Monday, May 28, 2007

Western Culture: Scruton's Rallying Cry

Roger Scruton has an excellent piece in the Sunday Times titled 'The glory of the West is that life is an open book'.

"Only cultural decline can explain the eagerness with which [Edward] Said’s argument has been accepted in our universities," writes Scruton.

We who enjoy the fruits of western culture ought to be rallying to its defence, now that it is under attack both from internal critics and from external enemies. It is time to ask what we learn from this culture and why it matters. We lament the decline of university science, since it presages a widespread loss of knowledge. We would lament it less if this loss of scientific knowledge were offset by a gain in knowledge of other kinds. But if students of the humanities learn only to repudiate their culture while putting nothing in its place, then it cannot be said that they acquire any real knowledge from their studies.

Although it was probably no part of Said’s intention, the combined effect of his attack on western “orientalism”, Foucault’s attack on bourgeois “discourse”, Derrida’s “deconstruction” and the general crushing of the old curriculum under a weight of inquisitorial “theory” has led to an orthodoxy of nihilism in the western academy ...

To counter this culture of nothingness, I suggest that we begin from the very certainties that Said put in question: the certainties contained in the art, literature and music that we were once encouraged to regard as precious personal possessions. Such works are not empty ciphers on which to try out our analytical skills. They show us what we are and what we are capable of. They also teach us how to judge. From culture we acquire a sense of what is intrinsically worthwhile in the human condition and a recognition that our lives are not consumed in the pursuit of power and profit, but devoted to intrinsic values.
Read the full article.

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