and Child–Adult S*x
Not the most compelling argument I’ve ever heard. In fact not an argument at all. Hence irrefutable. Good God? You might as well have said Ken Dodd for all the sense you have made.
Are you the same Tom O’Carroll jailed in 1981 for corrupting public morals? If so, you’ve learned nothing in the past 40 years.
“Fraser ludicrously claims Scruton was “intellectually generous”. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. He was a mean-spirited bully.”
All this shows is that the author of the piece knows what he’s talking about while you do not.