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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheerful realism
Once again, Roger Scruton is quite brilliant, writing with great depth in a way easy for the Common Reader to follow. He is attacking those responsible for the prevailing moeurs and shows up their inconsistency and lack of logic. Scruton is the scourge of the liberal and I think this is his best book on a politico-philosophical theme. Each of the main chapters exposes a...
Published on 9 July 2010 by Mr. G. Hester

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Broadsides against The Way We Live Now
It has often been said that conservatives have a basically pessimistic view of idealistic schemes, while radicals of all kinds believe that they their ideologies can make the world a new and a better place. The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton here fleshes out idea out. He distances himself from what he calls "systematic pessimism" (the word pessimism actually...
Published on 23 Feb 2012 by Ralph Blumenau


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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheerful realism, 9 July 2010
By 
Mr. G. Hester "Bibliophile" (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)
Once again, Roger Scruton is quite brilliant, writing with great depth in a way easy for the Common Reader to follow. He is attacking those responsible for the prevailing moeurs and shows up their inconsistency and lack of logic. Scruton is the scourge of the liberal and I think this is his best book on a politico-philosophical theme. Each of the main chapters exposes a common fallacy. For instance, one is THE ZERO SUM FALLACY. Here he easily refutes the fallacy that if one person is prospering it must be at the expense of someone else. The liberals say that is some children are receiving a fine education in independent or grammar schools it must be to the detriment of others. Scruton is at his best when exposing how the "Liberty and Equality" of the French Revolution and modern liberals are quite contrary ideas: if you want people to be equal you can do so only by taking away their liberty. Architecture is something about which Scruton has written before and he is at his best writing about it here.

This would be an excellent book for a clever sixth former or someone at university who likes to think and does not merely follow the crowd. The Amazon price makes this a bargain and it is, amazingly for a philosophical book, a good book to take on holiday. It is required reading for those who think. It is not in itself pessimistic as the title is ironical and paradoxical. It is cheerfully realistic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Broadsides against The Way We Live Now, 23 Feb 2012
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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It has often been said that conservatives have a basically pessimistic view of idealistic schemes, while radicals of all kinds believe that they their ideologies can make the world a new and a better place. The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton here fleshes out idea out. He distances himself from what he calls "systematic pessimism" (the word pessimism actually makes relatively few appearances in this book) and he sometimes calls his attitude "scrupulous optimism" - trusting in piecemeal but organic improvements - as distinct from the "unscrupulous optimism" which entertains false hopes and which he attacks.

Unscrupulous optimism, he believes, is based on a number of fallacies (each a chapter heading) and is incapable of listening to arguments or logic. It is not confined to ideology. It is seen, for example, in the financial world, where people believe that they can go on borrowing, and deal with debts by borrowing more etc, and simply will not realize that such a system is bound to collapse. They are like speculators and gamblers who trust that their activities will succeed and who regard failure as strokes of fate for which they are not responsible and which will be compensated for by upping the ante.

Scruton regards Keynes as one of the villains in the piece (reminding us, for good measure, that he was a "flippant aesthete" and a homosexual), and has qualified good words to say about Islam's condemnation of interest, of insurance contracts, of corporations ("from a moral point of view mere fictions"), and of limited liability, "a device for evading responsibility".

He describes utopian ideologies, based on hatred of the existing world, with the actual utopia (naturally) always out of reach because of the machinations of its enemies who must therefore be invented over and over again and be destroyed; and he illustrates this convincingly with examples, especially those taken from the French Revolution, from the Soviet Union and from Islamicist terrorism.

Far less convincing is Scruton's theory that other enemies are invented simply out of envy: socialist envy of the rich, Third World envy of the West, Islamist envy of the United States - in each case Scruton says (incredibly) that the resentments have "little or nothing to do" with what the rich, the West, or the Americans actually do! Again this is then weakly qualified with the admission that "this does not mean that the Islamic radicals are never right in their accusations"; but then there will always be some abuses wherever there is freedom. He says that the modern conception of justice is in fact its opposite, when it assumes that the rich who have worked have become rich at the expense of those who have "lounged in voluntary idleness". It destroyed the old grammar schools "for the simple reason that [they] divided the successes from the failures". He is against affirmative action because the drive for equality is not compatible with liberty.

He extols the efficiency of the free market against the inefficiencies of central planning and bureaucratic regulations - without discussing the powers and tactics of monopolies and big business to make sure that the market is not in fact free. Many readers will agree with his extensive broadside against the European Union: its web of regulations, its unaccountabilty, its ostensible commitment to subsidiarity a mockery. True subsidiarity is not something that is conceded from and limited by the top, but arises organically from localities and is in accord with local traditions. Scruton frequently and approvingly cites Burke's defence of tradition and of the "small platoons". Throughout he is critical of all "top-down" legislation (which includes commandments validated simply by the assertion that it has been handed down by God), and he extols the common law principle of piecemeal extensions of existing law.

Next he goes for the notion of the Zeitgeist that is supposed to tell us that all our cultural manifestations betoken that we live in an Age of Progress. There may be progress in science, but there is nothing like that in the "modernism" prevalent in the arts. He judges that Picasso was a real artist but that Tracey Emin is not. (I agree, but he is not at all clear on the criteria that lead him to this judgment.) He is, however, quite clear on why he hates modernism in architecture: it is soulless and inorganic and imposed on us top-down by architects and town-planners. He sides with Prince Charles.

He is opposed to the optimism that puts its faith in multiculturalism; this, too, is imposed from the top down, and leads to tensions that are avoided by the earlier assumptions by both majorities and minorities that the latter should acculturate themselves to the prevailing culture. And of course he thinks that immigration on the scale that has been permitted militates against acculturation: "the silencing of Enoch Powell has proved more costly than any other post-war domestic policy in Britain."

Scruton's general attitudes should now be clear, and it suffices to list his other targets: "experts", especially educational ones; women's studies, gender studies, gay studies; the "delegitimization of the family" by the state, which no amount of bureaucracy-ridden social work can remedy; peace movements which teach that "to deter attack is actually to invite it"; the ready accusation that arguments warning against excessive immigration are racist, those defending traditional family structures are homophobic, those critical of certain aspects of Islam are Islamophobic.

Scruton puts forward the theory that all the deplorable fallacies he has listed were, in man's primitive tribal existence, necessary for survival, and they remain deeply rooted in humans even as they emerged from primitivity and developed societies that no longer needed mechanisms which now are positively inimical to "societies of rational beings, bound to each other by accountability, friendship and respect".

There are many sound observations in the book, but, not being of his persuasion, I think that he often goes way over the top, generalizes and exaggerates.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bonfire of the fallacies, 3 Aug 2010
By 
J. P. Maciag (Peterborough UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)
Scruton has yet again showed enormous courage and clear sightedness in opening up some of our most cherished and destructive `truths' to the cleansing effects of detached reason. He marches through the list...The Best Case Fallacy, The Utopian Fallacy and so on with a clarity and elegance that are both enjoyable and very easy to follow.

This is philosophy, as it should be, for the better understanding of life.
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For optimistic pessimists everywhere, 26 Jun 2010
By 
Marcus G (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)
This is the first Roger Scruton book I've read but I've always found his newspaper articles amusing so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm glad I did though I found the start fairly hard going due to his style of writing. I wonder how long he took to write the book - it really builds up speed after the half way point and his writing really begins to flow when he hits his stride in his central argument.

What is he arguing? Well He describes two ways of viewing the world - pessimistic and optimistic. Pessimists distrust change and prefer tradition & what has been proven to work. Obviously another word for this view would be "conservative" but without the connotations of the UK political party. Against this view is optimism - where change can only make things better. Against optimism, Scruton identifies 7 fallacies and illustrates each through a wide span of culture and history. For example, Scruton argues there is a best case fallacy - where any plan is only evaluated as if everything goes right (and ignoring what could go wrong). Scruton argues our current banking problems are due to this fallacy.

In the last third of the book, Scruton argues for a defence of truth (and how "optimists" twist & hide the truth) and causes of optimism for pessimists everywhere. Scruton is certainly not dogmatic - optimism has its place but it should not be the default position nor should change be made for changes sake.

I'm giving it four stars out of five as a book well worth the time and effort. Be warned though - it's bound to really annoy the politically correct.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs an Index, 7 Oct 2012
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There is a law, known as Godwin's which asserts that an internet thread, will, the longer it goes on, eventually converge on a discussion of The Nazis. This seems to be true and in practise whenever that point is reached, I stop reading, as I know from then on it will be nonsense and ranting. I feel that a similar rule should be applied to books. This one reaches the Nazis (and The Soviets their evil-twin) by Page 3. I continued to read however, even as I waded through a lot of nonsense about both regimes. Later on we learn of Professor Scrutton's dismissive views as to modern architecture so I took an on-line tour (courtesy of YouTube) around his preferred Poundbury. To me, it simply looks fake. He is also an admirer of The Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand - a building whose central entrance hall could be hired out at weekends to film companies seeking a purpose built set of a mediaeval Cathedral nave. If he had had to work there he might take a different view, for it is so badly designed that a map is available for a small sum to acquaint you with where you might be. One can have hours of fun in there just getting lost. Later still we learn of Professor Scrutton's views as to English Common Law - as if it is some sort of general panacea - which he also gets completely back-to-front - it is simply inaccurate to state that the Scottish case of Donoghue -v- Stevenson from 1932 was the common law basis of product liability, seeing that that case merely is a decision on the Tort of Negligence and in any event at that time the 1893 Sale of Goods Act had been in force for forty years (he is surely no more a lawyer than he is an historian). We learn of his dislike of the EU and he singles out the abolition of Imperial measures, as a great evil (I tend to agree) yet overlooks the equally pernicious abolition of Pounds Shillings and Pence, which of course was the doing of the British Government - yet we learned to live with that, tolerably. Later still we learn that Islam's big fault is that it is a top-down religion unlike Christianity - so perhaps someone ought to tell the Pope about that! His attack on Tracy Emin (Professor of Drawing, as she now is) is simply stupid - she is a very competent draftswoman yet he seems in awe of the hopelessly over-rated Schoenberg - a composer who I would not be purchasing shares in if that were possible - he is largely unplayed - and who himself attempted to usher in a two hundred year Reich of musical composition with a policeman by every composer, which faded out within a few miserable decades and caused great damage to the art of musical composition. So there is much to disagree with, though much to like - such as his views on the misandrist attacks on marriage - and by default heterosexuality (I say).

One might therefore gain the feeling that I am some sort of Utopian, but in fact - and this was why I bought the book - I am broadly sympathetic; although having said that and Malthusan though I like to be, I cannot but observe that on balance the Optimists tend to achieve more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scrutonator, 27 Dec 2011
By 
R. Schweizer "Bob and Rose" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)
In Scruton's book 'Gentle Regrets', he devotes some thought as to how a person's name can influence them in certain ways, in their behaviour or life choices. He refers to his own given Christian name, Vernon, and why he chose to use Roger instead. This so-called 'nominative determinism' has recently been a topic of conversation in various national media. When Scruton was doing a segment for a televised arts program on the concept of beauty a year or so ago, a well-known arts correspondent for a national paper, and also a contributor to this series on beauty, took huge offence at Scruton's views, which were at odds with his own. He wrote a nasty little piece in the Sunday 'Culture' section attacking Scruton on a personal, as well as intellectual level, and, attempted to make a mockery of Scruton's name, ending up showing himself in a very bad light and proving that he is not half the writer and critic, much less the thinker, that Roger Scruton is. The word 'scrutiny' derives from the Latin 'scrutari', meaning to search. I wonder if the name 'scruton' has evolved from some derivation of a scrutiniser? The Uses of Pessimism is another fine example of his ability to search deeply the meanings and nuances of our culture, language and understanding of our world.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine perspective, 30 Aug 2010
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)
It's a lovely book, full of good sense and sharp insights cogently expressed. Well-structured and enjoyable to read - there isn't a dull page in it.
You'll be the better for having read it. Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Liberal Review..., 13 Mar 2012
There is a lot to be said for this book, and this is coming from someone who disagrees quite a bit with many of Scruton's positions. He is ever reasonable and rarely shrill, which is perhaps as a result of years of being on the receiving end of emotive attacks, and shrill character assassinations, from what I have gathered. His writing is clear and engaging. I don't necessarily agree with many of Scruton's conclusions, but I do like the way he goes about defending our collective right to elaborate, to debate and to draw our conclusions, an old fashioned liberal value.

I found most agreeable his meditations on transhumanism. He offers the best and most eloquent response I have yet to read on what we stand to lose in terms of our human nature if the dream of radical life extension ever comes true. His reflections on human connection, affection, love and friendship between fragile, finite beings is both sensitive and moving.

Elsewhere he establishes a principle of conservatism that I have not come across before. In effect it is that if some practice has earned its place in society through tradition then it must have value, to have survived and to have been retained over the years. Following from this the burden of proof lies on the reformer to defend why it should be changed. This is an interesting principle I think.

Scruton's criticisms of the European Union project is very even handed and targeted. It is easy to see similarities between his criticisms of communism, fascism and the EU commission's plans and diktats. It has become harder to question the undemocratic juggernaut that the EU has become, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, and not sound like a loon. Scruton's position puts him on the far right of euro scepticism, yet many of his criticisms are reasonable.

Scruton's praise for the common law, democracy, decency and moderation, acquired over many centuries, that we enjoy living in now, is well articulated and argued for, and is a solid reminder to not take a good thing for granted.

There is a lot more of merit in this book. It really is packed full of interesting points, which force you to think. However, I have to take issue with a few things Scruton has to say before concluding. His attitude to homosexuality lets him down and are frankly offensive. However, most homosexuals would probably dismiss Scruton as a grumpy old foggy who is so overwhelmed by the tide of tolerance as to be safely ignored, so perhaps no foul. Secondly, he seems convinced that multiculturalism is a total failure. I disagree. It's a mixed bag, like most things. For the good, we now live in a much more diverse world with lots of cross pollinating influences and challenges which we can grow as people from. And the food is better.

My final criticism of Scruton is that he fails to address the growing inequalities of our time. He posits that freedom must trump equality, but should it absolutely? Is it not that growing inequality, that causes much suffering, is often the result of political choices that are not "for freedom" but rather for greed? I don't think he examines the seeming dilemma between freedom and equality deeply enough. There is a principle even more basic than equality, namely fairness, that could have been examined in this context. So this is an area that I would greatly disagree with Scruton's treatment. However, we would be doing it within a background of agreeing on many fundamentals I suspect, based on reading this book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent arguments for real life, 8 Feb 2011
By 
Charles "mrfreedom" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope (Hardcover)
I've been a Tory for as long as I can remember, and over the years have read numerous books that have subtly changed my outlook or added new nuances to my beliefs. Biographies of Powell, Thatcher and Joseph, Clark's diaries, Lawson's memoirs, Benn's diaries - PLUS numerous books on economics, science, philosophy, psychology and sociology.

This book is important to me because it ties so many of the above strands together. At times I felt like getting on the roof and shouting 'YES! Here is a beautifully articulated philosophy book that confirms why Conservatism and the free market are intellectually superior to any other system!'

I'm not saying I agree with everything here - I don't - but so much of it is coherent and wise and thrilling. Don't think that the Left has the intellectual upper hand - it doesn't and it never did. Be proud to make arguments for Conservatism in the knowledge that the formidable intellect of Roger Scruton will support you. Scruton effectively says: go with your instinct, don't let the 'optimists' ie idealists ie Leftists fool you into thinking you don't know what's best for you.

A very good read indeed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pessimism- the optimist's best hope., 29 May 2014
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A most useful corrective to much modern sloppy thinking and policy making. Whether you agree with all his views or not, Scruton is always interesting and challenging.
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The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope
The Uses of Pessimism: and the Danger of False Hope by Roger Scruton (Hardcover - 1 Jun 2010)
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