A lovely collection of essays about a wide range of topics, including government, the environment, animals, architecture, art, and how we die. This is the third book by Scruton that I’ve read; I’ve also read several uncollected essays, seen/listened to some interviews, lectures, etc. While his Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy perhaps gives the more nuanced overview of his thought, this collection, in being less abstract and permitting his wit, charm, and sometimes-acid critiques to shine through, reveals the essential touchstones and first principles of his thought clearly, cogently, and entertainingly.
Essentially, what we see in different ways and to different extents in every essay is an exploration of the relationship between an “I” and another “I.” In Scruton’s thought, subjecthood is contingent upon the recognition of the subjecthood of others, and expected reciprocation of that recognition by others unto us. From this “I” & “I” flows a concept of mutual obligation and duty, and a sense that statist, technocratic diktat and fiat destroys this “I” & “I” relationship, and thus undermines our status as thinking subjects–and ultimately our humanity. All of Scruton’s thinking in these essays seems to be based in some articulation of the relationship of a subject to other subjects, governed by mutual obligation and duty, and the way these first principles play out in considerations of art, environment, government, and the many more subjects he considers here are fascinating, challenging, and illuminating.