“The Judgment That Judgments Are Wrong…”: Scruton on Contemporary Culture

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A very handsome Roger Scruton.  Foxy.

I’ve been a fan from afar of Roger Scruton for quite some time now.  He is a brilliant and sometimes hysterical British thinker whose published works range subjects as diverse as aesthetics and fox hunting.   In an attempt to become more philosophically adept, I’m reading his An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy.

Philosophy really, really is not my gig.  I’d prefer to read one of Scruton’s works of political theory; he is a British conservative, which means that his reflections are often as sweet as honey compared to what passes for conservatism in the US.  But I need some philosophy bad.  On the whole, this is an interesting and satisfying little book.  Reading all 164 pages is worth it for gems like this:

Nothing in this world is fixed: intellectual life is one vast commotion, in which a myriad voices strive to be heard above the din.  But as the quanity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.  To criticize popular taste is to invite the charge of elitism, and to defend distinctions of value – between the virtuous and the vicious, the beautiful and the ugly, the sacred and the profane, the true and the false – is to offend against the only value-judgment that is widely accepted, the judgment that judgments are wrong. (An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy, [New York: Penguin 1996] 12)

Of course, if he’s right, it may mean that most of us ego-centric bloggers are only contributing to the increasing quantity of communication, with its resultant damage to the quality of discourse.  Oh well.  I try my best to buck this trend.

Oh, and one more thing: Scruton has the stones to call Michael Foucault a “fraud.” (8)  Zing!

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3 thoughts on ““The Judgment That Judgments Are Wrong…”: Scruton on Contemporary Culture”

  1. As the quote reveals there’s a widespread acceptance of this particular opinion (or “judgment”). But we I think we need to dig a little deeper and ask ourselves why it is so popular and commonly accepted. I’d suggest the reason is plain and simple: we’re fed up by being defined through the lense of someone else’s perception – a perception that usually gets it wrong. And we’ve seen where this judgmentalism has gotten us: exclusion, separatism, elitism, scapegoating, false moralism, demonization of the “other”, war.

    The solution though is not an illusionary abandonment of all judgment but focusing on the only truly objective judgment there is: God’s judgment of us as “good” (in the sense of deeply valuable and worthy of love). It’s the only source from which we can truly love ourselves, love God wiith our whole hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.

  2. Well put. I wonder who the “us” is when you say “God’s judgment of us…”? It might be the generic “everyone,” or perhaps Israel and/or the Church. What always scares me is that, in both Testaments, it is often times those whom God loves the most – those who, in some sense, know God and are called by Him – who are held to the highest standard of judgment. At the end of the day, I suppose it is true that (was it Luther who said this?) all any of us can claim on that great and terrible day will be the blood of Christ.

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