Ethics & Public Policy Center

EPPC Mourns Death of Sir Roger Scruton

January 13, 2020


The Ethics and Public Policy Center mourns the death of EPPC Senior Fellow Sir Roger Scruton, who died on Sunday, January 12, at age 75.

“We grieve the loss of our brilliant colleague Roger Scruton. We are deeply grateful that Roger made EPPC his American think-tank home for the past seven years. He has left a remarkably robust intellectual legacy,” said EPPC President Ed Whelan.

The author of more than 50 books on topics such as art, music, architecture, conservation, philosophy, and religion, Sir Roger was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2016 for his “services to philosophy, teaching and public education.” In 2019, he earned recognition from the governments of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic for his courageous anti-communist efforts and his legacy of moral and intellectual leadership.

See below for a running compilation of selected tributes to Roger Scruton.

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Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program at Princeton University, and a member of EPPC’s Board of Directors (link):

Sir Roger was a distinguished philosopher—one of the best of our time. He was a valiant warrior against communist tyranny. He was a great upholder of beauty and of the idea and ideal of beauty. And he was a faithful friend.

Boris Johnson, U.K. Prime Minister (via Twitter):

RIP Sir Roger Scruton. We have lost the greatest modern conservative thinker – who not only had the guts to say what he thought but said it beautifully.

EPPC Senior Fellow Peter Wehner (via Twitter):

I met with him for lunch a few years ago-it was the first time I personally met him-and it was a wonderful occasion. I was honored to be in his presence, aware of his extraordinary contributions; and he was quite helpful on matters of faith.

National Review Online editorial (link).

Yuval Levin at NRO (link):

The work he leaves behind is a treasure for the ages. But if a single theme unites it, it would have to be his willingness, even eagerness, to stand courageously in defense of what he loved—and his confidence, born of deep learning and insight, that it was what deserved to be loved, and that others would see that if he showed them.

We have lost a true giant. RIP.

Michael Brendan Dougherty at NRO (link):

Scruton may be the only conservative of this generation whose work will be read 100 years hence. And while we pray for the repose of his soul, and for comfort for his family and close friends, we should also pray that then, unlike now, his work and his courage receive the recognition they deserve. Scruton has labored and sacrificed. He is not becoming “nothing” but the gentle, sweet, and courageous Knight who saved his home from the destroyers.

Jay Nordlinger at NRO (link):

Roger was brave, outstandingly brave — he had nerve….So grateful for this marvelous, brainy, benevolent fellow. A knight — “Sir Roger” — and not just literally.

Matthew Continetti at NRO (link).

Madeleine Kearns at NRO (link):

In a 2018 interview for National Review, Sir Roger told me that classical liberalism and conservatism have become closely aligned in today’s culture wars, in part “because there are so many people who wish to control us, and in doing so to wipe away the image of the past.” But he noted an important distinction: “Conservatives believe in unchosen obligations (pieties), whereas classical liberals think that the only source of obligation is choice.”

The most attractive piety of conservatism is, at least to me, a humble pursuit of lifelong learning. And in that regard, Scruton lived by example. May he rest in peace.

Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer-prize winning historian, staff writer at The Atlantic, Senior Fellow at the Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University (via Twitter):

In the 1980s, Roger Scruton organized money and books for dissidents in Eastern Europe. I was one of the student couriers who helped smuggle them “across the iron curtain.” I am still grateful for what Roger did for them, and for me.

Rod Dreher at The American Conservative (link):

One of the great blessings of paradise is that there will be endless time for Roger Scruton to write good books. In fact, my idea of heaven is Roger Scruton’s home library….May his memory be eternal.

Emma Webb, Director of the Forum on Integration, Democracy and Extremism at Civitas (link)

It was striking that the greatest philosopher of our era passed away on the birthday of his 18th century equivalent — Edmund Burke. Such men rarely come about. Sir Roger Scruton will now join the ranks of great thinkers, alongside Burke, Kant and Hegel…

I first met Roger in my early 20s, at the beginning of my career. Whenever I had the honour of meeting him, over the following years, I was always astounded that in an age of ego, the only thing that dwarfed his titanic intellect was his gentlemanly kindness and humility.

Douglas Murray in the Spectator (link):

If he sometimes fitted uncomfortably with the age in which he found himself, it was principally because he did not believe in its guiding tone of encouraged animosity and professionalised grudge. He believed instead – and lived in – the spirit of a different age. One in which he encouraged his readers to share. That is a spirit of gratitude for what you have received, and forgiveness for what you have not.

Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal (link):

Scruton’s work was so broad-ranging that the term Renaissance Man seems hardly inappropriate. He published books on Kant and Spinoza, on Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, on the aesthetics of music and architecture, on animal rights, on wine, on hunting, on the importance of culture, on the nature of God, on man’s relations with animals, and on many other subjects. He wrote novels and short stories of distinction, and two operas. The words of Dr. Johnson’s epitaph for Oliver Goldsmith come to mind: he left scarcely any style of writing untouched, and touched nothing that he did not adorn…

In his last and moving article in The Spectator, indeed in the last paragraph he published in his lifetime, he stressed the importance of gratitude for what one has been fortunate enough to inherit. Take nothing for granted, preserve what is worth preserving, understand the fragility of things, remember debts to the past as well as to the future, take delight in the world. Such was the lasting message of this exceptionally gifted man.

Paul Krause at the Imaginative Conservative (link):

Like moths attracted to the flame, students from all continents came together to discuss everything from music and aesthetics to politics and metaphysics with Sir Roger, who seemed to be the incarnate flame of wisdom. His encyclopedic knowledge allowed him to help all in our respective pilgrimages. He was our Virgil through hell and purgatory, and he left us at the top of the mountain, pointing to the light that lay beyond. Befitting a man of such humility, he once revealed to us that instead of being remembered as the world-class philosopher he was, he wished to be remembered as the organist for the small Anglican parish of which he was a member.

Obituary in the Washington Post (link):

The author of more than 50 books, Mr. Scruton wrote about morality, politics, aesthetics, architecture, Kantian philosophy and the joys of hunting, in addition to penning two operas and several novels. He was the founding editor of the Salisbury Review, a conservative journal, and for 21 years taught philosophy at Birkbeck, part of the University of London. Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash called him “the kind of provocative, sometimes outrageous Conservative thinker that a truly liberal society should be glad to have challenging it.”

Bryan Baise at ERLC website (link):

The final words he ever wrote in public were embodiments of his life and writing: “Coming close to death you begin to know what life means, and what it means is gratitude.” My gratitude to him cannot be fully expressed in words. I’ve done my best here, but they pale in comparison to what he has done for me. My Christian faith is stronger because of him. I am a better human being because of Scruton.

Christina Hoff Sommers at AEI (link):

Roger was a connoisseur of wonderful things — in art, philosophy, architecture, music, nature. He was both a critic and an artist. He became a conservative because he knew how hard it is to create truth and beauty and how easy and tempting it is to tear it all down.

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