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Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged [Hardcover]

Roger Scruton
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 May 2007
What is culture? Why should we preserve it, and how? In this book renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends Western culture against its internal critics and external enemies, and argues that rumours of its death are seriously exaggerated. He shows our culture to be a continuing source of moral knowledge, and rebuts the fashionable sarcasm which sees it as nothing more than the useless legacy of "dead white European males." Ranging widely over the arts and philosophy, Scruton defends what Eliot called "the common pursuit of true judgement" against the dismissive attacks of the new academicians. In his striking account of music, and its role in moral education, he defends the classical tradition as well as the American popular song, and points to the damage done to the psyche by the new forms of pop. He is robust in defence of traditional architecture and figurative painting, critical of the fashionable relativists and urgent in his plea for our civilization, which more than ever stands in need of the self-knowledge and self-confidence that are the gift of serious culture. Scruton points to the damage done to Islam by the loss of its culture, which has left the stark belligerence of untempered dogma in full possession of the field, without the cultured voices that once subdued and corrected it. It is precisely because we have not yet lost our culture that we can enjoy the tolerance and the open-ness that distinguish Western civilization from its current self-appointed enemies. Let's keep it that way, so that we can face down those who threaten us in full confidence that the conflict is their doing, not ours.

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Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged + Modern Culture + The Uses of Pessimism & the Danger of False Hope
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books,USA; 1 edition (1 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594031940
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594031946
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 158,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roger Scruton is currently Research Professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences where he teaches philosophy at their graduate school in both Washington and Oxford. He is a writer, philosopher and public commentator. He has specialised in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He engages in contemporary political and cultural debates from the standpoint of a conservative thinker and is well known as a powerful polemicist. He has written widely in the press on political and cultural issues.

Product Description

About the Author

Roger Scruton lives in Wiltshire.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scruton - Always interesting 3 Mar 2013
By Anders
You may or may not agree with Roger Scruton, but he does have a great style and some brilliant ideas. My cup of tea, definitely.
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5.0 out of 5 stars concise and well argued. 1 Dec 2013
Roger Scruton is an important thinker and author and presents his points in fine form. And they are important points. I would recommend his books to all and sundry. Those that criticise Scruton with charges of 'elitist' are simply missing the point(s).
After reading this brief but outstanding book I have greater perspective on the character of Western civilization, and am much better able to recognize the dangerous attacks upon its very foundations. Alarmist? Perhaps, and perhaps such a stance is necessary.

Highest recommendation.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Counts for what? For who? 27 Dec 2009
The book offers an apologetic defence of high western culture as a surrogate for its religious foundations. This in contrast to multiculturalism, with postmodern, oriental and ethnocentric power based perspectives coming under scrutiny. The paucity of self critical humour in current manifestations of Islamic expression are repeated sufficiently to identify the authors polemic and the risk that he is taking. The absence of a critique of the inequalities that derive from elite western culture leaves one asking whether the aesthetic really can be a source of moral compassion. Never the less, his appeal for teaching and learning to accomodate 'knowing how to feel' is well made.
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5 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passing on the baton 21 July 2007
In his book Culture Counts, Roger Scruton's simple reply to, what benefits an ordinary child gets from high culture: 'It may not benefit the child - not yet, at least. But it will benefit culture. And because culture is a form of knowledge, it is the business of the teacher to look for the pupil who will pass it on.'
In my view it is the business of the teacher to teach, looking for 'the pupil' at the expense of all others seems a little unfair. Who knows what the others could have come up with whilst studying something else. I strongly believe the pupil who could recognize the baton will find the teacher. We just need to make sure every pupil is aware of what is accessible.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Contemplations of Roger Scruton. 3 Sep 2007
By Bernard Chapin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just about everything Roger Scruton writes I enjoy reading. He has one of the most penetrating and illustrious minds in all of conservadom, and Culture Counts is a book worthy of his reputation. Scruton is the type of intellectual heavyweight who can score points on every page which is exactly what he does here. Central to his theme is that western education exists to preserve knowledge and transmit it to the generations which follow. Our accumulated observations, values, and judgments must be conserved. Educating individuals is a secondary, and never the primary, goal of organized schooling. One's education is bigger than his person.

The idea I found most intriguing is that no information is superfluous or unworthy of accumulation. Almost every fact we gather in life adds to our general understanding of the world and is, thus, invaluable. Most people don't seem to comprehend this and act as if they are above many things and many individuals. Such attitudes are counter-productive, and are what make an ignoramus an ignoramus. The intrinsic merits of contemplation are today largely forgotten, but not to Mr. Scruton. He reminds us Aristotle regarded contemplation as being the highest good. I also appreciated his short section on the importance of laughter and the way it saves us from despair.

My only criticism is that, at just over 100 pages, Culture Counts is really more of an extended essay than a complete book. Twenty dollars is too expensive a price in my opinion. Of course, the great thing about Amazon is that stuff always sells at a discount here. Furthermore, the z shops have been a godsend for my wallet and I am sure they have been for yours as well.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Skewering The 'Culture Of Repudiation'" 11 Nov 2007
By Stanley H. Nemeth - Published on
Roger Scruton's "Culture Counts" is much more than just another tiresome, stale screed attacking the postmodernist establishment. Instead, it is a refreshing defense of the actual, if neglected, inclusiveness and meaningful "multiculturalism" of traditional Western culture, and, simultaneously, an expose of the rigid orthodoxies and crude censoriousness which mark that allegedly open-minded, postmodernist "culture" flourishing at our universities, one he calls the "culture of repudiation." This regnant "culture" he sees as unworthy of a university, since it is in grave contradiction, for it argues that all cultures are relative and therefore of equal value, at the same time as it demonstrates a fashionable self-loathing by bashing traditional Western culture as beyond the pale. It is, in fact, merely nihilist and has nothing substantive to offer in place of what it would destroy.

Scruton is equally provocative in suggesting that current education has things just backwards. To him, the purpose of education is not merely the private benefit to the student, but rather the benefit to the culture, of which a truly educated student will himself be a future guardian. (Pace, John Dewey!)

Finally, it should be pointed out that Scruton is as versed in contemporary art, architecture, music and literature as he is in the traditional, and thus he does not follow his serious analysis with a counsel of impotence and despair, seeing instead convincing "rays of hope" in such current practitioners as, for example, Jacob Collins, Quinlan Terry, David del Tredici, Ian McEwan, Michel Houellebecq, Alain Finkelkraut, Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett, Paul Johnson, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and James Wood.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly recommended, thought-provoking philosophical treatise. 8 July 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Written by Roger Scruton (Research Professor, Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia), Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged declares that rumors of the demise of Western culture are greatly exaggerated. Countering academic, external, and internal critics of Western Culture, such as dismissive attitudes toward the legacy of "dead white European males", Culture Counts reveals Western cultural contributions to moral education, defends traditional architecture and figurative painting, and urges renewed respect for the positive achievements of Western civilization. "We should see culture as Schiller and other Enlightenment thinkers saw it: the repository of emotional knowledge, through which we can come to understand the meaning of life as an end in itself. Culture inherits from religion the 'knowledge of the heart' whose essence is sympathy. But it can be passed on and enhanced, even when the religion that first engendered it has died. Indeed, in these circumstances, it is all the more important that culture be passed on, since it has become the sole communicable testimony to the higher life of mankind." A highly recommended, thought-provoking philosophical treatise.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Compelling 13 Sep 2007
By George M. Hohl - Published on
Roger Scruton's book "Culture Counts" is meant as an answer
to Western culture's two current threats: radical Islam and,
from within, multiculturalism. To that end he offers up an
examination of just what culture is: its origins and importance
for a civilization.

In a compact (108pp) format of seven chapters, Scruton discusses
the development of cultures generally, using relevant topics from
philosophy and religion, anthropology, and general history. When
commenting on Western Culture in particular, he offers up specific
examples of both popular and high culture drawn from literature
and drama, painting, architecture, and music. In the chapter
"Culture Wars" aim is taken at several factions of the
multiculturalist brigades.

The book is quite readable. However, for those only at the level of
interested layman (such as myself), there are some passages that wend
off into the esoteric. Fortunately, these excursions are few and
brief, and they did nothing to dissuade me from enjoying the book a
second time several weeks later.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Extended Essay on the Value of Cultural Education 24 Jun 2009
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Roger Scruton's book, I think, is slightly mistitled. The subtitle should probably read something like: "on the importance of education as a furtherance of cultural knowledge." (Not as pretty and less likely to sell bools than "faith and feeling in a world besieged.")

This extended essay is an argument for the importance of educating students not just in academics or technical skills, but cultural education. And anyone involved in education knows that this is the minority position right now. Music and art programs have been long under attack, and literature courses focus as much on technical writing skills as they do on examining classic works. Even the mention of "great works" or "the canon" is likely to rouse the ire of many. We prefer John Grisham and JK Rowling.

Scruton further makes things interesting by pointing out that while schools today focuses on "knowledge that" (facts) and "knowledge how" (technical skills). But what also needs to be remembered - what Scruton believes is the chief value of education in culture - is "knowledge what," which means "knowledge of what to do, how to apply what I've learned, and what to feel in given situations." (As a special educator dealing with students with social/emotional issues, I focused a lot on instruction on how to act and how to feel appropriately, but this was always a "special ed thing.")

The big criticism I have of Scruton is that he fails to make any compelling case as to why cultural education (education in classic works of literature, art, music) is the only way to achieve this "knowledge what" Yes, the great works of literature are often great because they express characters and dilemmas deeply and thoughtfully, giving the student a wonderful way to view these people and issues objectively. But just as George Eliot produced works that do this, so do contemporary authors like Wally Lamb, Jodi Picoult, and - yes - John Grisham. Scruton prefers the former authors, but doesn't explain why the latter can not achieve the same things. (And Scruton's case against pop music is even more ridiculous, reminding me of the used-to-be-hippie who, while listening to classic rock stations, wonders why they don't make music like they used to. Scruton, like this poor hippie, doesn't realize that classic rock stations play the hits that survived the test of time, rather than all the top 40 songs that didn't.)

While Scruton correctly notes that the proper end of education is not to give the students what they need, but to give the future at large what it needs. By educating students, we ensure that the ideas we impart on them find their way into the culture at large. Scruton, however, wrongly suggests that this idea is contra to John Dewey's educational philosophy. While I am no fan of Dewey, this type of anti-individualism (educating as social engineering) is all to common in Dewey's words.

Scruton does score points, however, with his critique of postmodernism, relativism, and multiculturalism. He notes that relativism that seeks to "contextualize" reason fail to realize that this itself is using reason (and that reason is quite a universal method, rather than a contextual ideology). Abandoning reason (or compartmentalizing it) is bad pedagogy because it takes away our ability to teach kids one of the most crucial skills of all: how to judge and analyize. [If anyone needs to read a good argument in praise of judgment, see Theodore Dalrymple's "In Praise of Prejudice." and...judge...for yourself.)

Overall, I thought that Scruton's was a decent but somewhat short-falling defense of cultural education. As mentioned, he has many interesting pedagogical ideas, but none of them show that the "great works" can do what modern works cannot (except by very post-hoc arguments against all things modern). It will be of at least some interest to those concerned with the proper direction of education.
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