Roger Scruton is the author of a number of books, including Modern Philosophy and A Short History of Philosophy. Formerly Professor of Aesthetics at Birkbeck College, London University, and a visiting professor at Boston University, he lives in Wiltshire, England.
Scruton, a don at London University and a British TV personality, sets out to do philosophy rather than talk about it. He succeeds to a large extent in making the subject accessible, engaging the reader in philosophic thinking. Scruton inquires into truth, time, God, freedom, morality and even sex, carefully explaining who he believes is right and who is wrong in their opinions on the subjects. For instance, he warns against Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, and champions everyone who believes in persons with souls and free intentions, and who believes in the sacred and enchantment in the world. In addition to such authoritarian judgments, Scruton sometimes gets caught up in fighting internecine battles, especially against the view that genuine knowledge can only be scientific; then the clarity of his writing suffers. For example, "since the origin of both self and not-self is the act of self-positing, nothing on either side of the barrier is anything, in the last analysis, but self." When he philosophizes more freely, he puts the reader in a better mood: "This idea has recurred so often as to suggest that there is truth in it or a permanent need to believe so." In the final analysis, Scruton accomplishes his aim of using philosophy as therapy for our modern confusions, although mental health for him lies in more conservative thinking. (Feb.)