Roger Scruton (1944-2020)

John Hill
13. January 2020
Roger Scruton (Photo via rogerscruton.com)

Roger Scruton, the conservative British philosopher who specialized in aesthetics and wrote The Aesthetics of Architecture, died on January 12 at the age of 75 following a six-month battle with cancer.

Scruton's death was announced yesterday on his personal website with a brief statement:

"It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Sir Roger Scruton, FBA, FRSL. Beloved husband of Sophie, adored father to Sam and Lucy and treasured brother of Elizabeth and Andrea, he died peacefully on Sunday 12th January. He was born on 27th February 1944 and had been fighting cancer for the last 6 months. His family are hugely proud of him and of all his achievements."

Those achievements include more than fifty books on philosophy, music, architecture, and other subjects. The Aesthetics of Architecture, first published in 1979 and still in print, follows the conservative stance that was nurtured as a response to the 1968 student protests in Paris. The book critiques functionalist and rationalist theories of design; in turn it promotes "a return to first principles in contemporary architectural theory," per the book's publisher. Contending, furthermore, that "aesthetic understanding is inseparable from a sense of detail and style," Scruton's book argues for "the appropriate, the expressive, the beautiful, and the proportionate" in architectural design.

Various editions of Scruton's The Aesthetics of Architecture, first published in 1979.

Scruton's hardline stance on architectural beauty led him to be appointed in late 2018 to the UK's Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, an advisory body aimed at raising the design quality of new homes and neighborhoods. The appointment was a controversial one due to Scruton's dislike of much modern and contemporary architecture. 

He was dismissed in April 2019 over remarks he had made years earlier on immigration and homosexuality, but in July 2019 he was reinstated as co-chair after it was revealed how those comments were taken out of context. This public redemption coincides with his cancer diagnosis and the Commission's interim report, "Creating space for beauty." A final report, what may have been Scruton's last contribution before his death, was due at the end of 2019.

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