The most important conservative thinker of his generation, the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, has died.
He was 75 and suffering from cancer. In his life he published scores of books on a dizzying number of topics, ranging through politics, art, music, the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant, religion, and fox hunting. He also wrote fiction, including the novels Notes from Underground and The Disappeared and the collection Souls in the Twilight. He composed an opera (The Minister) and a handful of songs. He is survived by his wife Sophie, a historian, and two children, Sam and Lucy.
There are three stories that Roger Scruton shared about his life, frequently. The first involved drawing the character of his father, a working-class man and avid conservationist, who disliked the idea of his son going to a Royal Grammar School (a “public school,” in English phraseology) and rising above his station. Of his father, he recently wrote affectionately:
He believed that his country was ruled by a conspiracy of public school boys, and that there would not be social justice in Britain until the privileges that enabled such undeserving and treacherous characters to advance were finally abolished. He saw in the House of Lords, in the established Church and in the Monarchy, branches of this long-standing conspiracy and he understood all of our history in terms of it — as a never-ending confiscation of England from its rightful owners by a class of privileged usurpers.
Scruton’s father had escaped a difficult life in the slums by way of military service and had become a schoolteacher. His son’s story is how his grammar school and Cambridge enabled his climb out of his father’s working-class shadow, showing that even in a society as class-conscious as England’s there was still mobility and advancement.