Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Adolescent insouciance

From an interesting review essay about Roger Scruton:
.... In his account in Gentle Regrets of how he became a conservative, Scruton writes that “Burke summarized all my instinctive doubts about the cry for liberation, all my hesitations about progress and about the unscrupulous belief in the future that has dominated and (in my view) perverted modern politics.” Scruton sided with Plato and Burke in defending a “form of politics that would also be a form of nurture—‘care of the soul,’” a care that would not forget absent generations. He had no time of day for “adolescent insouciance, a throwing away of all customs, institutions and achievements, for the sake of a momentary exultation which could have no lasting sense save anarchy.” ....

.... Scruton’s philosophy is profoundly anti-totalitarian, opposed as it is to every form of scientism, reductionism, and contempt for the human person. Scruton has always defended three great “transcendentals”—the person, freedom, and the sacred. These are at the core of his metaphysical conservatism. Twentieth-century totalitarianism can be understood as a frontal assault on the bodies and souls of human beings—and of the three great transcendentals that give substance to human dignity. ....

...Scruton saw in ideological revolution the self-deification of man through the positing of an “ideal community” that negated the existing order of things. “The worship of an idol”—self-deified man—“becomes a worship of nothing,” the triumph of pure negation. Only the restoration of the claims of a transcendental God can free humanity from a potent and destructive nothingness. ....

.... Religion, unlike scientism, can do justice to the consciousness, freedom, and moral accountability inherent in the human person. In recent years, Scruton has concluded that God is not dead but is “waiting for us to make room for him” .... In Conversations, Scruton calls the Incarnation, the death of a mediating God on behalf of sinful man, a “profound thing” since God himself reconciles us to our own deaths. He also writes movingly about the penitence and forgiveness at the heart of the Christian dispensation. ....

...Dooley asks Scruton if he is hopeful “about the cause of conservatism generally.” Scruton responds that he is not. Yet he adds that the other side, the academic and cultural Left, has nothing to offer except “the repudiation of this feature of our inheritance, now of that.” Scruton ends on an elevating note. Despite everything, we must hold on to what we “know and love.” We must be practitioners of the Platonic “care of the soul” and upholders of the great and primordial Burkean “contract” that connects the living, the dead, and the yet to be born. Above all, we must be sensitive to the “glimmers of transcendence” that emanate from “the edge of things.” ....