Friday, 14 June 2013

About Roger Scruton

R.S. @ 'Green Philosophy' / photo source

Aesthetic philosopher, writer and sometimes-composer, Roger Vernon Scruton was born to a working class family in Buslingthorpe, Lincolnshire, England in 1944. In his lifetime he has written over 30 books, published two novels, some textbooks, and has composed two operas. His father, John ‘Jack’ Scruton was a teacher who was raised as a working-class Manchurian with a deep love for the countryside and equally deep disdain for the upper classes. Though both Roger’s parents were raised as Christians, they brought up Roger as a humanist first and foremost.

As a youth he attended Royal Grammar School High Wycombe (from 1954 – 1961), but was expelled from that school shortly after being awarded a scholarship to study at Cambridge. There he studied moral sciences (more commonly today referred to as philosophy) at the Jesus College from 1962, receiving his BA in 1965, and completing his Masters’ in 1967. In 1972 he completed his doctoral thesis on aesthetics, also at Cambridge.

Academic Postings

The Hall at Peterhouse College / photo source
Scruton lectured at Birkbeck College in London from 1971 to 1992, since when he has had positions at Boston University, the American Enterprise Institute in DC and the University of St Andrews.

Besides his impressive credentials in lecturing in some of England’s finest academic institutions, he also played a role in forming the Salisbury Review, a political journal, which he continued to edit for 18 years.

It was shortly after graduating from Cambridge that Scruton has his first ever teaching job, placed at “College Universitaire” in Pau, France. It was in France that he met his first wife, Danielle Laffitte, whom he married in 1973. Shortly after the marriage, in 1974, his first book, Art and Imagination was published, and that same year he became one of four board members of the Conservative Philosophy Group: a think-tank assigned with the task of helping the British conservative party to realign their moral compass. Scruton and Laffitte were divorced in 1979.

Legal and Political Involvement

Roger Scruton / photo source
Though he studied law at the Inns of Court from 1974 to 1976, he turned down the call to the bar in 1978. This may have had something to do with the views espoused in his 1980 publication, the Meaning of Conservatism, in which he argued that the British Right needed to shift its focus from economic to moral issues. This, he revealed to the Guardian newspaper in 2010, led to him being vilified by his colleagues at the Conservative Philosophy Group.

In 1990, Scruton began a year of work at the Jan Hus Education Foundation, which was perhaps the culmination of his involvement in the support of dissidents in Eastern Europe from the Communist Party.  He played a large role in assisting the education of Czechoslovakian dissidents by linking them with counterparts in Western universities.

With the Jan Hus Educational Foundation he (along with other academics) helped to smuggle in textbooks and even appeared in person to give lectures in underground networks, specifically in Prague and Brno, now part of the Czech Republic. He recalls people seated in cellars studying structured ourse material through papers smuggled in via his diplomatic (read: diplomatically immune) bag. He eventually managed to arrange for some of the Czech dissidents to study an external theology degree at Cambridge, for no theological reason – only because the theology faculty was the only one that responded to Scruton and the Jan Hus Educational Foundation’s calls for help. For his efforts, he was awarded the First of June Prize by the Czech city of Plzen in 1993, and then 1998 was awrded the Czech Republic’s Medal of Merit by the then-President, Vaclav Havel.

In later years he moved to the English countryside village of Wiltshire, and there discovered a passion for fox-hunting with hounds. It was through this hobby that he met his current wide, Sophie Jeffreys, whom married in 1996 and has two children with.