On 26 April, ECR member of the European Parliament Professor Zdzisław Krasnodębski dedicated a Brussels event to Sir Roger Scruton (1944-2020).
Dr. Krasnodębski, together with Professors Piotr Wróblewski and Ferenc Hörcher, presented in the European Parliament Library the book “Tradition and Change. Scruton’s Philosophy and its Meaning for Contemporary Europe” (ECR Group, 2022). The three participants had written respective contributions for the book, together with other twelve academics.
Dr. Krasnodębski took the floor first and asked himself whether Scruton’s thought has any influence today, particularly for young people, or else it is just a curiosity to be treated as a merely intellectual game.
He shared with the audience that he had met Sir Roger personally, which gave the event a richer perspective. Dr. Krasnodębski recalled how the British intellectual had discovered Eastern Europe before it had become fashionable within conservatism. Below Communism, Scruton saw that there was a living tradition which enjoyed a higher strength compared to other European countries. As a proof of his alignment with the opposition movements against Communism, he co-founded the Jan Hus Society in the Czech Republic and the Jagiellonian Trust in Poland.
Professor Wróblewski, of the department of social science in the Katowice University of Silesia, explained that the book he has now edited and presented to the European Parliament audience is divided into four parts: Ideas, thinkers, knowledge and oikophilia. His particular contribution belongs to this fourth part and is devoted to the political theory of nationality developed by the English philosopher.
In the prologue to the book, Professor Wróblewski remembers how the book is the result of a conference held online in January and February 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finally, Professor Hörcher, of the Research Institute for Politics and Government in Budapest University of Public Service and the author of “Art and Politics in Roger Scruton’s Conservative Philosophy” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), described an intellectual tradition as the most valuable past which a community needs to preserve in order to avoid politics as a mere exercice of short-term pragmatic solutions.
Professor Hörcher’s contribution to the presented book is an essay on Scruton’s view of T. S. Eliot; this writer, having reflected about religion and Europe in the 1940s, wanted to transform the discourse of poetry, yet without forgetting about the past as a basis to create something new and original.
The Hungarian professor added that, after getting to know Poland, Scruton discovered that a country or a community cannot survive under stress without some fundamental principles, such as those provided by religion.
During the question and answer session, Professor Krasnodębski asked whether Sir Roger would be disappointed nowadays with the role that Central and Eastern Europe are playing in the contemporary world and, most particularly, in the European Union.
In order to answer the question, Professor Hörcher distinguished between three directions of current conservative thought: A first, so-called “National Conservatism” and significantly present in the United States and Israel, maintains that the modern nation is a very powerful asset; the second, “Integralism” or “Common Good Constitutionalism”, also with a presence in the United States, holds that Christianity has played an important role in going beyond individual rights, in order to pursue the good of a community; a third line criticises the liberal agenda based on the fact that some issues have proven not to be manageable by liberalism.
Despite these different attempts to act within the conservative camp, Professor Hörcher avoided to recognise that Sir Roger would have criticised the role played by conservatives in Central and Eastern Europe. However, he did acknowledge the existence of a traditional school that qualifies modernity as a complete failure. In fact, he conceded that such failure is a factual as well as a philosophical truth, though probably it would not be adhered to by Scruton because of his continuous desire to balance tradition with change.