Tag Archives: Conservatism

“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!

I can’t stand Glenn Beck because…

….sometimes I have to hate myself a little bit for agreeing with him in even the smallest way. Case in point: I have to agree with him in disliking the terms “economic justice” and “social justice.”  But in his equation of this idea with Nazism and Communism, and his advising people to leave churches that teach and preach this, I cannot find words strong enough to condemn his virulent comments.

I’ve covered this territory before, but I’m guessing all the Beck-hate will garner a lot of new traffic thanks to a provocative title (yes, this means you).  Face the facts: no one can define what “social justice” or “economic justice” means.  This doesn’t mean they are super-secret “code words” for totalitarianism, though they are generally associated with people of a leftist persuasion.  Both terms describe various schemes for distributive justice.  Some conservative commentators have pointed out that anyone government powerful enough to establish a perfect state of “social” justice would be unjust by the sheer fact of its magnitude, coercion, and requisite violation of the private sphere of life.  In other words, if advocates of social justice had their way, the policies the would require to fulfill their vision would likely run roughshod over the rights of many others – particularly property rights – in pursuit of their ends.

This does not mean mean advocates of distributive justice are all totalitarians in our midst.  It is simply an undefined bit of language that some on the left use to denote a whole host of attitudes with no single definition.  On the right, an equivalently problematic and undefined phrase might be “family values.”  In my experience, most people who advocate social justice are good-hearted souls who want to help people, particularly the poor and oppressed (however defined).  If they are guilty of not thinking through all the presuppositions of their language, well, that makes them anything but special.

But Glenn, you’re a carbuncle on the face of American conservatism.  I wish you were in a less unsavory place, like the buttocks or armpit where no one would see you, but the fact is your brand of populist nonsense is front and center on the airwaves.  The sad part is, this is coming from someone who has watched his share of Fox News – so don’t go calling me a Commie.  You desperately need a lobotomy or a kick in the pants, maybe both.

We have enough people leaving churches.  Our modern suspicion of all institutions, traditions, and authorities, is taking care of that.  There are good reasons to leave churches – we all know this.  But social justice? Really?  Was it that slow of a news day?

Do us all a favor: crawl into a hole, shut your mouth, read the Bible until you have enough humility to realize it should stay shut permanently, and find something useful to do with your time that does not involve infecting American politics with your bleating lunacy.