Magazine article Contemporary Review

Looking for the God of Causes

Magazine article Contemporary Review

Looking for the God of Causes

Article excerpt

The Face of God: The Gifford Lectures 2010. Roger Scruton. Continuum. [pounds sterling]18.99. x+186 pages. ISBN 978-1-84706-524-7.

Roger Scruton is a past master at making philosophy accessible to ordinary educated people, and at addressing concerns that are widely relevant and pressing to our culture today. This latest offering does not disappoint. The original context of the essays, lectures given to public audiences at St Andrew's university, makes for a style which is informal and personal without being excessively simplistic. Like Lewis before him, Scruton's academic career has suffered because of his overwhelming desire to speak the truth, and to speak it publicly and clearly. He once commented (in an interview with The Spectator in September 2002) that 'it was worth sacrificing your chances of becoming a fellow of the British Academy, a vice-chancellor or an emeritus professor for the sheer relief of uttering the truth'. It may not always earn him plaudits among his academic colleagues, but his fearless lucidity certainly does serve the public good more than many a dusty volume kept in the stacks of research libraries.

Mr Scruton's topic on this occasion is one that is central to debate over human identity, and one which stretches back to the foundations of human thought. Are there causes? Do we look for causes? Is human reason, and therefore all of science and philosophy, concerned with the question 'why' or only with 'what'? Does nature, and therefore humanity, have any objective, intrinsic purpose, or are we at liberty, in the absence of any objective truth, to impose upon it any purpose we see fit? Roger Scruton examines these fundamental questions of meaning and purpose using human experience and human nature as his starting points. He observes that 'It is in the nature of consciousness to ask other kinds of 'why'? …

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