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Remembering Roger Scruton

The philosopher died a year ago today.

Roger Scruton died a year ago today. In The Critic, his literary executor discusses his faith: “There are some who will say that despite writing two books on God (The Face of God and The Soul of the World), as well as a beautiful tribute to the Church of England in Our Church, Scruton was someone who upheld the external forms of religion without actually believing in them. As such, playing the organ in his local church was more an aesthetic pastime that helped endorse the local community rather than anything which committed him to doctrine or creed. The reality is that Scruton was a man of faith who expressed his ‘much-amended but nevertheless regained religion’ by confronting scientific atheists with the limits of their own dogmatic pronouncements.”

Also, today at 1:30 pm EST, the Roger Scruton Memorial Foundation will be holding an online memorial. Speakers include Robert P. George, Rémi Brague, Peter Robinson, and many others. Sign up here.

In other news: In the Times Literary Supplement, Eric Ormsby writes about a “remarkable version of a remarkable Arabic classic”: “In one of his letters Gustave Flaubert mused about writing a book ‘about nothing,’ a book of pure style alone. The Maqāmāt of Abu Muhammad al-Qasim al-Hariri (1054–1122) may not be a book ‘about nothing.’ But this picaresque sequence of fifty tales about an itinerant swindler of fabulous eloquence named Abu Zayd al-Saruji, as narrated by his shadowy observer, his bewildered ‘secret sharer’ al-Harith ibn Hammam, is really a work in which the Arabic language itself in all its fabulous abundance and shimmering ambiguity proves to be the actual protagonist. As the Moroccan writer Abdelfattah Kilito remarks in his brilliant foreword to Impostures, Michael Cooperson’s new translation, Abu Zayd is ‘Arabic itself, the language of God in the world of man,’ and so ‘excessive verbal performance is what [the tales] are all about.’”

Robby Soave reports on the attempt to shut down Powell’s Books in Portland: “Far-left activists surrounded Powell’s Books in Portland on Monday and demanded the store stop selling Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, a book about antifa written by Andy Ngo. The protests forced the store to close early. Powell’s announced that it would not carry the book in its physical store, though it will still be available for purchase online. ‘This book will not be on our store shelves, and we will not promote it,’ said Powell’s in a statement. ‘That said, it will remain in our online catalogue. We carry books that we find anywhere from simply distasteful or badly written, to execrable, as well as those that we treasure. We believe it is the work of bookselling to do so.’”

Dominic Green reviews Betraying the Nobel: The Secrets and Corruption Behind the Nobel Peace Prize: “Betraying the Nobel opens with a detonation from Michael Nobel, Alfred’s great-grandnephew. The vice-chairman and then chairman of the Nobel Family Society for 15 years, Michael believes that the Nobel Peace Institute has betrayed the ‘original conditions of Alfred Nobel’s will and intentions’. Its selection process is ‘very sketchy’ and its committee of Norwegian parliamentarians reflects the balance of power in their parliament. Its awards follow ‘personal interests’, ‘political and national considerations’ and ‘human rights or global warming’, all of which have ‘little or nothing’ to do with Alfred Nobel’s bequest. The Prize was a dynamite idea when it was founded in 1900. What better way to avoid war than to recycle the profits from explosives into an incentive scheme for perpetual peace? But, as Unni Turrettini describes in her efficient and quietly devastating account, the Peace Prize soon fell to secret horse-trading, moral grandstanding and what one Norwegian parliamentarian calls ‘the privatisation of foreign policy’.”

The multiverse’s logical flaw: “Multiverse theorists commit the inverse gambler’s fallacy, which is a slight twist on the regular gambler’s fallacy. In the regular gambler’s fallacy, the gambler has been at the casino all night and has had a terrible run of bad luck. She thinks to herself, ‘My next roll of the dice is bound to be a good one, as it’s unlikely I’d roll badly all night!’ This is a fallacy, because for any particular roll, the odds of, say, getting a double six are the same: 1/36. How many times the gambler has rolled that night has no bearing on whether the next roll will be a double six. In the inverse gambler’s fallacy, a visitor walks into a casino and the first thing she sees is someone rolling a double six. She thinks ‘Wow, that person must’ve been playing for a long time, as it’s unlikely they’d have such good luck just from one roll.’ This is fallacious for the same reason . . . Philosopher Ian Hacking was the first to connect the inverse gambler’s fallacy to arguments for the multiverse, focusing on physicist John Wheeler’s oscillating universe theory, which held that our universe is the latest of a long temporal sequence of universes.”

George Saunders on stories and storytelling: “In his new book of essays, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, George Saunders writes that fiction, far from being simply ‘a hobby, pastime or indulgence,’ reminds us that ‘everything remains to be seen. It is a sacrament devoted to this end.’ Yet he’s wary of treating stories ‘as a kind of salvation,’ as if the world could be put right if only more folks would read the right literature. The seven short stories he discusses in this book—stories penned by Chekhov, Turgenev, Gogol, and Tolstoy—were written during a Russian literary renaissance that lasted seventy years but was ‘followed by one of the bloodiest, most irrational periods in human history.’ The beauty of that “artistic bounty” wasn’t enough to save the world.”

Photo: Tallinn

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