- Hardcover: 186 pages
- Publisher: St. Augustines Press; 1 edition (May 25, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1890318477
- ISBN-13: 978-1890318475
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Culture 1st Edition
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"...Scruton offers both a trenchant critique of pop culture and a defense of the opposing "high culture".... Many readers may find themselves asking whether moral aestheticism, without any explicit religious element, can deal with the more destructive aspects of modern culture."- Robert Grano, Touchstone, October 2006
"…Scruton offers both a trenchant critique of pop culture and a defense of the opposing "high culture"…. Many readers may find themselves asking whether moral aestheticism, without any explicit religious element, can deal with the more destructive aspects of modern culture."- Robert Grano, Touchstone, October 2006
About the Author
Professor Roger Scruton is visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall Oxford and visiting Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. His other books include Sexual Desire, The West and the Rest, England: An Elegy, News from Somewhere, Gentle Regrets and I Drink Therefore I Am (all published by Continuum). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
Scruton’s inspiration is Eliot, an influence which he makes explicit. He is also, obviously, influenced by Arnold. I find that his conclusions are very close, in some respects, to George Steiner’s. The argument is not unfamiliar. Traditional culture was fractured by the Enlightenment, whose principal targets were sacerdotal and aristocratic power, its substitute authorities reason and science. This led to the ‘death of God’. However, the loss of religion had unintended consequences. Traditional thought, including our views of time and eternity, of justice and equity, and of the act of aesthetic creation itself (which Steiner emphasizes) were underwritten by the belief in a deity. Absent a deity our attempts to navigate what Scruton elsewhere calls the ‘lebenswelt’, the world of interpersonal human discourse, is significantly compromised. The current affection in some circles for ‘anti-foundationalism’ is reinforced and extended.
Without traditional religion the post-Enlightenment cognoscenti turn to art, but absent that religion, art (particularly art as a part of tradition itself) is altered. We now live in a world of commodification where price trumps value and salesmanship trumps inspiration and creation. Tradition itself, i.e., traditional education and culture, might help to serve as a surrogate for religion or poetry, but the hour is late and the distance between today’s students and the students of traditional art and letters grows apace. Faced with these difficulties many members of the humanities professoriate punt, either undercutting the value and authority of the traditional with the French Nietzscheans or simply joining the students and studying their transient, shallow pop culture.
Scruton’s arguments are very searching and engaging, but they are subject to a single serious criticism: they accept the state of contemporary letters and thought as a given, one from which there is really very little appeal. This is a problem for the intelligentsia; common readers and commonsensical readers don’t care an iota for Derrida. They don’t know who he is and if they were told about his basic beliefs (which Scruton summarizes) they would find them as ultimately vacuous as Scruton does. Scruton, however, sees intellectual history through the intellectual’s lens and argues that it is very difficult, if not impossible to now believe (A) or to continue to take seriously (B). It is as if the tides of opinion have already left us panting on the shore and there is no way that we can now resist. I’m not sure that Scruton truly believes that, but he succumbs to that narrative’s rhetoric.
No one can now say, as Johnson did, that Rousseau should have been hunted down and driven from society, but that is in part because today we have so few Samuel Johnsons and those we do have must be prepared to endure professional vilification. Nevertheless, one can challenge prevailing dogma as, e.g., David Berlinski routinely does, and there are many distinguished thinkers who argue rigorously for the existence of God in the face of neoatheists and a materialist culture and materialist hermeneutic. Scruton is really of their party and he does go so far as to accuse Derrida of literally doing the devil’s work.
The chapter on youth culture and popular music is worth the price of the book.
He traces the noble but ultimitely futile attempts to save some kind of higher spiritual and cultural life amidst the wreckage of Christianity in the West since the mid-Eighteenth century. He traces the attempts from Kant's philosophy of Enlightenment thru the great Romanitc artists, especially Richard Wagner, the Modernists and then through the final collpase of Western Culture in the nihilism of Foucault and Derrida. In the chapter "Yoofonasia" he looks at the final triumph of a mindless, transient pop culture.
This book captures in a nutshell the whole dilemma of Modernity, a world in which we've liberated ourselves from all the old shackles of religion, tradtion and ritual, but to what end? We live in a world that's been totally "disenchanted" in Max Weber's famous word, but in which we are revealed to be little more than animals, adrift in a Godless, meaningless, universe, life little more than a grim struggle to survive in a world dominated by consumerism, fantasy and advertising. The last chapter is a letdown, and Scuton's solution to out dilemma to me is rather lame, but I won't spoil the ending. That aside, I highly recommend this little book.