Interview with Roger Scruton
Thinking in Public
February 14, 2011
(This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated)
Mohler: This is “Thinking in Public”, a program dedicated to intelligent conversation about front line theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. I’m Albert Mohler, your host, and President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dr. Roger Scruton has been for the last quarter century or more one of the most prominent and influential public intellectuals in the English speaking world. He is currently Adjunct Scholar of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. He also has served as a Fellow of Black Friar’s Hall in Oxford and is research professor for the Institute for Psychological Studies. He is a writer, philosopher, and public commentator. His many books are among the most influential in the fields of philosophy and cultural studies. And it is a great honor to welcome Dr. Roger Scruton to Thinking In Public. Dr. Scruton welcome. We’re very glad to have this conversation.
Scruton: Thank you very much for inviting me.
Mohler: You are first of all at least in my mind a philosopher. I have used your modern philosophy text in my modern theology classes. How would you describe the modern world as you just tried to situate it in the larger frame of thought. That something came before modern philosophy and perhaps you would argue something has come after. Where are we in terms of the stream of Western thinking?
Scruton: Well, that’s a very leading question. Obviously, the modern period as we understand it is something which came into existent in the 17th century with the rising consciousness of Europe of its own peculiar destiny and also the birth of modern science and the kind of public culture of skepticism toward traditional religious forms. And, I think partly that was a result of the religious conflict of the 17th century. But I think there was a slow steady opening up of the human spirit to doubt and hesitations to multiple views and so on and ending with what we have today which is a kind of open-ended relativism about everything which is what people mean by post-modern.
Mohler: Now, let me ask you just in terms of that postmodern mood of modern thinking rightly reduced to its relativistic core was it inevitable given the project of modern philosophy?
Scruton: I don’t think it was. I mean modern philosophy began in the early days of the Enlightenment and the Enlightenment whatever it …It had of its fundamental concerns the pursuit of objective truth and of standards which enabled us to determine the difference between truth and falsehood, validity and invalidity, and good and evil, and so on. And, I think of post modernism as a kind of betrayal of that cause. I don’t think it was inevitable I think to a great extent those people most charged with educating the young in our world that’s to say the universities have backed off from the duty of teaching the difference between the objective and the subjective.
Mohler: Where do you see this postmodern movement in philosophy and modern thought going? It appears to have something of a nihilistic end rather written into the DNA of its thinking structures.
Scruton: You’re absolutely right. Obviously, a movement which says that there is no distinction between right and wrong or true and false is not a movement you can take seriously because everything it says contradicts itself. And I think that this is…of increasing disillusion with higher education. And with the attempt to teach the curriculum as we have known it in the past.
Mohler: Now when you’re thinking of modern philosophy where do you situate your own trajectory of thought? How would you place yourself within that context of modern thought?
Scruton: Well, I was an undergraduate at Cambridge in the 1960’s, and I was told very strongly under the influence of the..that was taught there which was analytical philosophy which many people dismiss as merely verbal playing with words and so on. But I was very much influenced by the emphasis on logic, on the idea of a valid argument and in particular the work of Liechtenstein had an influence. But during the course of my time there I discovered the philosophy of Kant and that since then has been the major influence on me.
Mohler: I want to turn later to your work on conservatism. But one word you use, one argument you use in your book on the meaning of conservatism is you say to be conservative is always to be on the defensive at least in terms of the cultural attitude. I wonder if the same is true for the theist. In your work Modern Philosophy you deal with God and the problem of the knowledge of God. And I just have to ask you straightforwardly is it your thinking that the modern project of thought definitely puts theism on the defensive?
Scruton: Well, enlightenment puts theism on the defensive that’s true yes. But of course the question is, what actually you are defending, my own view is that there will always be that inclination to believe which will resurge however many defeats it suffers in the short term because it concerns our long term sense of who and what we are.
Mohler: Well, then let me ask if you think it’s possible to ground in a modern worldview without reference to theism. In other words, let me just ask you, is that in a sense Kant’s project?
Scruton: Well, it was the project of grounding morality and reason alone. But he himself recognized that in some way God kept coming back as it were precipitated out of this enterprise. He was always there and the argument gets swept away into the world of illusion but still the face of God is staring at him. And I think that Kent’s story is a very interesting one and probably is the story of our times. But we are constantly attempting to ground our worldview in the capacities that we have for thinking and feeling. And always it falls short and always we need that other thing and so we come back to it without necessarily having any proof of it.
Mohler: Well, you know where Kants speaks of those two great mysteries that were the great consuming questions of his life the starry heavens above and the moral life within the theologian just has to come back to that and say I rather dare you to try to answer those two questions without reference to God, to theism. But in once sense modern philosophy has been pretty much a straightforward attempt to do that. How would you judge the current state of philosophy as its being taught in the university cultures?
Scruton: Well, it difficult to generalize especially in America you have so many different traditions but in my tradition which is the academic analytical philosophy I would say it is gradually marginalized itself. It has become an academic specialism which has little or no relevance to the big questions that concern the individual and his own destiny and his relation to the world. I think it continues as a kind of game really, an intellectual game, which is fun for many people but extremely frustrating for those who come to it wanting an answer.
Mohler: Stephen Hawking has recently argued that philosophy is dead because it basically had its run and now it’s completely left to science and to scientism to answer the great questions of life including the meaning of life. Is that kind of the bottom line of what happened to philosophy in at least the British universities?
Scruton: Well, if it is true and I mean you can see why he says this. It’s the fault of the philosophers it’s not because philosophy as a discipline had to go that way. I think it became an academic discipline marked out for itself the places where it based to play. Rather than those difficult areas where you have to go out fighting.
Mohler: You have a very elegant way of writing. It’s one of the things that attracted me to your work. Many philosophers are I think almost intentionally opaque. They may think that that is something of an academic achievement . You write with a kind of elegance. The last sentence in your chapter on God and modern philosophy reads clearly they are real questions, and we cannot live as philosophers without some attitude towards them, and I think that’s a very elegant way of summing that up. I read your chapter on God and one of the things that struck me is that you certainly raise the questions, frame them in a classical, philosophical framework and put it out there. And you did so very effectively with leaving the reader with no understanding of where you land on those questions
Scruton: Right. well of course the book is intended to explore the questions and present them to the reader so that the reader begins to think. And obviously putting my own position too emphatically might put the reader off. But my own, I suppose if I were to put my cards on the table I’d say I am a skeptical Anglican. That is to say I am a Christian in the old English tradition, always worrying about whether this or that aspect of the Christian faith can really hold up to the interrogations of reason but nevertheless prepared to put my heart there while I am alive.
Mohler: In your chapter on God, and it is in modern philosophy it’s in your shorter work, you made an argument that I have to tell you as a theologian I have picked up and citing you have used many, many times. And it’s somewhat I think a rather unexpected argument to come from a philosopher certainly of your tradition. It’s more of a phenomenological statement but nonetheless I think it just nails a very essential point. You said, and I’m paraphrasing you here, that if you really want to understand what a community believes about God or what a faith system for lack of wanting to just say a religion believes about God, you argue you should pay some heed to their systematic theologies and their writings and all the rest. But you should pay primary attention to observing them at worship. And I think that was a profound insight from a philosopher.
Scruton: That’s kind of you to say that. I agree that is an important thought for me. Religion isn’t simply a collection of doctrines. Many of the doctrines that are special to any particular faith are probably not understood by those who belong to the faith. But what they do understand is the relation between themselves and God and how to put themselves into that relation. And to speak intimacy with God through prayer and that is something which you know very well from the American experience and Americans are very good at.
Mohler: Hearing Roger Scruton’s voice it’s important to remember that his voice as a metaphor for his influence has been absolutely massive. First of all in the United Kingdom where he had a great deal of influence not only in terms of the trajectory of academic philosophy in one sense but also perhaps even more importantly in the popular culture and the larger culture where a public intellectual can make a real difference for instance and influence someone like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. You can understand why his thoughts on conservatism might also be of tremendous importance. Let’s turn to that.
Among his many intellectual contributions Dr. Roger Scruton has made a tremendous contribution toward the definition of conservative thought. His thought originates on the other side of the pond where in the United Kingdom you can basically track something of the political realities on the ground through the seventies, eighties, nineties, and beyond by reading his writings. Dr. Scruton you have identified yourself as a conservative, and you did so as a defender of conservative thought in what was at least in both United Kingdom and the United States a rather unpopular season for conservatives. How did you come to this philosophical stance?
Scruton: Oh, I suppose it all happened to me in Paris in 1968. I was just an ordinary a-political student, post graduate at the time, but I saw what the students were up to in this desperation of the Marxist worldview anti-bourgeois agitation and all that. And I thought to myself whatever these people believe I believe the opposite. So I set myself to find out what the opposite was and that’s when I began to explore the paths laid down by people like Edmund Burke, Alexis…and so on which defined a completely different conception of what politics should be and how people should exist in communities. And so it’s been a question of just spelling it out for myself on a voyage of intellectual discovery as well as of moral discovery.
Mohler: And your life and work has been rather intertwined with British politics to some extent. Tell us that story as well.
Scruton: Well, I certainly, I was very concerned when I realized there was another view from that of the liberal socialistic establishment. I was very concerned that politician should learn to articulate it. And I established something through friends of the conservative philosophy group back in 1974 the intention being to influence members of Parliament, conservative members of Parliament, to actually have a philosophy. And I have to say that the attempt was not greeted with the greatest of success but most politicians in a democracy are more interested in their individual careers then in the truth it seems. But I’ve constantly tried through journalism and through my positions of public intellectual to define the conservative’s position in a way that makes it credible in a democratic age. And I still carry on doing this often with a sense of despair I have to say but every now and then the message gets picked up and presented in some certainly more popular form and I feel a little…pleasure.
Mohler: Let me ask you just given your writings that it appears to me that you define conservative thought not only in terms of thought but in what we might call something of a mood. How would you define the basic conservative disposition toward reality and toward human society?
Scruton: Yes, I think you’re absolutely right. The mood idea is important. What I’ve come to think is that essentially the conservative is the person who is looking out for what he loves and seeking to protect it. As opposed to the left liberal as we know him from Europe and possible from America too who is looking out for the things he can hate, and pull down, and destroy. That’s why the family is so important in conservative thinking, that’s why religion is so important, why customs, traditions, ceremony, all the peaceful things which attach people to life which are always flattened by our agitated desire to improve things.
Mohler: When you speak about the conservative attitude, and I found it very helpful to think in those terms, there’s a certain, as we said, mood, there are certain set of intuitions, a certain set to use the Augustinian language of loves that very much mark conservative thought. And in your second chapter you really deal with what I think is in many ways the central issue that separates conservatism from liberalism and that is the stance one takes towards authority. And your chapter is entitled “Authority and Allegiance” but it seems to me that in one sense the liberal revolt against authority is the foundational issue.
Scruton: Yes that is true. This is the thing that liberals can’t accept. They can’t accept that somebody should have authority over them or that institutions and customs should be more important than their own decisions. And that’s what leads to the posture of rebellion. The anger against what is actual and my view is that it is an entirely negative thing that actually we as human beings as it were achieved our true feelings through obedience. It is contained actually in the Anglican prayer book where it refers to God whose service is perfect freedom. And that idea that freedom and obedience are actually different aspects of the same thing that is a conservative idea and something that liberals don’t seem to be able to accept.
Mohler: One of the things about conservatism I think you rightly define is that for conservatives we forfeit the Utopian option. And that is so that the vision of Utopian dreams is something that we willingly limit ourselves from being, from finding comfort in. And yet that seems to be where the basic liberal trajectory of thought is headed.
Scruton: Yes, of course if you’re, one should understand Utopianism not as a form of love for and desire for Utopia but rather as a way of excusing…desire to destroy the real, the actual. You know Utopia, if you look at them, they’re all designed to be self contradictory. People know that they can’t be achieved and that’s why they adhere to them. They give a permanent open ended excuse for destroying real things rather than just doing the Utopia itself.
Mohler: When you think about the 20th century and now within the first decade and a little more of the 21st century, you think about the pace of intellectual change. Can you think of any other period in human history that has brought about that kind of scale within that relatively short amount of time?
Scruton: Well I can…you’re right although I think if you look at what happened to Athens after the death of Socrates. It very rapidly changed from a…civilization to an ordinary second rate place where nothing of interest happens. And that was a huge transition. Maybe the end of the Roman Empire was similar.
Mohler: Well, it’s hard to imagine in the trajectory of modern thought how things can continue at this pace of change. But moral change is taking place around us at a scale that really does defy the imagination. I’m thinking of just one issue such as homosexuality where in both British and American culture it had been even criminalized as recently in the United States as the year 2003. And yet now, it’s virtually on a trajectory where one is criminalized for opposing its normalization.
Scruton: Absolutely. That’s a very good example of what I think Michael Polanyicalls moral inversion where a moral assumption which is universally endorsed is suddenly turned upside down. So it becomes a crime to endorse it. I think the homosexuality issue is one of several. And it maybe something fundamental for the human condition that when people want to revise the moral principles of the surround culture that they do it through criminalizing those people who still adhere to them. I don’t know but it’s a very powerful weapon of course. And what we have seen in the case of homosexuality is the birth of new witch hunts. People who don’t conform to the orthodox views about it.
Mohler: Well yes, we’re facing kind of a norwelian situation before our eyes just in terms of not only the structures of life but the structures of language that now accompany this kind of moral change.
Scruton: Yes, that’s right.
Mohler: You made a tremendous contribution in the field of aesthetics and there is a new found appreciation for this field which is long neglected in philosophical circles but also in the world of theology as well. And you have written by my count at least four or five major works on aesthetics including a recent work on beauty. And Dr. Scruton I’d just like to ask you straightforwardly because this may be the most important question of all aesthetics. What exactly is beauty?
Scruton: I wish I could answer it. What I would say is that the sense of beauty is connected with our longing to be at home in the world and to be part of the world and to find endorsement in the world. And to do it through our own immediate experience. And I think what we regard as beautiful is the thing which rewards our contemplations and by bringing us into if you like an endorsed relation with it. The landscape before you which strikes you as beautiful is the one which has suddenly become a home to you in which you’re not a stranger. And I think this is true of music..the most beautiful music has that affect too.
Mohler: The Christian worldview has situated beauty as one transcendental among several others. The good, the beautiful, the true, and also the real such that the thing that is beautiful must also be true. The things that is true must also be good. And in terms of an understanding of ontology it must also be real rather than merely imagined. It must be grounded in reality. Do you affirm that same sense of the unity of the transcendentals?
Scruton: Well, I wouldn’t put it quite in that way. Because the good and the true perhaps are fundamentals for living at all. We have to keep hold of those. It seems to be that there are human beings whom beauty takes a very subordinate role. And actually in the world in which we live there’s a growing culture of ugliness that has run something which I explore in my book of beauty. WhatMilan Kundera has called the uglification of the world. Everywhere around us we see a kind of growing indifference to beauty. Especially in architecture and the design of our cities and our ….environment. As though people want to desecrate the world rather than to consecrate it. I think this comes from perhaps a religious deficit but it certainly means that beauty is much more threatened then the other transcendental.
Mohler: Well, at least from a Christian perspective it seems that they are all tied together such that there is nothing that can be truly, well true, that is not also truly beautiful. And in some sense the modern revolt is against this unity. But you know you talk about ugly I just have to tell you an anecdote. In Washington, D.C. very close to the White House as a matter of fact within almost a visual sight line of the White House there is a building that the local architectural committee has just designated historic so it cannot be torn down. It is what they call, and they say this straightforwardly, the classic example of the brutalist school of architecture.
Mohler: And it is just hideous. And they are more or less saying it’s so hideous it’s fantastic.
Scruton: Yes, unfortunately I think the world of architecture is perhaps even more penetrated by postmodernism and post nihilism than any other part of our culture. And you have to remember that there is a reason for this which is that architects are paid a great deal of money. And it’s in their interest to create a kind of culture of acceptance for everything they do. And the bigger and the uglier the better it means you can make that money without ever embarking on the path of obedience towards style and good manners.
Mohler: Well, one of the things I always like to point out is that there is always the possibility of hiring a post-modern architect. But I find very few who want to hire a post-modern engineer.
Scruton: That’s probably true.
Mohler: The laws of physics are rather resistant to post modern ideas of relativism.
Mohler: You have written an entire library of books. And as we draw this conversation to a conclusion I just want to ask you what is the fate of the book? What is the fate of reading in the modern world?
Scruton: Yes I wish I knew you could give a clear answer to that. It is certainly the case that people are reading just as much but they tend to read it on a screen rather than in a book. And it may be that the actual format of the book could change into something like the i-pad or whatever. But I don’t see that people will actually cease to read because there’s something about the written word which attract not just the mind but the eye and the whole posture of the human being. And we know you can absorb a hundred times as much information from a written text in front of you as you can listening to something even if it’s something like a lecture. We can just read much more quickly than we can hear. So I suspect that in the end the book will survive the traumatic turn of events to which it’s passing.
Mohler: If you were to imagine how someone might describe your own corpus of work and your own influence. How do you think an outsider might judge the central contribution that you have made? What would an outsider identify as the most important emphasis, concern, and achievement of your thought?
Scruton: Well, I would like to think an outsider would say that I’m somebody who has tried and to some extend succeeded to re-enchant the world.
Mohler: And in the context of modern thought that means a very great deal. As you look to the modern to post-modern and whatever is coming, as you look to the future, where do you think philosophy is going? Or is that even a conceivable question to answer?
Scruton: You know it is a very good question. I think academic philosophy is driving itself into a corner where it will just evaporate. But I think in the new kind of philosophy will emerge and people’s demands of philosophy I think is growing. People after all because we live in an age of skepticism and relativism more and more people are asking themselves the question well if that is all there is, is there not some way in which we can think our way through to the meaning of the world? And philosophers like myself do attempt to do that to communicate what they have discovered and what they wish others could share with them. Maybe we’ll have more of a voice. I see it happening and I think they will emerge a new kind of philosophy not as an academic subject but as a part of the culture. That would be great.
Mohler: Dr. Scruton I feel that perhaps the most important thing I can say to you is what I’m sure others have said but perhaps not in this kind of context. The opportunity to repay an intellectual debt is an important but rare thing and I’m very glad to have had this conversation with you and I want to tell you how indebted I have been to your thinking and your writing. And how much having never met you in person I have appreciated what you have written. I want to thank you for the students who have gained so much by reading the books you have written and I have assigned. And I hope that you’re most recent book will not be your last.
Scruton: Well thank you very much Dr. Mohler. That’s really very kind of you.
Mohler: Well, thank you for joining me today for Thinking in Public, and we’ll look forward to the next installment on the thought of Dr. Roger Scruton.
Scruton: Thanks very much.
Mohler: Well that was a privileged conversation. The kind of conversation that we can only wish would go on longer. When someone like Roger Scruton is the other party in the conversation you’re talking to a man who has written an entire library of books. You can pull just any book off the shelf and begin a conversation. But I think it was important to get to some of the common themes. The predominating interest of his life and work and I was very pleased with just how revealing he was in the conversation.
I really enjoyed that conversation with Roger Scruton because it’s the kind of conversation you have that is about ideas worth discussing. As a matter of fact when you think about so many of things we talked about over the last conversation they are the very issues we have to talk about if we’re going to talk about anything of significance. If we’re going to get to the most meaningful questions of life we’re going to have to talk about these very issues.
One of the most resistant tendencies of the modern age is its allergic reaction to definitions. And to conceptual clarity and that’s where Roger Scruton and I think both in his oral conversation but even more so in his books where he comes shining through. He requires definition and he thinks, and I can hear in the background of that his training and logical positivism. I can understand his concern for definitions and there’s a sense in which that might be the quintessential conservative concern. Let’s know what we’re talking about. Let’s define the terms.
When you think about Roger Scruton I want to speak first of all as an evangelical Christian. And one of the things that does come clearly through is that there are commonalities of thought between evangelical Christian thinking and the kind of rather secuarlized conservatism of a Roger Scruton. There are commonalities in terms of the concern for tradition and for preserving what must be preserved for understandings of authority and meaning. The importance and centrality of something as vital as beauty. But on the other hand there are also some rather significant limitations that come to light and that came I think to a focus in at least part of our conversation about beauty and the unity of the transcendentals –the good, the beautiful, and the true. From a Christian perspective it’s very important to realize that nothing can be true and then truly ugly. Beauty is indeed that which is most true. What is most beautiful is simultaneous most true and morally it is good. And that’s because the unity of the transcendentals is found in the very being of God who is himself beautiful. He is truth, and he is goodness. So we look at all that and we come to recognize that the conversation that we can have with secular conservatism is one that can be very fruitful. And let’s talk about some of the fruitfulness of that kind of discussion. Let’s talk about something like that core issue of authority. When Roger Scruton writes about authority so clearly in terms of his definition of conservatism setting over on the other side liberalism as resistance to that authority, we come to understand that we’re not just talking about something that’s observable out there in society and in politics and in modern academic life. We’re talking about that happened in the garden that’s Genesis 3. And if we’re conservatives authority is important because it’s necessary to the maintenance of any reasonable or rational social order. Every order has its own authorities and one of the things that human nature demonstrates is, well as the old adage goes, eventually even anarchists have leaders. In other words, even the people who say their most resistant to authority and want to tear down all the recognized authorities are really setting up some new authority because someone is going to define reality. Someone is going to set the terms. Someone is going to be the judge and someone is going to be in leadership.
Now when you think about the issue of authority of course for Christians the ultimate issue is the authority of God himself. And thus resistance to all authority is the ultimate sign of an atheistic or anti-theistic disposition. The question of which authority is rightful in terms of human politics and society, the question of which authority is trustworthy in terms of thought, those are important questions for human beings to deal with. But a resistance to authority in itself is a resistance ultimately to God. And now when it comes to how we understand authority and our lives well the rightful authorities are the ones that are most rightly aligned with the purposes and the plan of God. And of course one of the things we know from a Genesis 3 worldview, from a Christian biblical worldview is that the ultimate authority can only reside in God because any human being or human institution that claims that ultimate authority sets itself up as a despotic, totalitarian idolatry. And there again the 20th century is a catalog of those kinds of idolatries.
When you think about conservatism and the way that Dr. Scruton laid it out I thought one of the most important things he said and it was elegant in its expression was that the conservative is the one who knows what he loves and seeks to protect it. Well just think about that for a moment. He knows, or she knows, what he loves, what she loves, and wishes to protect it. That is I think an elegant and very poetic way of understanding of what it means to be a conservative. It’s not resistant to all change. It’s not resistance to all critique or question. It is resistance to doing that which is injurious to that which we love. Now of course we must love rightly. The love must be right in terms of its object and in terms of its expression but there is something here that is very important and Dr. Scruton spoke of family in this light. That’s why he said conservatives are so concerned about the family and it is because we love it. Because we love those who are the members of it and beyond that for Christians. We love the Lord Creator God who gave us marriage as the central institution of human society for human health and human flourishing. We believe that without the family rightly understood, rightly protected, rightly cherished, the things that we love and those people that we love will suffer grave harm and injury. Not only over a long expanse of time but even in far more immediate context. When you think about this issue of conservatism you think first of all that well Americans are prone to go immediately to the electoral map, red and blue states and all the rest. Of course you can’t separate all of that. But conservatism begins in the pre-political. And I think that’s one of the things that Dr. Scruton makes very clear. It begins with the pre-political, it’s the disposition of the mind. It’s the disposition of the heart. Now one of the things that marks modern liberalism is its dependence upon Utopian dreams. And there again I thought Dr. Scruton was just extremely helpful when he said that the problem with the Utopian is that he actually hates what is and hopes to replace it with what might be. Hatred of what it is is one of the defining marks, I think, of the modern liberal impulse. Now there’s more to it than that and of course in any short conversation and any, well frankly, one book or one lifetime, it’s impossible to do justice to defining all these issues. But when you think about the disposition toward Utopianism, I think he has it exactly right. It is a hatred for what is and a determination to replace it with something else. The sheer destructiveness of that seems never really to enter into the minds of those who like the students on the streets of Paris in 1968 just clamored for revolution. I loved the autobiographical reference when Dr. Scruton said that he observed those students when he was in Paris and their rioting in 1968 and said whatever their about I’m about its opposite. That’s one way to do philosophy as a matter of fact. That’s one way to do theology. You look at the train wreck and say whatever that is, I’m not going there. And that autobiographical note I think explains actually a great deal.
When I talk to someone like Roger Scruton I end up with an abundance of new intellectual categories to think about. And as much as I read Michael Polanyi whom he cited Polanyi idea of moral inversion is something that I’m going to have to go look at a little bit more. I think that’s the kind of fertile conceptual handle that really helps us to understand what’s going on when we raise the issue of homosexuality and that kind of moral change. Well, Roger Scruton’s writings thought not directed precisely to those issues show us how culture depends upon cherishing the things that must be cherished. Protecting the things that must be protected and sanctioning the things that should be rightly sanctioned and when you live in a world that wants to turn all that upside down you have a recipe for disaster.
One of the other things that Roger Scruton is known for is a great love for and affirmation of tradition. And again this is from a basically more secular worldview. He describes himself as a typical, skeptical, Anglican. One who you will recall said that he remains identified with the Anglican church, but he’s uncertain how many of the Christian truth claims can be supported in the modern age. When I have another opportunity for conversation with Roger Scruton those are things I want to talk about. But for the conversation today, I have to tell you I feel very indebted to him for the honesty of his thought and for the fact that he has put so much of his thought into such lucid and elegant expression in this catalog of books available to us. I appreciated his affirmation of reading at the end, and I also appreciated the fact that he is confident that reading will continue regardless of whether it’s on the page or on the screen. I do think however that I want to add to his list. He said reading would continue because it not only stimulates the brain but also the eye. I think the codex, that is the book between two covers will also continue to have a role because you add to the eye and to the brain the tactile physical reality of the book which is also a rather comforting thing in and of itself. I hope you’re listening to Thinking in Public, this kind of conversation prods you to think more clearly and to think more clearly in order to live as we all want to live more faithfully. I’m indebted to Roger Scruton for the conversation and to you for listening.
Finally I want to direct your attention to a special opportunity coming up on the campus of Southern Seminary. On Friday and Saturday March 18-19 Southern Seminary will host our annual Give Me An Answer Student Conference. This year’s conference for 2011 is themed “Important.” Join me, Russell Moore, and special guest J.D. Grear as we challenge students to live a life of importance by humbly following God’s will. For more information visit our website at sbts.edu. Thank you for joining me for Thinking In Public. Until next time, keep thinking. I’m Albert Mohler.